Friday, November 28, 2008

Interview with Mayra Calvani on Community Fridays

Welcome to Community Fridays!

During Community Fridays, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing community. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

Today's guest is Mayra Calvani, book reviewer and author of the recently released The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing (and many other books!).

You're currently on a blog book tour for your book The Slippery art of Book Reviewing. How is that going for you? Any tips for others interested in blog book tours? Where was your last stop, and where are you headed next?

First of all, thanks for hosting me on my virtual book tour, Emma. It’s great to be a guest on your blog. My blog tour is going well. It’s been very busy! One thing I would advise anyone considering a virtual book tour is to drop everything else in order to focus on answering interviews, writing guest posts, promoting the tour and interacting with people who leave comments under the posts. All this can be very time consuming! And to think I was considering doing Nanowrimo at the same time. I had to drop Nano on the fifth day of November. It was simply too hard to do both at the same time.

Yesterday's tour stop was at Joyce Anthony's blog. Tomorrow's will be at Broad Universe.

I've reviewed a few books on my blog to date, and it seemed pretty easy. I mean, I've written things such as "I liked this book because it was a fun story about a cool girl going on a grand adventure." Okay, so I admit I'm a novice, and maybe there's more to it than that. Am I at least headed in the right direction? What are the basics that I need to know?

You’re certainly in the right direction, Emma! But there’s a difference between simply giving an opinion about a book (which is also fine, by the way!) and writing a book review—though a book review is ultimately a person’s opinion. A review goes a bit further in that it analyses the author’s writing and style.

A good book review, whether short or long, is a well-written, honest, thoughtful evaluation of a book, one that points out the good and the ugly. If negative, a good review must also be tactful. I usually, though not always, follow a simple formula for a review, something I learned from Alex Moore, Book Review Editor of ForeWord Magazine: An interesting lead or quote; a short summary of the plot (without ever giving away spoilers or the ending); an evaluation supported by examples or quotes; and a recommendation (or not). A review is written for the reader/consumer in mind, and must help them decide whether or not the book is worth their time and money. It goes without saying that a good review should be free of spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. Finally, a good review should engage the reader, should hold the reader’s interest and attention.

Do you have a tip from your book that you can share here? Or maybe half a tip? You know, to get people hooked?

Whenever possible, try to specify the intended readership. Some books are specialized and appeal to only one group of people. Even if the book has some poor qualities, it might still be of interest to some readers. For example, a mediocre novel about the life of a violin player may be of interest to violinists and musicians, something worth mentioning at the end of a non-enthusiastic review.

Another tip: If you read all kinds of books, then review all kinds of books, but if you mostly read books in one genre, then it’s more sensible to only review books in that genre. If you hate fantasy, for instance, then there’s no point in reviewing fantasy books. Your reviews will have more insight, more “meat” when you’re familiar with other authors and books in that particular genre. Your awareness of trends and the current market will allow you to compare the book to others in the same field. Likewise, if you have read many books by one particular author, reviewing a new book by this author will let you place his new work within his other body of work, which is always a good touch in a review.

You've had a few fiction books published. What made you decide to do a non-fiction book? Was it for money? Fame? Intellectual curiosity? Something else?

I know people who have been following my tour will find this answer repetitive… Actually, I came up with the idea to write this book in the middle of the night. I woke up and heard a ‘voice’: You must write a book on how to write book reviews. From that moment on, I was incredibly motivated and didn’t stop until the book was written. Inviting Anne K. Edwards to co-author the book with me was a great idea. We worked superbly together and we able to complement our ideas in order to achieve a more complete final work. What I missed, she brought up, and vice versa. I was also motivated by the idea of writing a nonfiction book and by the fact that there wasn’t any other book available on the subject. But I had never considered doing this until that night.

Within the realm of fiction, you've dabbled in an impressive array of genres. What inspired you to do this? Do you worry that you might get "branded" as a certain type of author, and have trouble promoting all your different works? For example, the children's/Dark romance is an interesting combination. I ask because this is a personal worry of mine!

I know writing both horror and children’s books is an interesting combination, and that it’s then difficult to ‘brand’ myself as a writer—especially since I use my real name for both genres. But I don’t really care about branding. I care about inspiration and writing. I like the freedom to write what I like. Many things inspire me and I just follow that. So it isn’t a conscious decision. I write what I enjoy writing, as simple as that. And I can switch from my horror-writing mode to my children’s-writing mode in a second. No problem at all. I feel totally comfortable in both genres. In a way, it’s soothing and stimulating for the mind, to be able to delve in different genres.

You've traveled a lot, and lived in many places. Did your traveling affect your decision to become a writer? Has it affected your writing? Do you have any fun travel stories to tell?

I’ve lived in Puerto Rico, the US, Turkey and Belgium and I’ve traveled to many parts of Europe and the Middle East. Yes, traveling and seeing different cultures have influenced my writing enormously. Turkey, especially. My horror novel, Dark Lullaby, is set in Turkey and deals with Turkish myths and folklore.

I do have a fun story to tell! When I first went to live in Turkey I was a newly wed and didn’t know anything about cooking. One night we had guests so I decided to make, among other things, a lentil soup. I assumed the lentils were clean and simply ‘dumped’ them directly from the plastic container into the pan. Later, after I served the meal and we were sitting at the table, my guests started to ‘choke’ on little stones that were in the soup. The lentils were mixed with stones! None of the stones ended up in my bowl—they all ended in the guests’ bowls! Unlike in the US, where grains like rice and beans are filtered and cleaned before packing, in Turkey it is the cook who has to do the filtering! My sister-in-law was so kind that, to protect me, she blamed herself. And I, the coward, kept my mouth shut. Oh well, I was only twenty one back then. :-)

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries, can you name one author, editor or publisher who's doing great things right now, and why?

I know this is self-serving, since this is my children’s book publisher I’m talking about… but Lynda Burch, owner and publisher of Guardian Angel Publishing, has gone out of her way to make the company succeed and we’re getting more attention than ever, especially among the homeschooling networks . We have a wonderful team of talented authors and illustrators and the books have been selling astonishingly well for such a small company. I’m very proud to be one of her authors.

About the Author

Check out Mayra Calvani's website, her reviewer blog and her children's book blog for more information.

© Emma Larkins and Mayra Calvani


Jean Henry Mead said...

Excellent advice! I wish your book had been available years ago when I was reviewing books.

Anonymous said...

Hey great interview and good advice on reviewing. Also LOVED the personal story of feeding lentil/stone soup to the guests in Turkey! Hoo-boy. Wonderful. Just wonderful.

Dana Fredsti said...

Great interview, Emma and Mayra! Good questions, interesting and informative answers...and Mayra, I'm jealous of your night time inspirational voice. Mine just tells me when it's time to get up and use the bathroom...

Maryann Miller said...

Excellent interview, Emma. I really enjoyed this. Mayra, it was nice to run into you again. I was following your blog book tour several months ago and that is how I won my blog book tour. Not sure if I ever thanked you or not, so this is an official thank you.

I also learned much from Alex about reviewing. I have done reviews for ForeWord for several years.

Emma Larkins said...

It was great to host Mayra today! I love hearing travel stories. I need to get back into motion so I can build up some new ones of my own!

Mayra Calvani said...

Dear Emma,

I'm so sorry I wasn't here to comment yesterday. I've been ill with the flu.

Thank you so much for hosting me on my tour! I really appreciate it!

And thank you all for your kind comments! I'm glad you enjoyed the lentil/stone story! LOL It's funny now, but terrible when it happened!

Best to all,