Today’s guest is perfect to start off the month of October. Multi-genre author Mayra Calvani is here to chat about her latest horror novel, Dark Lullaby, published as an eBook and in Trade paperback by Whiskey Creek Press.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Mayra. I’m thrilled and a bit frightened to have you with us.
It’s a treat being here, Cheryl! Thanks for having me.
Before we talk about Dark Lullaby, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and your fascination with the dark side of things.
I was an avid reader when I was a child and from an early age began to love scary films—those old black & white movies about mommies, werewolves, and vampires. They must have made a deep impression on me, because since then I’ve always been attracted by the supernatural. I was a quiet child and reading was my escape into a world of mystery and adventure, a way to live ‘on the edge’ yet be safe at the same time.
You create stories that thrill and chill your readers, but write for children too. How do you change gears and write heart-warming tales like The Doll Violinist?
I guess I’m one of those writers who could never write in only one genre. Many things inspire me and I write what I love. It’s like switching to different modes. When I write children’s stories it’s as if a switch turns on and I’m in my children’s writer mode. When I write horror, the horror switch turns on, and so on with the other genres. I love the idea of being a multifaceted author and don’t really care about branding my name specifically with one genre.
What’s your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day when you are more productive than others?
When I’m working on a novel, I try to write every day, otherwise I get disconnected from the story and it’s very hard for me to jump back into it. Mornings work best for me because my mind is fresh and because the house is quiet. Late afternoons are for my family and I’m always too tired to write at night. That’s mostly when I do my reading. I’m a reviewer as well, so there’s always a book in line to read or a review to write, so in this sense I do write something everyday.
I think I’m ready to chat about Dark Lullaby, though if I get too scared I’ll have to run upstairs and get my favorite blanket. Dare I ask where you came up with the idea for this chilling tale?
Three things, actually. I’ve always been very interested in moral dilemmas and in the concept of a higher good. For instance, is it okay for a man to steal in order to have money to save his little girl, who is dying? In the case of Dark Lullaby, I went a step further: is it okay for a man to kill for the higher good? As far as the location goes, I lived four years in Turkey, so this was a big influence. I was intrigued by the stories I heard there about the jihnn, and by the fact that so many people believed in them. My brother, who is an astrophysicist, was my inspiration for the main character. This is the first novel I write with a male protagonist, and I have to say it was very interesting getting inside the head of a man.
In Chapter One, we meet astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz, who is having a heated discussion with his ex-girlfriend, Liz at a popular bar. What can you tell us about Gabriel? Why will readers like him? Is there anything about him that readers might not care for?
Gabriel is a smart guy with a big heart and a grand sense of justice. He’s also a bit naïve, which together with his smarts, is somewhat unusual. But he is haunted by a dark childhood, one he would rather forget. When he meets the anti-heroine, Kamilah, she does everything in her power to bring his dark, buried feelings to the surface, leading to tragic consequences. I think readers will like his sense of goodness and justice, as well as his total loyalty to his sister Elena. At some point in the story this sense of justice somehow gets twisted inside his head… and he does a pretty terrible thing, something which readers may not agree with, but I’ve made Gabriel with plenty of faults and as real as possible, and this is really part of it all. He’s too temperamental and impulsive for his own good. Plus money simply slips from his fingers.
This heated discussion is about the discrepancies between law and justice. Why does Gabriel feel so strongly about this topic?
Gabriel has always loved philosophy and arguing about it. Being a scientist, he has an analytical mind and enjoys a heated debate. The conversation about law and justice they have in the beginning sets the ground for what happens later in the story. Will his ideals stay true, or will they collapse?
Having broken up with Gabriel just four months ago, Liz still carries a torch for him. And even more than that, she seems to enjoy bating Gabriel into these heated discussions. Is she drawn to him because of how strongly he feels about things or does she just enjoy the debates?
Liz still loves him, not because of the debates they have, but because of who he is as a person. More than anything, she loves the sweet, sensitive part of him. She can never forget how supportive he was during her mother’s illness. But Liz is too jealous and independent to be compatible with Gabriel, who unconsciously needs a vulnerable woman by his side, a woman who will need him to be protective. This, of course, stems directly from his childhood and relationship with his sister.
We met Kamilah in Chapter 2, when she joins Gabriel and Liz’s conversation. You painted a very detailed picture of Kamilah—her looks, her mannerisms, how her voice sounds. Why so much effort for this one character? How did you know what details to put in and which to leave out?
Kamilah is the center of the story, apart from Gabriel; she’s the anti-heroine, the catalyst that drives Gabriel to the extreme. I wanted Kamilah to completely overshadow Liz. Liz is merely a secondary character. I also wanted Kamilah to evoke both innocence and sensuality. I felt her mannerisms, voice, looks, were all very important in creating her powerful, alluring, supernatural nature.
Gabriel’s twin sister, Elena, is due to have a baby soon and he is debating about whether to go visit her. Why the hesitation? And what’s up with these disturbing daydreams he has of Elena and her unborn child?
He hesitates simply because he’s too busy! Astrophysicists don’t just take off to Europe whenever they feel like it! LOL. Did I mention how money slips through his fingers? He’s up to his neck in credit card bills, and cross-Atlantic airplane tickets are expensive. About the dreams… Yes, his sister is about to give birth to a child, but Gabriel keeps picturing this empty pram in a wooded park. This ominous daydream serves to foreshadow what happens later in the story. He has a bad feeling about the whole thing, a feeling that intensifies when he notices Kamilah’s fixation upon his sister, even though she is thousands of miles away. His sister Elena had lost her child a few hours after delivery 3 years ago, so this also adds to his apprehension.
Alright, I’ll be forced to stop myself there before I start shivering. I think we’ve given readers enough to whet their appetites. Where can readers purchase a copy of Dark Lullaby?
Dark Lullaby is available in both ebook and print form.
What’s up next in your writing world? Any exciting or spooky projects you would like to share with us?
I’m working on a paranormal thriller about wolves set in the French countryside. Wolves are my favorite animals and I’m enormously enjoying the writing and researching. The book will be out in the fall of 2007.