Friday, December 18, 2009

Mayra Calvani and Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster

Welcome to Cynthia's Attic, Mayra! Can you tell our readers a little bit about author, Mayra Calvani?

I fell in love with writing fiction when I was about 12 and have been writing stories ever since. Initially, I wrote mystery, supernatural and literary stories, but over the years I’ve also dabbled into parody/satire, nonfiction, women’s fiction and now children’s books. Like the hamster in my book, I’m a consummate bookworm. I also love sharing my ideas about books and writing reviews. When I’m not reading or writing, you’ll find me watching a good romantic comedy on DVD, practicing the violin, walking my dog, experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, and spending time with my family. I also love chatting with my mom on the phone every night. At 42, I’m still a mama’s girl. I was born in San Juan but now live in Belgium.

A little bird, or, maybe a little bookworm said that you have a new children's release. Please tell us about your latest book.

I wanted to write a story about a bookworm mouse or hamster who lives his life through his books. That’s how the idea for Humberto the Bookworm Hamster came about. I kept seeing Humberto in my mind, with his nose stuck in a book and always too busy to socialize or make any friends. I kept hearing his voice, “I don’t have time for friends. I’m too busy reading!” But then something bad happens that serves as a catalyst and he realizes that books are even better when you get to share them with friends. I sympathize with Humberto because my life is mostly a solitary one because of so much reading and writing. I love what I do and never feel lonely, but every now and then I feel the need to socialize and be with friends. You know the phrase, ‘No man’s an island.’ I thought the idea of a little bookworm hamster surrounded by books would be cute. Kit Grady, the illustrator, captured his essence perfectly. I wanted him to look cute but also dignified, and with an aura of vulnerability about him.

As authors, we don't like to preach in our books, but do your stories usually have a moral?

I usually don’t think of a lesson or moral beforehand. I just think of a character and a story, or at least a premise or a general idea for a story, and then the lesson somehow develops naturally from it as I write it. So it’s not a conscious, pre-planned decision. A lot of my story ideas come from real life. I want the story to be fun and interesting for children. That always comes first. It’s intriguing how the underlying moral often appears at the end.

It sounds like we agree. "Write what you know," and let the rest happen naturally.

Was there one event that led you into writing? Who has inspired you the most?

When I was eleven years old, a relative gave me a book that, I believe, changed the course of my life. It was a novel by Agatha Christie. The relative, who was an old aunt, had the whole collection translated into Spanish and by the end of the year I had read them all. Before that moment, I had never been an avid reader. I never read for pleasure. I never read picture books or middle-grade or YA novels. I didn’t grow up with any of my parents reading to me at night. My love for books first started with that Agatha Christie book. So as a kid, I went straight into reading books for adults.

I once read that a kid needs One special book that will open her appetite for literature, and that is so true. From Christie, I went straight into Conan Doyle and Poe, then to a lot of other stuff.

So I can say it was Agatha Christie who led me into reading and writing.

You're such a prolific writer, reviewer, and lover of animals, as evidenced by your Pets and Authors Blog, but what do you consider your proudest writing achievement?

When my nonfiction book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, won a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award and became required reading at several colleges and universities. It was a great feeling of validation.

I know this questions is overused, but do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

If you want to become an author, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Do everything you have to do to make your dream a reality. Read books about the craft, join a critique group, do a writing course. Above all, write as often as possible. The more you write, the easier and better it will become. Be persistent, no matter how many rejection letters you get in the beginning.

I believe our first contact was through Mayra's Secret Bookcase. What made you decide to create this wonderful site?

Everybody had a blog so I wanted one too. LOL

No, really. I guess for three reasons: to promote my work, the work of other authors, and to share my views about books with readers. I post a lot of reviews and author interviews on my blogs. I love to feature new books and authors. If any of your readers would like to be a guest on my blog, they can get in touch with me at mayra.calvani AT

Please tell us where readers can find your children's books.

My children’s books are available from Guardian Angel Publishing and from all online retailers like Amazon and B&N. They’re also available from brick and mortar bookstores.

Thanks, Mayra. You're welcome in Cynthia's Attic anytime!

Mayra's Children's Books


Mayra Calvani said...

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Mary! It's an honor!

Donna M. McDine said...

Hi Cynthia and Mayra:

Lovely and insightful interview and I thought knew Mayra pretty well, now I know her even better. Terrific questions!

Best wishes to you both for a lovely holiday!


Nicole weaver said...


Thank you for giving such a great interview. How cool that you live in Belgium. I studied and lived with a French family in Strasbourg France, during spring break the family took me to Brussels . Where in Belgium do you live? You are one talented lady. Glad you are part of GA family.
Warm regards,

Magdalena said...

Great interview Cynthia and Mayra. Humberto sounds like a wonderful book. I particularly liked the idea of one special book opening the door to reading. Can't remember mine but it could have been Sendak's Little Bear series.

Mary Cunningham said...

Thrilled to have you hear, Mayra. You're always one of my most interesting author/guests!


kathy stemke said...


Kristi Bernard said...

Great interview Mayra. I love Humberto and look forward to seeing more fun books from you.

Susan Hornbach said...

This was a an interesting interview Mary, and Mayra, thanks for the writing advise. Wishing you great success with your new book.

Cynthia Reeg said...

Best wishes with Humberto, Mayra, and all your many endeavors.

Mayra Calvani said...

I'm sorry I was late to join in the discussion, but unfortunately I didn't have internet since Friday.
Thank you so much for stoppingby and leaving your comments. You ladies are great!

Mary Cunningham said...

Oh, sorry about that, Mayra. Especially since I mentioned how great it was to have you "hear." Oops. How about "here?"

Happy that you're back online!