Thursday, November 29, 2012

Authorsday: James R. Callan

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I had planned to be a writer when I was in college, and I took a degree in English. But after graduation and marriage, I found I could not support a family writing. So, I went back to graduate school in the field of mathematics. That led to a thirty year detour, until one day I said, “All the kids are out of school and self-supporting.” And I returned to my first love, writing.

2. How did you pick the genre you write in?

I read in a lot of areas, but my favorite is mystery / suspense. So, that’s mostly what I write in. I wrote some non-fiction books at first because that’s what I knew, what I’d been doing for thirty years. But now, I pretty well stick to mystery / suspense.

3. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants?

I plot. I am not tied to the plot, but I need a structure to really get started. Of course, once into the book, it often takes turns that were not in the original plot. It may end differently – a different solution, different bad guy. And that’s okay with me. But, I start with a plot.

4. How many rejections have you received?

I can’t count that high. But not so many lately.

5. Describe Cleansed by Fire?

Churches are burning and a man is murdered, plunging a small Texas town into a state of fear. Father Frank DeLuca, pastor of Prince of Peace Church, is thrust into an impossible dilemma when he hears that another church will be burned. But the disturbing information comes to him via the confessional, and church law forbids him from telling anyone—even the police.

He doesn’t know which church, when, or by whom. Still, he can’t sit idly by, and no law prevents him from looking into the matter himself. The crimes have set the town’s residents on edge, fraying the bonds of trust. Is the mysterious newcomer with ties to the drug scene involved? What about the man who says maybe the churches deserved to burn? Or the school drop-out into alcohol and drugs who attacks the priest with a knife?

Countering this are a young widow whose mission is to make others shine, and a youth choir determined to help those whose churches have been destroyed by the arsonist.

Father Frank’s investigation leads him dangerously close to the local drug scene and he soon discovers the danger has come to him. Can he save his own church? Can he save his own life?

6. What was your favorite scene to write in Cleansed by Fire?

There have been a couple of encounters between Fr. Frank and a big, burley man named Harley who has said that maybe the churches deserved to be burned. Finally, Harley catches Fr. Frank as a gas station and challenges him to “fight like a man.” While Fr. Frank is tempted, he knows fighting would send the wrong message to the teenagers watching. So, he suggested an arm wrestling match. Harley takes him up, sure of a quick victory. But Fr. Frank played college basketball and has stayed in good shape. The match stretches out with neither man able to gain the advantage for quite some time. It was a fun scene to write.

Of course, the one, short scene written from the point of view of the arsonist was satisfying to write, and I think I caught the mind-set of the arsonist.

7. What do you do when you’re not writing?

I read, work around our property, and travel. Oops, most important, I spend time with my wife.

8. What is your favorite quote?

“The fault … is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” From Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

9. What is your favorite food?

Ice cream, of most any variety.

10. What is your favorite writing reference book?

A good thesaurus. In a ninety or ninety-five thousand word book, it’s easy to use certain words over and over. And while I have a good vocabulary, sometimes it helps to have my memory jogged for a different word. I keep a large thesaurus within arm’s reach of my computer keyboard.

James R. Callan’s books can be found on Amazon at:
His website is href="1.
His blog is at href=""> and he blogs each Friday, often interviewing an author.


After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing. He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years, and published several non-fiction books. He now concentrates on his favorite area, mysteries, with his sixth set to be released in 2013.

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