Today I have posted an interview with Maria Calvani. This blog tour is hosted by Blog Tours By Elana. Maria is the author of The Luthier's Apprentice.
Q&A with Mayra Calvani, author of The Luthier’s Apprentice
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.
What was your inspiration for The Luthier’s Apprentice?
I studied/played the violin for 5 years, and my daughter has been playing it for 8 years, so violin music has been a big part of my life for a long time. There’s something darkly mysterious about the violin, and I’m in awe of soloists who have the skill to master it. The making of the violin itself is fascinating to me as well. And, of course, I also love listening to violin music whenever I can. Naturally, violin music has been very influential in my writing. I just find it immensely inspiring. Besides The Luthier’s Apprentice, I have also written several children’s picture books related to the violin. Readers can learn about them here: www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com.
How was your writing process like for The Luthier’s Apprentice?
I completed the first draft in four weeks during Nanowrimo 2007. At that time, it was an experiment. I hadn’t participated in Nanowrimo before. It was an exciting, exhilarating experience, but I knew the manuscript needed a lot of editing and polishing, so I put it aside for a long time. Then I worked on it on and off as I worked on other projects. That’s why it took so long to publish it.
I didn’t plot in advance. I didn’t know what would happen on the next page. I discovered the story and characters as I wrote. Or rather, I let the characters take charge and guide me. Looking back, this was incredibly daring. I don’t work this way now. But, as I said, it was an experiment to shut down my inner critic and it was an exciting challenge.
Is The Luthier’s Apprentice the first book in a series?
Yes, it is the first book in a series, featuring 16-year-old violin student/luthier/amateur sleuth Emma Braun.
Why did you decide to set the story in Brussels?
I have been living here for the past 19 years, and I’m familiar with how the expatiates live—after all, I’m one myself. I thought it would be interesting to set the story in a city teeming with international students, children of diplomats from embassies, NATO, and other international organizations.
Who is your publisher?
My current publishers are Twilight Times Books and Guardian Angel Publishing(for my children’s picture books).
Do you have an agent?
Yes, I signed with Nadeen Gayle at Serendipity Literary at the end of August 2013.
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 4 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 novel, 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 WojciechKilar 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.
What was your greatest when writing a book? Do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?
The greatest challenge: 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 that I’ve written 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. 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.
About THE LUTHIER’S APPRENTICE:
Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…
When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice. But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.
But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma's family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?
Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him. And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier's apprentice…
About Mayra Calvani:
Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned over ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now resides in Brussels, Belgium.
Social Media Links:
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mayra-Calvanis-Fan-Page/162383023775888
Personal Note: I am sorry for my absence online. That is due to the fact that recently my father's computer bag was stolen from his car. Since he was the reason I was online as much as I could be now I'm left with little alternative. Right now my priority is going to computer labs to pay so that I can keep up with my ghost writing gig. The library only offers a free half hour which isn't enough. Unfortunately that also means going to into my laptop saving fund. The little money I put aside are for essentials so I can't use that. So that's why I haven't been around. Today I have an interview with an author that was pre-arranged as part of a blog tour. After today there will only be a few posts up this month. Hopefully I will be able to get my new laptop at some point in June. Right now I feel so bad for my dad because he lost his laptop, kindle, one of his phones and a bunch of work files. All he did was stop at a gas station to pick up some snacks for us. I'm really sad about this and he had to fix the window that was smashed in the robbery.