Born in Puerto Rico, Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She lives in Belgium with her husband of 30+ years, two wonderful kids, and her three beloved pets. When she’s not writing, editing, reading or reviewing, she enjoys walking with her dog, traveling, and spending time with her family. Her last book is Mamá Graciela’s Secret. Let’s know who Mayra is…
First of all: who are you? What do you do? Where do you live? Tell us something about you.
I’m a Puerto Rican author and animal lover living in Belgium. I’ve been a writer for most of my life. I’ve had the fortune to live in three continents and learn 4 languages. In the past I’ve been a teacher, freelance writer, reviewer, freelance publicist, but now write fiction fulltime.
What do you write: what’s your genre and topics?
I write in various genres and for different age groups, from picture books for young children to novels for teens, to fiction and nonfiction for adults. My novels range from fantasy and the supernatural to horror and thrillers to satire.
What inspired you to be a writer?
I started writing stories when I was about 12, so writing has always been a vocation for me, not only what I do, but who I am. I was a very introspective child so maybe writing stories was my way of channeling my ideas and imagination. In those days I was devouring Agatha Christie’s mysteries, so perhaps she was a factor, the idea that I could create worlds on the page like those I read in her books.
Please provide a brief synopsis of your book.
Mamá Graciela’s TENDER, CRUNCHY, SPICY bacalaítos fritos are the best in town…
Local customers (including stray cats!) come from all over the island to enjoy her secret recipe. But when the Inspector discovers that Mamá secretly caters to so many cats and he threatens to close her tiny restaurant, Mamá must come up with a plan to save it—and all of the animals she loves.
The book teaches kids (ages 3-7) about compassion for animals, sacrifice, problem solving, and ethnicity. It is available in dyslexic font and there’s an accompanying reading guide for it which is downloadable from my website at www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com.
What do you consider your favorite novel/book and why?
I don’t have one favorite novel, but I have favorite authors: Joyce Carol Oates and Donna Tartt.
Are you traditionally published or self-published?
Both. In the case of Mama Graciela’s Secret, it was traditionally published by Mac-Laren Cochrane Publishing, http://maclaren-cochranepublishing.com.
Describe your writing background.
As I mentioned earlier, I started writing fiction early, when I was about 12. I have a BA in Creative Writing and an MA in Western Literature. I published my first short stories when I was in my early twenties and since then I’ve written novels, nonfiction, children’s picture books, articles, and reviews.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, and you could only have five books with you, what would they be?
The Stranger, by Albert Camus
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice
Black Water, by Joyce Carol Oates
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
What future projects can we look forward?
My agent is shopping around another picture book of mine. I’m also working on book 2 of my YA Egyptian mythological fantasy series that I write under my pen name Zoe Kalo (www.ZoeKalo.com) and which I hope will be released next spring. Besides these main ones, I always have various projects in different types of development going on, as well as ideas for other books simmering in my mind. People often ask authors how they get their ideas, but the question should be how they handle all the ideas they get. J One of my fears is that I won’t have the time to write them all.
Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?
Start with the right mindset, one of success. Setup a mailing list early on, even before your book is published. Likewise, start recruiting reviewers and form a street team at an early stage. This can be time consuming, but there are companies who can do it for you. Don’t be all over social media. Choose one platform and commit to it. Be genuine in your posts. Your best marketing tool is actually your next book, especially if you self-publish.
What do you enjoy doing aside from writing?
Reading, journaling, listening to podcasts, spending time with my family, having lunch with friends, dining out with my husband, getting together with other writers to talk about writing and exchange critiques. I also enjoy going to the cinema and watching series on TV. I’m currently enjoying the remake of the “Dynasty” series on Netflix. I also love planning and watching planner videos on YouTube.
What made you decide to self-publish?
I wanted to experiment. After two years of trying, my agent wasn’t able to sell the first book in my YA Egyptian mythological series, so I decided to self-publish it under a pen name. I have enjoyed the control over all the aspects of production, so it’s been a very interesting experience.
Do you have anything specific you’d like to say to your readers?
Books make great educational gifts for children during the holidays. Mama Graciela’s Secret is a fun and whimsical story with a beautiful message. Why not give it a try? J
I’d also like to invite readers to follow me on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/mayra.calvani
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Sharing my stories with my readers and hearing from them on how they enjoyed my books.
The cover of Mama Graciela’s Secret, the last book by Mayra Calvani.