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.
Purchase her latest book, The Luthier’s Apprentice, on Amazon.
What was your inspiration for The Luthier’s Apprentice?
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: www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com.
Tell us about your protagonists in The Luthier’s Apprentice.
Emma Braun is sixteen years old. The daughter of American expatiates, 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 and has a kind heart, but she’s also stubborn and impulsive. Of course, she loves mysteries, is a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, and is always ready for adventure.
Corey Fletcher, 17, of American and Russian descendance, 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 by 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.
How was your writing process like for The Luthier’s Apprentice?
I completed the first draft in four weeks during Nanowrimo 2007. At that time, it was an experiment. I hadn’t participated in Nanowrimo before. It was an exciting, exhilarating experience, but I knew the manuscript needed a lot of editing and polishing, so I put it aside for a long time. Then I worked on it on and off as I worked on other projects. That’s why it took so long to publish it.
I didn’t plot in advance. I didn’t know what would happen on the next page. I discovered the story and characters as I wrote. Or rather, I let the characters take charge and guide me. Looking back, this was incredibly daring. I don’t work this way now. But, as I said, it was an experiment to shut down my inner critic and it was an exciting challenge.
Is The Luthier’s Apprentice the first book in a series?
Yes, it is the first book in a series, featuring 16-year-old violin student/luthier/amateur sleuth Emma Braun.
Why did you decide to set the story in Brussels?
I have been living here for the past 19 years, and I’m familiar with how the expatiates live—after all, I’m one myself. I thought it would be interesting to set the story in a city teeming with international students, children of diplomats from embassies, NATO, and other international organizations.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
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.
Did you ever feel like calling it quits?
Never. But I’ve always been crazy persistent when it comes to my writing. But that doesn’t mean that it never gets difficult or that I never get the blues. I often do. Quite badly now and then. But I see these times as mood swings that every writer or creative person often gets. A dark cloud that passes. Ultimately, the force to create takes precedence over any blues.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Don’t let anyone interfere with your dreams or goals of becoming an author. No matter what anyone says. Do what you have to do to accomplish it. Learn the craft, take courses and/or workshops if you have to, join writer organizations and a critique group. Interact with like souls who actually understand the creative spirit. Above all, read a lot and write a lot, as often as you can. Usually, the longer you stay away from writing, the harder it is to get back to it. And the more you write, the better you get at it.
What advice would you give seasoned writers?
Persevere. Keep learning. Keep improving and evolving as an author. Writing is a never-ending learning process. Make your goal to grow and advance with each new book.