Please help me welcome James R. Callan to It’s Not all Gravy. I first met Jim at the Art Center in Winnsboro Texas, then soon found out that he was the head of the Northeast Texas Writers Organization, NETWO, and was a driving force behind their annual spring conference. Check out the website for information about the organization and the conference, and in the meantime, meet Jim Callan.
We’re glad to have you here Jim. Tell me, have you always wanted to be a writer, or have you come to writing after another career?
I intended to write when I graduated from college, but couldn’t support a family writing. So, I took a 35 year detour in mathematics and computer science. When I no longer needed to support a family, I returned to my first love – writing. For two years, I wrote a monthly column for a national magazine. And for six months, I wrote a weekly newspaper column that appears in four states. I’ve had three non-fiction books published. But my real interest is in mystery/suspense novels and I have four published so far.
I know that your success with fiction has been long coming. What was the first thing you ever had published?
The first thing I ever had published was a mathematical paper on finding extreme points on an ill-defined surface. The second was on low energy electron defraction.
Oh, that must have been fascinating. (smile) I’m glad you switched to fiction. I know there is a lot of research involved in writing fiction, as well as nonfiction.What is the most interesting research you have done for your books?
In a book as yet unpublished, I had to research the jungle around San Sebastian, Mexico. A very interesting place, and one that I’ll visit again.
Tell us what gives you the most pleasure in writing?
Writing a scene that brings tears to my eyes. Or writing a paragraph that flows so smoothly it makes me smile to read it, even for the tenth time.
That process is exciting for most writers. If we are not emotionally invested in our stories, the reader won’t be, but we also need to take a break now and then. What do you do for fun when you need a break?
I read (as all writers should) and I travel. We’ve visited all fifty states, and five continents. I expect to add the sixth continent this year. (Antarctica will have to wait a bit.)
I’m sure you have picked up many story ideas in your travels. Where do your stories begin? With character or plot?
Sometimes with plot and sometimes character. Often, it is from some snippet I read or hear. A three paragraph story in the L.A. Times led to a 95,000 word novel. My latest book, A Ton of Gold, came about when I read an old folk’s tale and wondered how that could affect the lives of someone today.
When you are not traveling extensively, where do you live?
We split our time between the middle of a forest in east Texas and a beachside condo in Mexico. When we are in Texas and the peaceful, quiet house on a hillside overlooking a small lake, we are very happy. But when we are in Puerto Vallarta, in the middle of constant activity, music, and people, we love that. We have two very interesting groups of friends and are perfectly happy in either group. Perhaps having the one makes the other more interesting.
That sounds like a terrific way to split your time, and what a wonderful contrast. I’m sure that feeds your creativity. Now share with us what has been your most interesting job, besides writing.
I’ve been blessed to have a variety of interesting jobs. Coaching girls’ basketball was a delight. I worked at a research center where money was no object. My wife and I ran our own company and expanded a field of advertising research into areas never done before and back in a time when you had to create whatever computer programs you needed. And certainly writing is at the top of interesting jobs. As I said, I’ve been blessed.
Jim’s books are Cleansed by Fire, a mystery prompted by the church fires in east Texas a couple of years back; Murder a Cappella, an interesting mystery that is set in the international finals of the Sweet Adelines singing contest, and the soon to be released A Ton of Gold.