Welcome to the Showcase for award winning author, Mayra Calvani. We will be featuring a showcase every Monday throughout December highlighting wonderful new books from award winning authors. You will not want to miss even one day of each of the tours so check http://www.writingforchildrencenter.com/ for the next stop on the showcase.
Without further ado, here is a wonderful interview with Mayra Calvani.
Interview with Mayra Calvani, Author of A Bad Mad Sad Day for Mama Bear
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I’ve been writing and creating worlds for most of my life, since I was about 12. In secondary school I wrote stories and plays. At 16, I wrote a romance novel which was secretly passed around in class. By 20, writing was already a passion, an obsession. I saw myself doing no other thing than becoming an author.
I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but later moved to the US, where I completed a degree in Creative Writing and History. I have lived in the Middle East but I’m now settled in Belgium. In addition to Spanish and English, I also speak Turkish and a little French.
When I’m not writing, I enjoy reading and reviewing books, as well as helping other authors promote their works. I love having lunch with friends, going to the cinema with my kids, and spending time with my pets and my family. I also love traveling.
Who is your publisher?
Do you have an agent?
Yes, I signed with Nadeen Gayle at Serendipity Literary at the end of August 2013. However, she doesn’t represent children’s picture books, so I have to market those on my own.
Can you tell us what genre you write?
I write for children, teens, and adults in a variety of genres: fiction and nonfiction; horror, paranormal, satire, YA mystery/fantasy. At the moment I’m working on a YA psychological thriller.
How much of yourself is hidden in A Bad Mad Sad Day for Mama Bear?
I think every mom can relate and empathize with Mama Bear’s bad day—those days when everything goes wrong, and we’re tired, and we wish we could just forget about child-caring, cooking, and running errands, and instead just soak in a warm bubble bath while Dad prepares dinner.
How much of a story did you have in mind before you started writing?
I had a clear idea of the general concept (Mama’s bad day) from the beginning, but the story went through many changes and over 10 revisions. The manuscript was originally written in rhyme with human characters (a mom and her daughter)…and ended up in prose with animal characters (Mama Bear and her little ‘boy,” or Little Bear).
As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?
This is a difficult question to answer. There have been many pivotal moments: when I completed my first book, when I held my first published book in my hands, when I landed an agent. Each time I finish a new manuscript is a pivotal point for me because I grow as a writer and become better at my craft.
What is the hardest part about being an author?
As writers, we work on our own. We don’t have a boss threatening to fire us if we don’t show up every morning, so I’d say the hardest part is being disciplined and keeping focused on the work at hand and, above all, not procrastinating. I have to create all kinds of systems around me to keep myself disciplined. I’m terrible at being disciplined, but I’m pretty good at self-imposed discipline. I set an intention before each writing session, I keep planners and lists, I use timers, I make people hold me accountable, I set myself deadlines and at times commit to paying people money if I don’t meet those deadlines, that sort of thing.
Where do you get your best ideas?
I get ideas while writing. As I work on a book, there are always wonderful surprises. I also get my ideas while doing routine, automatic activities such as walking, driving, washing the dishes, vacuuming, taking a shower, etc. Also, while listening to violin music and movie soundtracks. The music of James Newton Howard and Wojciech Kilar profoundly inspires me. I often write while listening to their scores.
Another thing that really inspires me is reading the rich, baroque works of Anne Rice. There’s something about her style and language that makes me want to run to the computer and start typing.
For children’s books, works by Kate DiCamillo deeply inspire me.
What is your greatest challenge when you write a book? Do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?
The same for any other book: keeping focused and not procrastinate. Keeping confident throughout the process and, like Steven Pressfield says in his fantastic book, Do the Work, “trusting the soup.”
Every book I’ve written, whether it’s a children’s picture book or a full-length novel, has been hard to write. Though writing is my life and, in a way, like breathing, I have a love & hate relationship with it. First of all, the mechanics of the craft are always a challenge: constructing the plot, creating the characters, balancing all the elements, i.e. description, dialogue, narrative, symbolic imagery, etc. Then there’s the word choice and the agonizing over verbs, adjectives, adverbs.
Besides this, there’s the emotional aspect of the journey: struggling with the inner critic, bouts of self doubt, writer’s block, irritability over not writing, dealing with negative criticism, remorse due to sacrificing time with family and friends, spending hours, days, months, years sitting at the computer without any assurance that the book will be read by enough people or earn enough money to make all that time worthwhile.
But as writers, we are artists, and the artist’s soul is an interesting, compulsive animal. Writing is our vocation, our drug, and we must have a regular fix or go insane.
At the end, after a good writing day which may happen while still experiencing all of the above, I’m sweetly exhausted and at peace.
Three things that have had a pivotal influence on my journey are:
The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.
Keeping myself accountable and organized.
Focusing on the little, non-threatening steps instead of the end result. That is, thinking, “Okay, now I’m going to sit down with my novel for 90 minutes” instead of “I have to write a 400-page novel.” When you take small steps toward your goal each day, you don’t freeze and the end result takes care of itself at its perfect time.
What is a typical writing day like for you? How many hours do you write per week?
It has taken me a long time to find my natural rhythm and to face the fact that I’m not one of those super prolific writers who can cough up a whole novel in 3 months. I’d love to be one of those! But I’m not. My inner critic is always present, agonizing over each word, each sentence. I can’t help editing as I write. So right now it takes me about two years to complete a novel. For a picture book, I’d say from a day to weeks to months. That is, I may complete the first draft in one sitting, but it usually takes many revisions to make it ready for submission, and these revisions often can take months.
I write in the mornings. I set my timer and work in 90-minute increments. So I’ll do 90 minutes, then take a break to do some housework or run an errand, then come back and do another 90 minutes, and so on. If I’m in the zone, I’ll keep at it for 3 hours or so without stopping, but on average, I write 2-3 pages a day, or 10-15 a week.
Of course, I work on other things besides my novel. I’m currently putting together an anthology as well, so afternoons are for that, along with my freelance publicity work, which sucks up a lot of my time.
I’m always experimenting with ways to speed up my writing process and shut up my inner critic, like taking part in fast-draft workshops and Nanowrimo, but usually the end product are pages and pages that require heavy editing or that I have to delete.
Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?
How absolutely cool, neat, and wonderful it feels to hold that first print book in your hands!
Can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time?
Gosh, that was a long time ago, when I was in my twenties. I think I screamed. I couldn’t stop looking at it, inside and out. I kept thinking, “Did I really write this?” It’s an intense feeling of elation and validation.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
To keep it going week after week, month after month, year after year. Book promotion is an ongoing process. Many authors do one book tour or two after a book’s release and wrongly assume that the rest will take care of itself, but that isn’t the case. To see results, you must stay persistent and consistent.
However, this doesn’t mean that you have to engage in social networks 24/7. Only that you should take one step toward promoting your book at least once a week, then keep it going, week after week.
However, I’d advise writers to never let book promotion stand in the way of their writing. As an author, your best time is spend producing that next book.
Where can people learn more about you?
They can connect with me via the following links:
Children’s Books website: http://www.mayrassecretbookcase.com/
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
I love hearing from and interacting with readers! If you’ve enjoyed one of my books, I’d love to hear about it. And if you could support my work by posting a review on Amazon, I would be very grateful.
Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog!
To follow more of the showcase for Mayra Calvani make sure to bookmark this link:http://www.writingforchildrencenter.com/