Part One of my Interview with Mayra Calvani
Mayra Calvani is the author of over a dozen fiction and non-fiction books, including The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, which has been required reading at various colleges and universities. In her latest book, Latina Authors & Their Muses, Mayra has accomplished a unique, groundbreaking exploration of the writing craft in a volume devoted to Latina writers and the ways in which they approach and practice their craft.
Mayra’s newest work is a must-read, not only for minorities writing in today’s challenging publishing environment, but for all authors seeking to understand the complex forces that fuel our creative processes and empower our personal muses. I was honored to be a tiny part of this grand project and thrilled when Mayra agreed to talk to us about her experiences writing this milestone book.
Hello Mayra and thanks for visiting with us at MB4. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background and why did you decide to write a book about Latina authors and their sources of inspiration?
Thank you so much for having me, Dora! I have been writing stories since I was about 12. Whether a curse or a blessing, I was definitely born with the writing bug. I’m a multi-genre author with 16 titles published in genres ranging from nonfiction to children’s picture books, to satire to paranormal fantasy novels. I also write YA mythological fantasy, paranormal and thrillers under a pen name which I prefer stays secret for the moment.
I was inspired to write this book by another collection of interviews edited by a person I deeply admire and once had the chance to invite to my house for dinner: Carmen Dolores Hernández, book review editor of El Nuevo Día newspaper in Puerto Rico. The book is titled Puerto Rican Voices in English. Carmen sent me a copy and I loved reading about the various authors. I immediately toyed with the idea of putting together a similar tome. This was way back in 2005.
How did you go about writing this book? How many interviews did you conduct? What were some of the project’s main challenges? What were some of the project’s main satisfactions?
I ended up interviewing 40 authors from different backgrounds and in various stages of their careers, from new authors with a debut novel to established authors with a long track record, Latina authors living in the States but writing primarily in English.
Organization was a big issue. Keeping track of everything—emails, addresses, signed agreements, interviews, author photos, photo credits, among other things—was a challenge. Editing and polishing the manuscript was a huge challenge as well, as I had to go back and forth on the interviews with the authors multiple times. Also, since the initial interviews were conducted back in 2012-13, there was a lot of material to update. Of course, coming up with interesting questions that I thought would be useful for my target readers was challenging.
One concern I had is the whole concept of the “Latina writer.” I mean this from a feminist criticism perspective and also from the perspective of Latina critics who don’t think they should be, as writers, encased within a specific ethnic group. After all, men authors are simply “authors,” not “men authors” or “American men authors,” so why do women authors have to be categorized as “women authors” or “Latina authors”? This is a dilemma.
Yet, if my goal is to reach aspiring Latina writers and encourage them to write, I have to make sure my book—its title, cover, content—is aimed at this group. That’s the reality of marketing. Besides encouraging aspiring writers to write, I wanted to showcase and bring to the spotlight the work and accomplishments of these talented authors.
The satisfactions far surpassed the challenges—or perhaps I should say that the challenges themselves were a big part of the satisfaction. Getting to know these talented authors and learning about their creative processes and publishing journeys has been, in one word, fascinating.
I’m profoundly grateful for the time and patience this remarkable group of authors has given me, so I hope the book will bring them visibility. I’m certainly doing all I can to promote the book.
Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Mayra. And to our MB4 readers, Mayra will be back answering more questions about her personal journey as a writer next week. Until then!
About Mayra Calvani
Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. In addition, she’s a regular contributor to Blogcritics.org and Examiner.com. She’s traveled extensively and lived in three continents, but now calls Belgium her home. When she’s not writing, reading, editing or reviewing, she enjoys walking her dog, traveling, and spending time with her family.
About Dora Machado
Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories.
To learn more about Dora Machado and her award winning novels, visit www.doramachado.com , email her at Dora@doramachado.com, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.