Friday, December 04, 2015

The Muse's Editor: Mayra Calvani

Melinda Palacio

Latina Authors and Their Muses
Edited by Mayra Calvani

I am honored to be included in Mayra Calvani's anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses (Twilight Times Books 2015). In addition to reading about the distinct writing styles and inspirations from 40 different Latina authors, the book itself is a sort of muse that will bolster any aspiring writer. The book is also available in digital form for those who have crossed over to the non-paper side. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mayra Calvani. She also reveals who her personal muse is. Gracias, Mayra for this beautiful book. 

La Bloga: 
After reading Puerto Rican Voices in English, the 1997 anthology edited by Carmen Dolores Hernandez, you decided to do something similar for Latina Authors and Their Muses. What was it like creating interview questions for 40 different authors? And what would you like La Bloga readers to know about this book?

Mayra Calvani:

It was quite challenging because I wanted to ask questions that were important to me and that would be informative for some of my target readers (aspiring authors), so this meant some of the questions had to be generic (the usual questions about the creative process, landing an agent, finding a publisher, etc.), and others had to be somewhat repetitive because I wanted to get answers to the same questions from different perspectives. At the same time, the questions had to be interesting and original. I tried to combine all these elements into the questionnaires.

Latina Authors and Their Muses has been a project very dear to my heart ever since I came up with the idea back in 2008. The journey has been long and challenging, which is why I’m so thrilled to see the book published. It’s also been a wonderful journey of discovery and of sisterhood. I’m deeply honored to have worked with these accomplished authors. My goal is to spotlight their work and bring into attention the richness of their talent, but also to encourage aspiring authors and teach them a thing or two about the publishing industry.

What if anything would you do differently, now that book is finished? Did any answers surprise you?

Now that I’m doing a master’s in Comparative Literature and have taken courses in literary criticism, I see how I could have included even better, more inquisitive, challenging questions. Apart from this, I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I feel that the journey evolved organically, that everything happened the way it should have. I actually wanted to include more authors, but the publisher told me we would have had to split the work into two volumes, so I decided to stop it at 40 interviews.

I was especially interested in the meaning of “success” for authors, and what it means to be a “professional author.” This is one of the questions I asked several times. It was enlightening to read the different responses. More than surprising, it was illuminating to get into the minds of these authors, what inspires them, what drives them, and what keeps them going in spite of the odds. In a way, they’ve all become my muses.

I was surprised by how different the journey has been for each author. For some, finding an agent and getting published by one of the big NY houses was fairly quick and easy. For others, it has taken many years.

For the cover of the book, you polled the authors and asked them to weigh in on the decision. I was pleased and nervous for you. Did bringing in all 40 authors make the process easier or more difficult for deciding on the final cover. Tell us a little more on the process. Who came up with the initial designs? Were you happy with the outcome or did you secretly hope for one of the other covers?

The search for the perfect cover was an exciting journey! It took several artists and multiple covers (about 10, if I remember correctly) to come up with the “look” that the publisher and I were after. We wanted a look that would reflect the content and also appeal to target readers, but at the same time we didn’t want to be stereotypical. This was a big issue.

After several months we rounded up four covers designed by Tamian Wood. It was hard because all four of them were great in their own way, even though they all had different looks and evoked different feelings. That’s when I decided to conduct a poll with the authors. An overwhelming number chose the present cover as their preferred one—which also happened to be my and my publisher’s favorite. So everybody won.

Mayra Calvini
Why did you decide to focus on the author's muse. Do you have a muse? I'm guessing you do. Tell us about your muse and how your muse has influenced and inspired your volumes of books. 

That sprang from the title. I came up with the title first, and that gave me the idea to begin each interview with a quote from the author about their muse. I thought it would be a nice attention grabber, something that would make the anthology stand apart from other similar titles.

I have a muse, but like Esmeralda Santiago’s, it is often elusive and mysterious. It has various faces and can shapeshift into many forms.  At times, she’s a nurturing angel who fills me with peace and confidence. Other times, she’s a belittling and cruel ice queen. Mostly, she’s the statue of the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet sitting on my desk and keeping a close eye on me. I like her the most because although she keeps me on a leash, she’s the perfect balance of gentle encouragement and firm discipline.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell La Bloga about this project or any future ones? What are you currently working on or what will your next book entail?

I recently terminated with an agent and I’m in search of another agent for a YA psychological thriller set in Puerto Rico in the 1970s. I’m also awaiting response from a publisher on a 4-book YA mythological fantasy series. At the same time, I’m self-publishing a series of novels under a pen name.

On the nonfiction front, I just got an offer for a contract for another anthology titled, Born to Write: Honoring Your Gift When Your Partner Doesn’t Support Your Writing. This will be a collection of essays from different authors.

So I guess I’ll have my hands full for a while. I’m excited about 2016 and can’t wait to find out what the New Year has in store for me.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule, Mayra.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about my book, Melinda!

About the editor:
Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned more than ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. Shes 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.

Latina Authors and Their Muses includes interviews with 40 multi-talented authors:

Marta Acosta
Lisa Alvarado
Julia Amante
Margo Candela
Kathy Cano-Murillo
Mary Castillo
Jennifer Cervantes
Leila Cobo
Zoraida Córdova
Lucha Corpi
Sarah Cortez
Angie Cruz
Liz DeJesus
Anjanette Delgado
Carolina De Robertis
Lyn Di Iorio
Teresa Dovalpage
Carolina Garcia-Aguilera
Iris Gomez
Reyna Grande
Rose Guilbault
Graciela Limón
Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
Diana López
Josefina López
Dora Machado
Maria Gabriela Madrid
Michele Martinez
Sandra Ramos O'Briant
Melinda Palacio
Caridad Piñeiro
Berta Platas
Toni Margarita Plummer
Thelma T. Reyna
Lupe Ruiz-Flores
Esmeralda Santiago
Eleanor Parker Sapia
Alisa Lynn Valdes
Diana Rodriguez Wallach
Gwendolyn Zepeda


Sandra Ramos O'Briant said...

Excellent interview, Melinda. A certain success, very personal, rests within to be included in this list of authors. Thank you, Mayra.

Mayra Calvani said...

Thank you so much for this interview, Melinda! I enjoyed your questions! I'm going to share on Twitter and Facebook to spread the word.

Thanks for your comment, Sandra! :-)


Thelma T. Reyna said...

Melinda, I enjoyed your interview of Mayra. Since I first "met" Mayra through emails and networking, I've always been impressed by her consistent supportiveness of her fellow authors. She is a champion of other writers, while being a highly talented, productive, prolific writer herself. A truly amazing author! Continued successes to her and you!