Today the Dames are pleased to shine the spotlight on multi-genre author James Callan. Welcome, Jim! Tell us about your latest book, A Ton of Gold.
My latest published book is a suspense novel. I asked the question, can an old Texas folktale affect the lives of people today. A Ton of Gold was the result. In it, Crystal Moore, a young computer scientist, is thrust into the midst of murder, arson, and kidnapping all because of a long forgotten folktale, coupled with greed. She needs all the help she can get from a former bull rider, a streetwise friend, and a seventy-six your old feisty grandmother. It is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions, or from the publisher, Oak Tree Press.
Wow, sounds great. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now?
I am just finishing a book on the craft of writing titled: How to Write Great Dialog. Last year, I had been asked to write a book on character development, which was published earlier this year. It was well received, so when asked to write one on dialog, I quickly agreed.
Writing dialog is something every author should strive to get right so I’m sure the book will do well. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
I always say, it’s my book and I am in control. The characters may not see the big picture I have for the book. But, since they are in the middle of the book and if I’ve crafted them well enough that they begin to talk to me, I listen. More than once, I’ve changed the direction of the book, or the role of a character because of what a character is telling me. I guess the answer is, I maintain control, but I am open to other opinions and if they make sense to me, I will adjust to accommodate them.
A combination of both or in other words, a collaboration between the author and the characters, That’s what works best for me, too. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
I read Baldacci and Grisham for their intricate plotting. I read Dick Francis for his smooth flow of words. And I read Jory Sherman for his ability to paint pictures with words.
You have a couple of my favorites in there. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer.
When I write a scene that makes me cry or laugh, even on the fifth or tenth reading, I know why I spend time writing.
Fabulous answer! There are at least three scenes in Whistling Woman, the book I co-wrote with my sister, that still, even after hundreds, maybe even thousands of times reading, still bring tears to my eyes. Tell us a little bit about where you live.
My wife and I are fortunate to live in two places. We have a lovely home in Texas in the middle of a forest. If we hear a car, we know someone is coming to visit us. It is quiet and peaceful, with a small lake down a gentle slope from the office where I write. But we also have a beautiful place on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It is in the middle of constant activity and music. It is the absolute opposite of our place in Texas. But, we love both of them.
That’s wonderful, you have two very different worlds to choose from. What are the major themes or motifs in your work? Do readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?
I would say the major motif in my books is an ordinary person thrust into an extra-ordinary situation. My protagonist is never looking for trouble, thrills, or even excitement. Generally, they are reluctant to get involved. But their sense of justice or duty forces them to become involved. And yes, occasionally a reader sees something I didn’t, an added benefit, so to speak. I love it when that happens.
How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I began writing non-fiction because that’s what I knew. I had been in the mathematics and computer science field for twenty-five years. When I started to write, what I knew about was math and computers. But my goal was to write mystery and suspense. That’s what I’ve done for a number of years now and have seven published. But, as I mentioned above, over the last twelve months, I’ve also written two non-fiction books on the craft of writing.
Besides “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?
My two activities now are: writing and traveling. Of course, nowadays, writing must include social media.
Ugh, social media…the love/hate relationship in every author’s life—at least in mine! Where do you get your ideas?
From everywhere. A 95,000 word suspense novel titled A Silver Medallion (due out in 2014) came from a three paragraph story I read in the L.A. Times. A Ton of Gold was the result of reading an old Texas folktale and wondering how such could affect people’s lives today. Several churches were torched in east Texas a few years ago. The arsonists were eventually caught, but no satisfactory motive was ever given. I wondered what a motive would be to burn several churches. Cleansed by Fire resulted. Other books have come from similar prompts. Ideas are floating around us every day. We simply have to ask a few questions. How? What if? Why? Why not?
I’ve always thought it’s amazing how a creative mind can take a flicker of time and turn it into a story or a novel. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
I like a “real” book. I like the feel, the smell, the familiarity of a paper book. However, e-books are not only here to stay, but are growing in popularity. So, my wife and I each have e-readers. At this point, I’d say I read about half as many books on my Kindle as I do in paper. My wife is probably fifty-fifty. E-publishing will become more important every year. The younger generation is geared to electronic devices. As they become the dominant market for books, e-books will flourish. That may be what saves publishers. With e-books, they have no returns, no remainders, no warehouses of books, less delivery cost, and on and on. We all need to applaud e-books. But, I still like paper books and have a library full of them.
I’m with you and your wife—though I’m probably more at 75% e-books and 25% print, which is usually reserved for my favorite books, the ones I read over and over again. There’s just something about holding them in my hands. How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
Good question. I’d say my characters are based loosely on people I know. Key word here is “based.” I do not model any characters after people I know. But I will take a characteristic of someone I know and let that be the basic characteristic of one of my characters. Beyond that, the character will diverge, sometimes sharply. I don’t think I’ve ever had a character based closely on a person I know—at least, not that I realized.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Jim. I enjoyed learning more about you and your writer’s world. We hope you’ll come back to visit often!
To find out more about Jim and his work, visit the following sites:
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1eeykvG