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Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Please welcome Jim Callan to Behind the Book.

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 genre, mysteries, with his fourth book released in February, 2013.


A number of years back, I decided I wanted to write a book where the protagonist was involved in information retrieval.  I had done a little research in that area while working on a Ph.D. and have a son who is a professor directing research in the area of information retrieval. I thought it might be fun to incorporate some of that in a novel.

Then a couple of years ago, I read an old Texas folk tale about a wagon load of precious metal being pushed into a lake to avoid having it captured by the Mexican army.  I began to wonder, how an old folk tale could affect the lives of people today. 

Eventually, I connected these two ideas and the result was a 95,000 word mystery/suspense which I called A Ton of Gold.  It is a contemporary novel, although the prologue brings in the old folk tale dated around 1834. 

Of course, I added a subplot so that the heroine, Crystal Moore, has not one but two big problems to deal with.  Actually, there is a third problem, but it is not on the scale of the other two.  It was a fun novel to write because I introduce three interesting characters who, in different ways, help Crystal.  One is a former bull rider, now owner of the informational retrieval company where Crystal works.  One is a streetwise housemate for Crystal.  So, while Crystal is brilliant in her field, her housemate is wise in other areas, and often is teaching Crystal.  And last, but certainly not the least, is Crystal’s 76 year-old grandmother, Crystal’s only remaining family.  She lives on a 320 acre tract in the middle of a forest, has a will of steel and sees things very clearly. 

While Crystal learns a lot from these three, so did I.  In developing these characters, I found myself immersed in their view of the world. Each of the three has a different point of reference, a different attitude, a different reaction to the events occurring. It looked a bit diverse from what I saw through Crystal’s eyes.  And in looking at the situations from varying angles, I broadened my personal view.  So, I learned as I wrote. 

This often happens.  One writes about a subject and in doing so, learns more about it.  It is seldom, and probably never, that I write a book and don’t learn, or develop a different feeling, about something.  That’s one of the advantages of writing, one that is often overlooked.  Not only does writing keep the mind sharp, but it expands the range of knowledge or understanding.  That’s just another benefit, which goes with the joy, of writing. 

Links to purchase A Ton of Gold: 

Purchase links for A Ton of Gold;

 at Oak Tree Press

on Amazon         

on Amazon -Kindle


Augie said...

Darlene I enjoyed this interview with Jim. I'm looking forward to reading 'A Ton of Gold.' Jim possesses a unique way of capturing his audience. Augie

Linda Glaz said...

Jim, I'm impressed. What a rich background you come from!!!

Patricia Gligor said...

I know exactly what you mean. Although my Malone mystery series doesn't require a ton of research, there's always something to look up and/or verify and I learn with each book I write.

jrlindermuth said...

I'm way behind on my TBR pile. Just finishing Cleansed By Fire. But this sounds like another Callan title I've got to read.

jrlindermuth said...

I'm way behind on my TBR stack. Just finishing Cleansed By Fire. But this sounds like another Callan title I've got to read.

Darlene Franklin said...

Folks, I haven't had the opportunity yet to read one of Jim's book. It sounds like I have a great opportunity ahead of me!

marta chausée said...

THat's a very good point-- about learning things from one's characters. That has happened for me, too.

I like how different characters carry differing perspectives. Who knew we had all that info in our unconcious minds OR-- do our characters really have lives of their own? Sometimes, it sure seems that way to me. I feel like am merely transcribing their thoughts and conversations.

Marta Chausée
Murder's Last Resort

James R. (Jim) Callan said...

I'm way late - and have all sorts of excuses - none worth a flip. But thanks to all of you for the nice comments. We do learn from our characters (if we get to really know them and give them a chance). And I also learn from my readers. Boy, is that ever a help. Again, thanks to all of you.