Thursday, May 15, 2014

Blog Tour: Interview/Giveaway!! The Luthier's Apprentice, by Mayra Calvani

Welcome to this stop in the tour for
The Luthier's Apprentice,
sponsored by
Bewitching Book Tours!!

About the Book

The Luthier's Apprentice
Mayra Calvani
Kindle Edition, 190 pages
Twilight Times Books, May 15, 2014
Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal Romance, 
Suspense, Young Adult Fiction

Book Synopsis

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…

An Interview with Mayra Calvani

Maria: Your novel has a very beautiful and very original plot. Do you have a background in classical music, especially for the violin?

Mayra: Thank you for your kind words, Maria! 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: MayrasSecretBookcase.

Maria: How did you first hear of the time-honored occupation of luthier? Did you have to do any research on their craft techniques?

Mayra: I first learned about this occupation when I became interested in violins and violin music. I was especially fascinated by the beauty of Stradivarius violins and by the fact that some can cost millions of dollars. Yes, I had to do lots of research. I ordered tons of books online, read novels, and watched films related to the violin and violin-making.

Maria: What attracts you most about a novel you're reading -- the prose style, plot, setting, characters, or all of these elements at the same time?

Mayra: Of course all these elements are important and complement each other. But I can forgive a weak plot if the book has beautiful writing and strong characterization.

Maria: What was your development as a writer?

Mayra: I've been writing and creating worlds for most of my life, since I was about 12. In secondary school I wrote stories, as well as plays which were "produced" for the annual Christmas shows. At 16, I wrote a romance novel which was secretly passed around in class. By 18, writing was already a passion, an obsession. I saw myself doing no other thing than becoming an author.

In college, I earned a BA degree in Creative Writing and History. Since then, I've never stopped studying the craft. I take workshops and classes whenever I can, read books on the craft, and attend writing retreats. I have been a member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and a local critique group for years. Writing is a never-ending learning process.

Maria: Could you tell us about your protagonists, Emma Braun and Corey Fletcher? For instance, how do they complement each other?

Mayra: Emma Braun is 16 years old. The daughter of American expatriates, she's been living in Brussels all of her life, and goes to the European School of Brussels. She lost her dad when she was very young, so she hardly remembers him, but she's pretty close to her mom.  Her life revolves around school, her violin lessons, her best friend Annika, as well as helping her grandfather, a luthier, at his workshop. When her violin teacher, Monsieur Dupriez, disappears, Emma is dreadfully upset, not only because there's a big violin competition coming up and he must train her, but mainly because Emma loves him and sees him as a father figure. She's been his student since she was a little girl. Emma is loyal an has a kind heart, but she's also stubborn and impulsive. Of cours, she loves mysteries, is a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, and is always ready for adventure.

Corey Fletcher, 17, of American and Russian descent, is not only another student of Monsieur Dupriez, but he happens to be Emma's toughest opponent at the upcoming violin competition. And whereas Emma is a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, Corey is a mad fanatic of the detective, often quoting him word for word. He joins Emma in her pursuit of finding Monsieur Dupriez and solving the mystery of the kidnapped violinists. Unbeknown to Emma, however, he has his own hidden agenda.

Emma and Corey have a lot in common. Both love the violin and are skillful players. Both have lost their fathers and are close to their mothers. Both love Sherlock Holmes. Both are keen on finding out what happened to their teacher. 

Also, they keep each other on their toes as far as violin playing goes. Both are ambitious and competitive.

Maria: Do you see the process of writing as analogous to playing a musical instrument? If so, in what way?

Mayra: I think so. In both cases, you need to put in the hours; the more you practice, the better you get at it, the longer you stay away from it, the harder it is to get back on.

There's one difference, though. A person doesn't necessarily have to study creative writing to be "trained" in it in order to be an author. But with violin playing, there's a certain learning process to follow that goes in stages of increasing difficulty. You need to study music theory, notes, techniques, etc.

Maria: Do you think outlining a novel is a good technique for a writer to use? Why or why not?

Mayra: First let me say that there are no rules, and whatever may work for one writer may not work for another. You have to do what works for you. If plotting madly works for you, do it. If you hate plotting and can write like the wind without knowing what's going to happen on the next page, go for it. There are countless great books that have been written both ways.

That said, for me, plotting is very helpful and an organic part of my creative writing process. However, I always stay flexible and open for surprises, and I modify my plot points accordingly as I work on a book. Einstein once said that it's impossible to solve a problem at the same level of consciousness that created the problem.

Something has to shift. What this means is that I don't know the whole story when I start writing it. I know part of the story, but I don't know the complete story -- that will only happen after I've gotten to know my characters deeply through the process of writing itself. (Alan Watt talks about this in his fabulous book, The 90-Day Novel.)

Recently, I wrote a blog post where I talk about my writing process in more detail. You may find it here: 4 x 4 Blog Hop.

I used to be a from-the-sea-of-my-pants writer, but I often got stuck in the middle, and the overall result was an unbalanced story. Nowadays, I like to plot ahead, and the result is a much tighter, better structured book.

Maria: If you could go back in time to meet a classical music composer, which one would you like to meet, and why?

I would have liked to meet Paganini. He was a charismatic, darkly mysterious violinist (also a composer). He was so incredibly dexterous, people thought he had made a pact with the devil. That's why I decided to make him a character in my book.

Maria: have you read any novels that are inspired by music? If so, which one(s) is(are) your favorite(s)?

Mayra: Violin, by Anne Rice, The Soloist, by Steve Lopez, Tenderwire, by Claire Kilroy,   and The Musician's Daughter, by Susanne Dunlap.

There's also a very nice mystery series for adults by violinist Gerald Elias.

For those readers who are interested, I keep a list of violin-related novels at Violin and Books. I haven't been there in quite some time, but the list is still there on the right sidebar, with clickable links to Amazon.

Maria: Will this novel be the beginning of a series, or a standalone?

Mayra: Yes, this is the first book in a series, featuring 16-year-old violin student/luthier/amateur sleuth Emma Braun.

Maria: Which of your novels, if any, did you find most challenging to write? Why?

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 and 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, subtext, 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.

Maria: What sorts of things, besides music, have inspired your writing?

Mayra: My environment and upbringing have immensely influenced my writing. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Then I went to college in the States. Then I lived in Istanbul and Ankara for four years, and I'm now settled in Brussels. All these different countries and cultures have colored my writing. My supernatural thriller, Dark Lullaby, is set in Turkey and is based on Turkish folklore. My current WIP is a psychological thriller set in a convent in El Yunque, the Puerto Rican rain forest.

And, of course, The Luthier's Apprentice is set in Brussels.

Maria: Would you consider the process of writing to be an altered state of consciousness? If so, why?

Mayra: What an interesting question! I've always been fascinated by this subject.

Yes, I think so. This is what some refer to as being "in the zone", that marvelous state when time seems to stop and everything disappears around us while we immerse ourselves in the world of our characters.

Does it happen all the time? No. But when it does, it is absolutely wonderful. Writing becomes a transcendent, almost spiritual activity. I wish I could reach this state in every session.

With me, I have found that the more often and faster I write, and the more I put my ego aside, the easier it is to fall into the zone.  I usually like to edit as I write, which is a mistake when trying to reach this state, because the left brain keeps intruding. Worrying about words, verbs, etc., inhibits flow. There's nothing wrong with editing, of course. The problem is editing and creating at the same time.

Csikszentmihalyi, who has written several books on this subject, states that flow is the result of intense concentration on the present. So the more you can do to facilitate and increase concentration, and the more you can block distractions, the better. That means no Internet, no phone, etc. Focusing on the end result instead of the process produces anxiety, which can be a huge form of distraction as well. Listening to a movie score with headphones helps me block myself from the outside world and immerse myself deeper into the world of my characters.

Maria: What new project(s) are you currently working on?

Mayra: The Luthier's Apprentice is the first installment in the series, so, hopefully there will be another Emma Braun book sometime in late 2015.

My agent is currently shopping around Book 1 of another YA series (an Egyptian mythological fantasy), and I'm presently working on a standalone psychological/supernatural thriller. I'm also putting together a nonfiction anthology.

As far as other titles coming out soon, Latina Authors and Their Muses, an anthology of interviews, will be released by Twilight Times Books in June, 2014, and I also have various children's picture books forthcoming from Guardian Angel Publishing.

So I'm pretty busy and have enough ideas to keep my hands full for the next few years.

Interviewer's Note
 I would like to thank Ms. Calvani
for an utterly fascinating
and very informative interview!!


About the Author

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.

Website/Facebook Fan Page

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  1. Thanks for the great interview and for helping promote my work! :-)


    1. Hi, Mayra!

      You're very welcome! I really want to read this book, since I LOVE the violin! I also like the plot, since I happen to be a HUGE fan of Sherlock Holmesl! I would prefer to read it in a printed edition, though. If there's any chance you'll make it available in print, please let me know!

      Thank you for your wonderful, fascinating answers to my questions! Thanks as well for dropping by and commenting!! : )

  2. Dear Maria,
    The print is coming out in August 15th. I'll make sure you get a copy. Those were terrific questions, by the way. I really enjoyed answering them. :-)

    1. Hi, again, Mayra!

      OMG!!!!!! You've made my day!!!!!!!!! WHOOOEEEE!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I'm a passionate bibliophile! I actually cried when Borders closed.... Thank God we still have Barnes & Noble! So I greatly appreciate that you're going to get me a copy of your beautiful book!

      Thanks as well for complimenting my questions! I think that author interviews should focus on the book being promoted, as well as on the writing process itself. So I always try to come up with interesting literary questions. I loved your answers!

      Thanks for commenting again, and giving me such WONDERFUL news!! : )

  3. Hey! I posted a review for this book yesterday and I see that Mayra Calvani has promised you a copy. You are going to love this book!

    Btw, this was a wonderful interview! You came up with such fabulous questions! I've worked with Ms. Calvani a few times in the past before but I've never had the chance to get to know her better. This interview has really gave me an insight as to the type of person she is. I had no idea how deeply in love she was with the violin, though I should have guessed it after reading The Luthier's Apprentice.

    Chica, you have done another wonderful job! I can't wait until you are able to review this book. I know it would be awesome!

    1. Hi, Vonnie!

      Oh, what a wonderful coincidence! I'm gonna go read your review!

      Yes, Ms. Calvani has promised me a printed copy of her book, and I'm SO HAPPY about that!!! I know I'm going to love the book, because, I love the violin, too, and I've never come across a plot as original as this one. Besides, the two protagonists are Sherlock Holmes fans, and I ADORE this fictional character!! (Interestingly, he played the violin, as well.)

      Thanks so much for complimenting my interview! I always try hard to come up with interesting questions, and Ms. Calvani loved answering them. I'm glad her answers enabled you to get to know this author better!!

      You know, I can't wait to get this book into my hands, and actually start reading it!! And I'm going to give the very best review of it that I possibly can!

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving such a WONDERFUL comment!! : )

  4. Thank you so much for your lovely comments, ladies! You made my whole month! :-)))

    1. Hi, again, Mayra!'re so sweet.....I wish every author were as nice as you!! You're very welcome!! : )

    2. So glad to hear that, Mayra!


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