Welcome to my blog – a great place to be after the amazing weekend we’ve just enjoyed. Today I’m happy to introduce James R. Callan, a writer who frequently volunteers his time to teach at our annual At-Home Conference for ACFW writers. Today he’s giving us an inside look at his writing life. Here’s James:
Hello, and thank you for appearing on my blog. Please tell us a little about yourself.
After I graduated with a degree in English, I intended to write fiction. But soon, I found that wouldn’t support a growing family. I returned to graduate school in the field of mathematics. That led to a thirty-five year detour as a research mathematician and computer scientist. I received grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and was listed in Who’s Who in Computer Scientist. But then, one day, I realized that the kids had all graduated and were self-supporting, so, I returned to my first love – writing. My tenth book is publishing this month.
Two of those books reflected my many years in the scientific world. Two are books on writing that were written at the request of a publisher who liked my characters and my dialog. But my first choices in reading are mysteries and suspense books, so that is what I like to write.
How do you organize your writing?
I think about a novel for a long time before I start writing. I get a problem or conflict. Often this comes from something in the news. Next come the characters. Who will address this problem? Why will they become involved? How will they be changed? And I like to have at least some idea of how the situation will end. (Often, this is not how the book ends, but I like to have at least some possibility in mind.) After awhile, I begin to pick up scraps of conversation, little snippets. I jot these down in a computer file. Soon I am ready to plunge into the writing of the book.
What is the most surprising thing a character has “told you?”
I once had a sidekick just come right out and say, “Hey, I’m the main character. I’m not a secondary character.” And guess what? He was right.
Do you have a list of characters you’re saving for future use?
Not really. I have two series. Each has a different set of core characters. I will, of course, be using them again. I do have a list of plot ideas, ready to step in at a moment’s notice.
What does your work space look like?
I have an office, a computer with two monitors (a great aid for writers), a shelf right above with dictionaries, thesaurus, and other resources so I can grab one without moving more than my arm. I have lots of pads of paper, sticky notes, pens and pencils. In short, I have a great space for writing, so I can’t complain about a bad writing environment.
What is your go-to snack when writing?
That easy. Ice cream. In fact, I have a bowl of ice cream sitting beside me right now.
If you could recommend one CRAFT book on writing, what would it be?
I’m going to be a little self-centered here and say a book on character development I wrote, titled Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel. The second edition was published in 2015.
And with that bit of self-promotion, I think I’d better shut-up. Thank you, Karin, very much for letting me spout off about a subject close to my heart. I love writing. I love my characters, well, the good ones. And I’ve met so many great people in the writing community. Thank you.