Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Author Interview - Mayra Calvani

Author Interview – Mayra Calvani

I first met Mayra when I purchased her book, The Magic Violin. I enjoyed the book so much with my daughter (who just started playing the violin) that I felt compelled to contact her to share my excitement. Since then, we have remained in contact encouraging and celebrating one another along the way in our respective writing careers. Without further ado, journey along with me as Mayra shares with us insights into her writing career.

DMc: What has been the most memorable experience in your writing career?

MC: First of all, thanks for interviewing me for the first issue of this newsletter. It’s an honor.

The most memorable experience I had as a writer was when I held my first published book in my hands. That was back in the 1990’s. It’s an amazing, exciting feeling of validation. You hear about it from other authors, how it feels, but when you experience it yourself, there’s nothing quite like it. You want to jump up and down, scream, open a bottle of champagne and hold your book and look at it for a long time, hardly believing that you wrote it and that people you’ve never met will actually read it. The second time you publish a book, it isn’t nearly the same as that first time.

DMc: What style or genre of book do you write/have you written?

MC: I enjoy writing in various genres: nonfiction, horror, paranormal, fantasy, satire, chick-lit and children’s/YA.

My novels, Dark Lullaby and Embraced by the Shadows, fall into the horror/supernatural thriller and romantic horror categories. The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, which I co-wrote with mystery author Anne K. Edwards, is a how-to book on writing book reviews. I have two children’s picture books out with Guardian Angel Publishing, with two more titles coming out next year. I also have a Latino parody/satire with a chick-lit flavor, Sunstruck, scheduled to come out from Zumaya Publications in a couple of months.

Currently I’m trying to find a home for a tween fantasy novel I wrote during Nanowrimo two years ago, and I have various works-in-progress in the nonfiction, modern fantasy and kidlit categories.

I enjoy switching from one genre to another because each one is a different world that brings forth different facades of my character and creativity. I would get bored writing in only one genre. But if I’d have to choose one favorite style or genre, I’d say I deeply enjoy writing dark fiction with elements of the paranormal. These were the types of stories I wrote when I was a young teenager and these are the types of stories that will always have a special place in my heart.

DMc: What type of creative process do you use for the development of your ideas? Are you an outline writer?

MC: I’m pretty flexible and versatile when it comes to this. I may be ‘struck’ by the Muse and write a book purely using stream-of-consciousness, like I did during Nanowrimo when I wrote my tween fantasy novel. With that novel, I really didn’t know what would happen next. Or I may write a full outline and detailed synopsis, like I did with a work-in-progress I’m currently working on.

Usually, though, what I do is play with an idea for a while (sometimes an idea may take years to simmer), then mentally come up with a ‘loose’ structure where I have a pretty good idea of the beginning, middle and end, but not of the in-betweens.

I’m definitely not one of those authors who often use detailed outlines, as they make me feel restricted, but I also agree that having an outline is often pretty helpful, especially for avoiding plot problems later on. For instance, sometimes I may get stuck in the middle of the book, and I painfully realize this may have been avoided by writing an outline or detailed synopsis early on.

But I love working in stream-of-consciousness most and this is the manner by which I most often experience ‘Flow’, the state of optimal experience where you’re so deeply concentrated that time seems to stop and everything disappears around you except you and the story. Reading about ‘Flow’ is fascinating and I would recommend writers to get a copy of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book.

Let me just add that for nonfiction books, however, an outline is essential if you want your book to have a well-organized and clear structure.

DMc: Are any of the characters in the books based on real people?

MC: I believe that all writers’ works are, in some level or another, a combination of real life experience and fantasy. Some of my characters are ‘based’ on people I know, but what I mean by this is that they may share some similar physical or behavioral characteristics. Not all of my characters are based on real people, though; most are one hundred percent a construction of my imagination. Sometimes it’s helpful to base your character on someone you know because then you know how that character will react to all type of situations in your story, making your scenes sound even more real and believable.

But to answer your question, yes, some of my characters are based on people I know. The protagonist of my horror novel, Dark Lullaby, is based on my brother. Both are astrophysicists, both have the looks of a rock star, both have a high sense of justice. Of course, in the novel, I added a lot of fictional elements about his past, relationships, life. Needless to say, my brother never committed murder as my protagonist does! LOL. I gave the character his goodness, but in the story, I pushed that goodness to the limit to see what would happen. Every time, I kept thinking ‘How would my brother react to this situation?’ This helped a lot, especially because the protagonist was a man and I had to put myself inside the mind of a hero instead of a heroine. This is the only book I’ve written with a male protagonist.

DMc: Of your many books, do you have a favorite? Favorite character?

MC: Definitely Dark Lullaby.

I’ve always been very interested in moral dilemmas and in the concept of a higher good. For instance, is it okay for a man to steal in order to have money to save his little girl, who is dying? In the case of Dark Lullaby, I went a step further: is it okay for a man to kill for the higher good? Does the end justify the means? It’s a dark story that takes place in an exotic setting, the type I myself like to read. It’s actually more of a paranormal suspense than horror, strong in mood and atmosphere.

My favorite character would have to be Gabriel Diaz, the protagonist of Dark Lullaby. I think it’s the most complex character I’ve created so far. Also, since it’s partly based on my brother, it has a special place in my heart.

Readers may learn more about Dark Lullaby from my website,

DMc: What did you find to be the most frustrating step/process of getting your first novel published?

MC: For me, the waiting has always been the most frustrating aspect of publishing. You give all your energy preparing all these query letters, proposals, and synopses. Then you have to wait months and months (sometimes as much as six months) for the publishers to reply—often with a form rejection letter. After you’ve been accepted, you sometimes have to wait as much as two to three years for the book to come out. For most writers, waiting is part of life and there’s nothing you can do about it, unless you want to take the self-publishing route. If you go the traditional way, though, you’ll often have to wait, and wait, and wait.

DMc: Please describe your new book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing?

MC: A few years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and ‘heard’ a voice in my head say, ‘You have to write a book on how to write book reviews’. Afterwards, I immediately started writing down topics and preparing an outline. I also invited my author friend Anne K. Edwards to collaborate. This was a great decision because we complemented each other and she was able to bring ideas I had not thought of before. It was a great experience working with Anne.

We wrote The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing not only with the aspiring reviewer in mind, but for the established reviewer who needs a bit of refreshing and also for anybody--be they author, publisher, reader, bookseller, librarian or publicist--who wants to become more informed about the value, purpose and effectiveness of reviews.

The book came out in June and already there are two universities using it as a textbook for book reviewing writing courses. I’m also proud to mention that the book was a National Best Books Award Finalist in the Writing & Publishing category.

For a list of contents, excerpt and reviews, readers may visit

DMc: Please share a tidbit about your life that our readers would be surprised to hear.

MC: I have the complete Gilmore Girl series on DVD and I always watch an episode with my daughter every night before I go to sleep. I’m such a crazy fan, I bought the same Marc Jacobs handbag that Lauren Graham wore during most of Seasons 4 & 5. If purchased new, this bag costs $800, so I had to buy a second-hand one on Ebay for $300. Mind you, I’d never paid more than $50 for a bag before, so this was big for me! But there’s more… I’ve never switched bags since then, and that was two years ago! LOL.

DMc: What would you be if you were not a writer?

MC: Definitely a vet! I love animals and I’m a fierce advocate.

DMc: What advice would you like to convey to aspiring writers?

MC: If you have a dream, never give up, no matter what other people say. If you don’t keep going in spite of obstacles, you may reach the age of seventy and ask yourself ‘Why didn’t I try?’ If you don’t make it, at least you’ll have the satisfaction of having done your best. Chances are you’ll make it if you keep at it, though.

And of course, read as much as you can in the genres you enjoy writing; keep submitting; join a good critique group.

Above all, write, write, write.

DMc: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

MC: I’d like to cordially invite readers to visit my websites and blogs:, and (children’s fiction).

I also keep two blogs where I regularly post reviews and author interviews: and

Book Trailer – Magic Violin

Thanks for this interview, Donna. I enjoyed answering your questions!


  1. Great interview! And Mayra, I wouldn't quit carrying that bag either! Thanks, Donna and Mayra.

  2. Hi Donna,

    Congratulations on a fine interview. It's illuminating. And it's really neat to find out more about the wonderfully talented people who are members of the Muse.

    Mike Kechula

  3. Mayra,
    Thanks for sharing all these insights into your writing life. And, of course, you know I'm a fan!

    Lovely interview. Thanks.

    Cynthia Reeg

  4. Great interview, Donna.

    Everytime I read about you, Mayra, I learn something new. Best of luck with all your books. (Love the picture.)


  5. Wonderful interview ladies! Love the Gilmore Girls too!


  6. Great interview! I've always found Mayra to be one of the most interesting authors. She's also very generous in promoting other authors.

    Thanks, Donna and Mayra!


  7. Hi all,
    I'm so sorry I wasn't able to stop by yesterday and leave a comment. I had just arrived from a holiday and was very tired! Thank you, Donna, for posting the interview and thanks to all for your nice comments! :-)

  8. Sorry it took me so long to get out here. Having read almost all of Mayra's books, I can tell you that her talents continue to amaze me. She just keeps raising the bar for her work each time.

    Dark Lullaby is a favorite of mine too. Poor Mayra waited forever for that review because eBooks linger in my TBR pile forever, but it is definitely a book I would read again if my TBR ever dwindled.

    Wishing you continued success Mayra. Thanks for bringing us more great interviews, Donna.


  9. Hey, Donna,

    Great interview! I'd love to interview Mayra on Book Bites for Kids sometime. And I'd love to read her book about writing book reviews.

    Thanks so much!

    Suzanne Lieurance
    National Writing for Children Center

  10. Thanks so much for your kind words, Cheryl! You made my day!

    What a pleasant surprise to find you here, Suzanne. Thanks so much for taking the time ot leave a comment. I'll be in touch about that interview!


Thank for you taking the time out to visit with me and to learn about my writing career.

Please be sure to leave your blog address so I can reciprocate.

I look forward to visiting you too.