The Write Sense – Interview with Mayra Calvani
(31 July 2007)
I was surfing the net and came across an article written by Mayra. I then visited her site and was intrigued. I asked her if she wanted to be interviewed and she agreed. Therefore, without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you Mayra Calvani …
Aneeta: Mayra, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Mayra: Thanks for having me here, Aneeta. It’s a pleasure!
Aneeta: For a start, please tell me a little about your childhood and youth, where you live and what you do for a living.
Mayra: I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but have lived in the US, the Middle East, and now live in Belgium. My traveling and learning all these different cultures have been an inspiration in my writing, as having a Hispanic heritage has been as well. I was an early avid reader and my first passion for books developed after I read the first Agatha Christie mystery. I was instantly drawn to the fantastic world of these imaginary stories. Then came the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. During my teens I was also an avid reader of romance novels, though I don’t read much romance anymore. I started writing in my early teens. I was always the quiet, shy type and preferred my escape world of imaginary places and characters instead of going to parties—so no, I was not one of the popular girls at school. But I didn’t care. I was happy and self motivated. My love for writing has continued all my life and I now write fulltime. It’s been an arduous road and there’s a lot of competition, but that’s fine with me because I enjoy the journey as well.
Mayra: I was about twelve. Together with my best friend, I wrote a couple of stage plays for my school’s annual show, both comedies. Around this time I also wrote my first novella, a thriller about a serial killer who left roses by the dead victims. The killer was the female protagonist, a reporter. Later in high school I wrote another short novel, this time a romance, which my classmates read in class and passed around behind the teacher’s back. I also wrote short stories, most of them in the dark paranormal genre. I read a lot, and the more I read, the more I felt like writing. Reading has always been an inspiration, though you have to be careful not to overdo it. After all, the time you are reading is the time you’re not writing. Reading can be a terrible addiction sometimes!
Aneeta: Can you please tell me what in the genre in which you like to write?
Mayra: Though my favorite genre is the dark and the paranormal, I also enjoy writing dark humor, mystery, modern fantasy, and non-fiction as well. I love horror but I’m very particular about the horror I like to read and write. I detest gore. I love atmospheric horror that borders on the bizarre and is heavy in characterization. Think in terms of movies like The Others and Sixth Sense. My latest book, which will be released this September, is an example of this. Readers may read more about it at http://www.bookswelove.net/calvani.html This novel is heavily influenced by the years I lived in Turkey. It is set in the Turkish mountains and uses Turkish lore.
Aneeta: Describe to me, please, a day in the life of Mayra Calvani.
Mayra: I get up early to take the kids to school, then come home and tidy up a bit. I’m unable to sit and work surrounded by chaos. I prefer ‘organized’ chaos. J If I’m lucky, I’ll write for two or three hours. The internet and email is very tempting and I try to avoid it. It can be a big distraction when I write. So I try to concentrate on the writing first, then on answering emails, group posts, etc. There’s always some kind of promotion to do for my books. I also edit a newsletter, co-edit another one (with mystery author Anne K. Edwards) and keep two blogs, so I’m always looking for new material, articles, authors to interview, etc. Plus, there’s also the reviews. I’ve been reviewing books for a few years now and I always have a book to read or a review to write. After 3pm, the afternoons are for my family. In the night I get online again, but not for writing. My mind is sharper in the morning and I find I’m always too tired at night to work. Days are always full and I’m always pretty busy. There are days when I have too many errands to run so writing is impossible. I also have to find time to practice violin and walk the dog… the list is endless! But I try not to use lack of time as an excuse. There’s ALWAYS time to write, if you MAKE the time. The truth is, there’s never the perfect time to write, but you just have to do it; procrastination in writing always brings up bitterness and self loathing, at least for me, and this reflects itself in the time you spend with family and friends. As I always say, ‘A mom who has written today is a happy mom.’
Aneeta: I understand you are a published author. Can you please describe your work?
Mayra: At the moment I have two dark paranormal novels out, Embraced by the Shadows and Dark Lullaby, and a forthcoming non-fiction book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, which I wrote with author Anne K. Edwards. This is supposed to come out some time in the fall.
In the children’s fiction genre, I have two picture books coming out, Magic Violin and Crash! These will be out in winter 2007. They are still in the illustrating stages, so I don’t have links for them for the moment, but in the near future you may visit http://www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com for more information. This site is still in construction, so there’s not much there for the moment.
I also have a young adult manuscript doing the agent/publisher roundup, as well as two works in progress—a paranormal suspense and a literary fantasy. As I said, I write in various genres.
Finally, and this is something I am extremely excited about at the moment, my story, THE DOLL VIOLINIST, has been chosen a finalist at the ABC’s Children Picture Book Competition. If I win, I will get a publishing contract, so these days I’m doing my best to publicize the event. This is an unusual competition in the sense that, while the finalists are chosen by judges, the winners are chosen by public online vote. People who vote for my story will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win prizes. I am adding the full announcement under your last question, so anybody who would like to take part in it and support me can have a chance to.
Aneeta: I would like to know, how important do you think promotion is to the success of a book today. What kind of book promotion would you like to see happening for your own works?
Mayra: Book promotion is incredibly important. Even if you have a big NY publisher, you still have to promote your book to increase sales and your chances of success. I spend various hours a week promoting my name, books, blogs, and newsletter. Reviewing books and writing articles are another way to spread your name out there. You can include your links in your byline and thus bring traffic to your site. I write regularly for sites like http://www.Blogcritics.com, http://www.AmericanChronicle.com, http://www.EzineArticles.com, http://www.AssociatedContent.com , and OhMyNewsInternational (www.english.ohmynews.com). I use my newsletter as a way to promote my work as well that of other authors. I’m a member of various yahoo groups on writing and publishing, as well as a member of http://www.Gather.com and
Book Place (http://morganmandelbooks.ning.com).
You have to create a network if you want people to find out about you and your book. There are simply too many authors out there. Unless you’re Anne Rice or Stephen King, nobody is going to find out about your book if you don’t bring it out to the world. Book promotion is hard work, but it’s rewarding and effective. Also, virtual book tours are very popular right now. I’m having one in October to publicize the release of Dark Lullaby. I have a great article on virtual tours on my blog, The Dark Phantom Review: http://thedarkphantom.wordpress.com/tag/virtual-book-tour-primer/
I also recently interviewed publicist Dorothy Thompson for my newsletter, The Fountain Pen:
http://thefountainpennewsletter.blogspot.com/ (August issue)
Aneeta: One topic that sometimes emerges amongst our local literary community is that authors should have their own websites. As you have one of your own, http://www.mayracalvani.com, can you please tell us the benefit you’ve derived from having your own website.
Mayra: The benefits are immense! I don’t believe an author can be very successful these days without a website. That is the place you can direct people to find out more about your bio, book, blurbs, reviews of your books, any contests you’re giving, your press kit, etc. My website is practically new. I just started it on November 2006. That first month I got about 300 visitors. After I joined the book promotion groups, Gather.com, and started syndicating my articles, I now get an average of 6-7,000 visitors a month, which is not bad at all. These are people who are finding out about me and my writing. Chances are some of them end up buying my books.
Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give to those who intend to become storytellers?
Mayra: First, read a lot. Read contemporary fiction in the genre that you want to write in, but also read the classics. This will give you a broader scope of the genre. Second, write. You learn by doing it, just like violin players learn by practicing every day, and just as baseball players learn by playing in the field. It’s great to talk about writing, but that won’t help much at all if you want to become a writer. Third, stimulate your mind and keep it in the right frame by surrounding yourself with people who share your passion and who can support you. If there’s not a writing group you can join in your area, create one. Two last tips: Read Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write. This is the best book on writing on the market. I keep it by my bed like the bible and grab it any time I’m feeling dispirited. But remember, only reading about writing won’t turn you into a writer, just as reading about violin playing won’t create a violinist. Consider becoming a book reviewer; by critiquing other writers’ works, you learn a lot about the mechanics of writing, what works and what doesn’t. There are hundreds of sites where you can request to be a reviewer, or you can start your own book review blog at sites like http://www.blogger.com or http://www.wordpress.com. I know this sounds self serving, but just to let you know, I offer a book reviewing course at the Long Story Short School of Writing (http://www.lsswritingschool.com/theartofbookreviewing.html), and my forthcoming book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, teaches all you need to know to become a reviewer, including how to start your own book review site. It also has a resource section with hundreds of links to post/publish your reviews.
Aneeta: Mayra, this is all I have to ask you. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Mayra: Before I write my contest announcement, I would just like to let readers know about my newsletters and blogs:
Subscription for these newsletters is free! The issues are packed with author interviews, articles on writing, columns, book promotion tips, contest announcements, resources, etc.
The Fountain Pen, http://thefountainpennewsletter.blogspot.com/
The Voice in the Dark, http://www.mysteryfiction.net/Voiceinthedarknewsletter.html
My blogs, where I post reviews and regularly interview authors:
The Dark Phantom Review, http://thedarkphantom.wordpress.com/
Mayra’s Secret Bookcase, http://mayrassecretbookcase.blogspot.com/
Aneeta: Mayra, thank you.
Mayra: Thank you so much for this opportunity, Aneeta. I appreciate it!