Mayra Calvani is an accomplished author in many genres. Today she will share with us thoughts about her personal interests, the writing life, and her recent paranormal novels Dark Lullaby and Embraced by the Shadows.
Patricia: What brought about your interest in the supernatural?
Mayra: I was an avid reader when I was a child and from an early age began to love scary films—those old black & white movies about mummies, werewolves, and vampires. They must have made a deep impression on me, because since then I’ve always been attracted by the supernatural. I was a quiet child and reading was my escape into a world of mystery and adventure, a way to live ‘on the edge’ yet be safe at the same time.
Patricia: What inspired you to write Dark Lullaby?
Mayra: I’ve always been very interested in moral dilemmas and in the concept of a higher good. For instance, is it okay for a man to steal in order to have money to save his little girl, who is dying? In the case of Dark Lullaby, I went a step further: is it okay for a man to kill for the higher good? As far as the location goes, I lived four years in Turkey, so this was a big influence. I was intrigued by the stories I heard there about the cin (jihnn), and by the fact that so many people believe in them. My brother, who is an astrophysicist, was my inspiration for the main character. This is the first novel I write with a male protagonist, and I have to say it was very interesting getting inside the head of a man.
Patricia: Talk about the story and especially the hero Gabriel Diaz. It's interesting to me that he is an astrophysicist.
Mayra: Dark Lullaby is about a young astrophysicist from Baltimore who is lured into the Turkish countryside by a mysterious young woman—of course, she ends up being something totally unexpected. In the end, he has to face his own demons in order to save his twin sister’s unborn child. More than horror, it is a bizarre, suspenseful tale. I tried to make it strongly atmospheric instead of using graphic gore, which I detest. The full blurb can be found on my website.
Gabriel Diaz is a brilliant guy with a big heart and a grand sense of justice. He’s also a bit naïve, which together with his smarts, is somewhat unusual. But he is haunted by a dark childhood, one he would rather forget. When he meets the anti-heroine, Kamilah, she does everything in her power to bring his dark, buried feelings to the surface, leading to tragic consequences. I think readers will like his sense of goodness and justice, as well as his total loyalty to his sister Elena. At some point in the story this sense of justice somehow gets twisted inside his head… and he does a pretty terrible thing, something which readers may not agree with, but I’ve made Gabriel with plenty of faults and as real as possible, and this is really part of it all. He’s too temperamental and impulsive for his own good. Plus money simply slips from his fingers. I wanted the protagonist to be a scientist because I thought it would be interesting to see his reaction when confronted with the supernatural. So it worked perfectly, because, as I said, I was inspired by my brother (though of course, for plot purposes, I brought Gabriel to the extreme in the book!)
Patricia: Why did you pick Turkey as the setting?
Mayra: As I said, I lived there for a while, and the tales I heard about the cin took place there as well, so it was an easy, logical decision. I know the language, the people, the culture, etc. I did some research on the little town where the story takes place, but having lived in the country really gave me an advantage and made it easy for me to describe it.
Patricia: What environment do you like to work in? Please describe it.
Does the type of book you are working on decide your working environment?
Mayra: I like to work in a quiet environment devoid of people and telephone calls! LOL. No, really, I need to be alone when I’m working on a book, though I usually love atmospheric music for inspiration. I love violin music, and also soundtracks from various movies. For instance, I wrote Dark Lullaby while listening to the soundtrack of The Village. I would just listen to it again and again; I can get obsessive like that and never get tired of the music. My desk is filled with Post-its, thesauruses, notebooks, etc. Not the most neat, organized desk. I try to keep a balance of chaos and order. If I really need inspiration, I’ll light a candle or even whole candelabra. I love candelabras! I also have my violin close by and when I get stuck, I play a little to get rid of writer’s block. It works!
Patricia: You write in a variety of fields. How do you plan which project to work on next? Do you ever work on more than one at a time?
Mayra: I guess I’m one of those writers who could never write in only one genre. Many things inspire me and I write what I love. It’s like switching to different modes. When I write children’s stories it’s as if a switch turns on and I’m in my children’s writer mode. When I write horror, the horror switch turns on, and so on with the other genres. I love the idea of being a multifaceted author and don’t really care about branding my name specifically with one genre.
I’m usually working on several projects at a time, but never in the same genre. For instance, at the moment I’m finishing an adult paranormal novel, editing a tween mystery/fantasy manuscript, and working on a proposal for another tween novel in a different genre. In between these I can always write/work on a children’s picture book. But at the moment I’m swamped. I strongly prefer working on only one project at a time. It can be quite stressful planning your schedule and finding the time to do all these things. As far as planning goes, it’s a combination of personal preference and any deadlines I might have.
Patricia: You are from Puerto Rico which is the setting for your vampire novel Embraced by the Shadows. Talk a bit about this exotic American locale.
Mayra: A colorful blend of various cultures. Lively, hot, sticky. People there really know what the word ‘party’ means. They also know how to make a killer pina colada. I left the island when I was 18, so it makes me melancholic talking about it. It is a lovely tropical place. Unfortunately, the crime situation is pretty bad, which is a real pity.
Patricia: What is the story of your vampire novel Embraced by the Shadows?
Mayra: Embraced by the Shadows is about a young woman’s inner turmoil, a woman split between a love she cannot resist and a life she cannot accept nor understand. The bond between the hero and heroine is dark and obsessive and borders on hate. It’s also about the power of one being to mesmerize another. I suspect under the horror/love story there’s a hidden metaphor, an allegory for something else, though what that ‘something else’ is I’m still trying to decipher.
The full blurb can also be found on my website.
Patricia: Why the vampire theme?
Mayra: After I read Anne Rice’s Lestat and Interview with the Vampire, I was hooked. The idea of immortality fascinates me. I also love the image of the spiritually tortured, beautiful, sophisticated vampire, a complex being that is not necessarily evil but is trapped by his/her nature.
Patricia: What type of reading do you do for inspiration or pleasure? Any favorite titles you would like to share?
Mayra: Nowadays I love reading paranormal suspense, mystery, young adult, romantic comedy, and literary. But I review a fair amount of children’s picture books as well. Oddly, I don’t usually read horror—I get scared! LOL.
My favorite books are: The Stranger, by Albert Camus, and The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. Two very short, very powerful novels. I can read these books again and again and never get tired.
Patricia: Anything else you would like to add?
Mayra: Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Patricia! I’d just like to list some links to my websites and blogs:
My official website.
My book review/author interview blog.
The Slippery Book Review Blog (very new, in construction).
For my children’s books:
Myra's Secret Bookcase.
Myra's Secret Bookcase Blog