Interview with Author James R. Callan — With a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance. Many people don’t know this about me, but I LOVE MATH. I was President of the Math Club in high school and on the competitive math team. My idea of a relaxing break is to do Sudoko or a math logic problem. I’m extremely analytical and am shocked at how much I enjoy the creative side of my mind that’s needed to write books.  That said, I’m THRILLED to introduce to you today mystery/suspense author James Callan.  He had a 40-year career in mathematics before turning to writing. Please welcome him and enjoy his interview as much as I did.

Also, check out the giveaway below! James is giving away a paperback of his book, Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel ! There are several ways to enter.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I took a degree in English. When I found I could not support a family, I returned to graduate school in mathematics. That started a forty year detour in mathematics. I received grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, was listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans. When I retired, I returned to my first love, writing. I’ve had four non-fiction books and five mystery/suspense books published.

Tell us about your current release.

Cover-A Ton of GoldMy latest suspense book is A Ton of Gold, a contemporary book but inspired by an old Texas folk tale. I asked the question, how could a folk tale affect the lives of people today. This legend had a dramatic effect on the lives of several people, as the bad guys resorted to murder, kidnapping, and arson in the search for a ton of gold.

But, technically, my latest book is a non-fiction book. My publisher liked my use of dialog and asked me to write a book on the subject. That resulted in How to Write Great Dialog.

With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down?

First, I spend time getting to know my major characters very well. Then, I write my first draft as fast as I can. I try not to do any editing as I get the story down. Then, I go back and make it better. I spend as much time polishing the story as I do in writing the first draft.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block?

Start writing. Anything. Just make myself type words. It doesn’t have to be the book I currently working on. It could be a blog, even an e-mail. But start writing. Usually, the story bubbles up to take over. Also, I try to stop for the day in the middle of a scene. Then the next day, I know exactly where to start and that running start usually leads right into the next part of the story.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write?

Before I start, I have a loose plot and a resolution. I know my major characters. I know what they sound like, how they talk. But, as the story progresses, I’m willing to listen to the characters and change the direction of the story, and change the ending. But I like to have something in mind before I start, even though it may not end that way.

jim - 6What is your preferred method of writing? (computer, pen & paper, etc.)

I cannot imagine trying to write a 90,000 word book long hand. When I revise and polish, I add things in, cut things out, change a lot. That would be beyond my patience without the ability to cut and paste quickly and easily on a computer. If I don’t have a computer handy and scenes or dialog come to me, I will write that with pen and paper. But as soon as I’m near a computer, it gets transcribed to the computer.

I’m always intrigued by how writers get started…did you always have these books inside you and knew that you wanted to write them or did the idea just pop into your head one day and you decided to put pen to paper?

I knew I wanted to write. I love to read and I wanted to produce a book that other people would enjoy reading. But my ideas come to me from everything around me. A four paragraph story in the L.A. Times spawned the 94,000 word novel The Silver Medallion. A series of church fires spawned Cleansed by Fire. And an old folk tale led to A Ton of Gold. Other have come the same way.

What is one thing that you “never saw yourself doing” and either do it now or have done?

cover-characterI never thought I’d write a book for writers on how to write. But when a publisher asked me to write one on character development because she really liked my characters, I agreed. And Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel resulted. A year later, she asked me to write one on dialog, and that became How to Write Great Dialog. I found I enjoyed it, and was surprised when other writers said they went back and revised their books because of what they read in my books.

Thank you, Hallee, for inviting me to your site. I hope I have given a little insight as to how and why I write and have not bored your readers.

Find James online!

Amazon Author page:

Twitter: @jamesrcallan

Find Jame’s Books online:

James is also giving away a paperback of Character: The Heartbeat of a Novel. See the Rafflecopter for all of the ways you can enter to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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    • John Addiego on May 14, 2014 at 11:55
    • Reply

    I really enjoyed your description of the process of creating a story, as well as your advice for getting past writer’s block!

  1. You can tell James his interview wasn’t boring at all! It is always fun to see where ideas are born and how stories develop.

  2. I always enjoy hearing about Jim’s background and his writing. He is not only a mighty good writer of mysteries, he also knows how to construct them as well, as revealed in his book on character development. Keep writing, Jim.

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