Interview with Sunny and Al Lockwood, Authors of Cruising the Mississippi

30 Sep 2019

What can you tell us about your new release, Cruising the Mississippi?

“Cruising the Mississippi” takes readers on the river cruise of a lifetime.

Riding the great river from New Orleans to Memphis, we share daily adventures, discoveries, and challenges, and introduce colorful characters and practical travel insights.

And along the way readers will learn fascinating facts about the Mississippi River and the river towns along its banks.

From a vibrant New Orleans Jazz concert at famous Preservation Hall, to the largest plantation mansion in the Mississippi, to Civil War battlegrounds, “Cruising the Mississippi” brings American history and Southern culture to life.

Our travel memoir, or travelogue, is written in an easy, conversational style. We visit unusual museums, partake of delicious gourmet meals, meet fascinating people and learn things about America and the Mississippi River that we never knew before.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

For years I worked in the media — as a daily newspaper reporter, as a magazine editor, as a TV talk show host and more. Al was an engineer in Silicon Valley before it was known as Silicon Valley. Later he moved to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and became a licensed general contractor. And he took up fine art photography. His photographs of mid-sierra wildflowers have been featured in California magazines and newspapers.

After we had more or less retired (we’re workaholics, so retirement simply means, changing what we do each day), we suffered a serious car wreck that changed our lives.

We were waiting at a red light when a texting drive slammed into us at 60 miles per hour. She totaled both cars in an explosion of glass and metal.

Seat belts and airbags protected us from broken bones, but our bruises and aches kept us at the doctor’s office for weeks. That wreck made us realize how fleeting life can be. One minute you’re doing nothing more dangerous than waiting at a red light, and the next moment you could be on your way to the morgue.

Because of that wreck, we stopped postponing our travel dreams. Stopped saying, “We’ll go there someday.” And started traveling all over the place. Our first dream trip was a cruise through the Panama Canal.

Because we had so much fun on that trip, it seemed natural to share the fun by writing about it.. We published our first travel memoir, “Cruising Panama’s Canal, savoring 5,000 nautical miles and 500,000 decadent calories,” in 2014. And the book sold. People liked reading about our trip. We received fan mail.

We’ve written other books about other trips, and our readers continue to tell us they love our books.

So you could say we became authors because of a horrible car wreck. Or you could say we became authors because we stopped postponing our dreams. And then we shared our wonderful trips in the hopes of inspiring others to make their travel dreams come true.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Although we have very different tastes in reading, we share a book every night before we go to sleep. We choose a book, and then one or the other reads a chapter aloud each night until we finish the book together. Of the more than 90 books we’ve read together, here are some of our favorites:

“Travels with Charlie” by John Steinbeck.

“Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon

“The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson.

“Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes

“The #1 Ladies Detective Agency” by Alexander McCall Smith

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

President Jimmy Carter. He’s authored about 50 books, traveled all over the world, served this country honorably as President, made Habitat for Humanity a household word, teaches Sunday School almost every week in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, and is, in short, remarkable. His books cover politics, faith, family, growing up in the tiny town of Plains and many other topics. I would ask him what he gets out of writing, what the creative act of writing does for him.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I have two favorite things. First, that it is inexpensive. Unlike photography or playing an instrument or taking up a sport, writing only requires paper and a pencil (or pen). Of course we write on a computer, but you don’t have to have a computer to write. The other thing I like about writing is it helps me organize my thoughts. and therefore, helps me be a better thinker and a better communicator.

What is a typical day like for you?

Since we no longer have employers, we get up a little later than we used to. We rise about 7:30 or 8 a.m. Have breakfast. Read the newspaper. I (Sunny) walk for a mile or two. After that, I write. Al works on his photography: taking pictures with cameras he has built. Developing the film. Printing the images. After lunch we read or take a nap. Or we read and then take a nap.

After the nap, we continue our creative endeavors until supper. Al is the family cook. I clean up after the meal. We watch PBS news together. Al has three photo groups he works with during the month. I have three writers groups I take part in each month. We also have a social life with friends, family and neighbors. And before we go to sleep at night, we read the current book we’ve chosen. Then say our prayers and go to sleep.

What scene in Cruising the Mississippi was your favorite to write?

The moment of serendipity when I discover one of the American Queen star performers has a close connection to my family. But that’s the way travel is, isn’t it, you never know what magical connections you’ll make on a trip.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

We have a theme we travel by, a theme we share with our readers. Because of that car wreck, and because of increasing age, our travel theme is: Do it now. While you can.

Sunny and Al Lockwood are the authors of the new book Cruising the Mississippi.

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