Thursday, August 30, 2012

Say Hello to Author James R. Callan

 James R. Callan took a degree in English, intent on writing.  He went to graduate school in mathematics to support a family and mathematics became a thirty-year detour from writing.  He has received grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Data Processing Management Association.  He has been listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science, and Two Thousand Notable Americans. But writing was his first love.  He has published a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and picked up several awards along the way.  Cleansed by Fire, 2012, is the first of the Father Frank mysteries.  Murder a Cappella, a Sweet Adelines Mystery, was released in April by Wayside Press.  Callan wrote this mystery with one of his daughters, Diane Bailey, a well published YA author. Callan lives with his wife in east Texas and Puerto Vallarta.  They have four grown children and six grand children.  

Welcome to the Spotlight, James. Readers are always interested to know if there is a story behind the book. Does Cleansed by Fire have one?

As a matter of fact, yes.  A couple of years ago, there was a rash of church burnings in east Texas. They finally caught the arsonists and convicted them, but there was never any real motive given.  I began to wonder what might cause a person to burn multiple churches, and Cleansed by Fire came out of that.

Which character in Cleansed by Fire most interested you while you wrote? Why?

My protagonist, Father Frank knows there will be another church burned, but his information came in the confessional and church law forbids him from telling anybody, not even the police.  So, he is in a dilemma.  He can’t sit by idly and do nothing, and yet he can’t seek police help.  So, he has to investigate on his own. But this takes him into areas and circumstances he is unfamiliar with and unprepared for.  It causes him to struggle within himself to remain true to his vocation as a man of God and not strike back at the evil he sees.

How did your writing journey begin?

I took a degree in English intending to write.  But that didn’t support a family, so I returned to graduate school in the field of mathematics.  Many years later, when the kids were out of college and self-supporting, I decided it was time to return to my first love – writing.

What sort of distractions take you away from writing?

Jobs that can be completed in a short time.  I like to finish things.  A novel takes me a long time, so I can be easily seduced to do another job – any job – that I can complete in a short time.  Of course, there are an endless number of those and if I’m not careful, they will eat all of my time.

I can understand that sort of distraction. Let me ask, what kind of books do you enjoy reading?

I like almost any well-written book. But mysteries and suspense novels would be my favorite. David Baldacci is a favorite author.  Jory Sherman writes beautiful prose, though not currently writing mysteries. I enjoy the smooth reading of a Dick Francis mystery.  And if I want a romance, I turn to Jodi Thomas.

I see some additions I can make to my reading list. Thanks. Now for some fun. If you were a style of music, what style would you be?

Light classics.

Have you ever done anything really quirky?

With a degree in English, and only 3 hours of college algebra, I applied to enter a Ph.D. program in Mathematics.  At first, they laughed.  Eventually, the head of admissions said they would take my money and I’d flunk out, but I could enter the program.  It was a little crazy, but I did not flunk out.

What is your favorite season of the year?

Spring, when life begins anew. 

What is something you remember fondly from your childhood?

The carefree time when, even as a kid under 12, you could play out on the streets at night with never a thought that anything bad would happen to you.  It was a time of freedom that most young kids today don’t get to experience.

It’s sad that we’ve lost that kind of freedom. Careful with this next question: Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?

Lots of them. Just ask my wife.

I’m smiling. That would be my husband’s answer too. Speaking of family, what's your favorite meal with family and friends?

I am often in charge of dessert, since that is my favorite part of any meal.  I have a lot of recipes that I have given my own touch to.  Here’s one that is a little unusual.
Pumpkin Cake
1 large or 2 small cans of pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (preferably Mexican vanilla)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs (mixed lightly)
Mix ingredients together until smooth.  Pour into a well-greased non-stick 13 x 9 baking pan
Sprinkle a full package of regular yellow cake mix on top of the mix you’ve just put in the pan.  Then, mix 2 cups of chopped pecans into a cup of melted butter.  Lightly spoon this on top of the dry cake mix.  Do not mix in.  Bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees. 

That sounds wonderful! Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?  

An ordinary person who has the opportunity to do something extraordinary for someone he or she does not know.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?

A Ton of Gold is due out in October.  Crystal Moore learns some unknown person is trying to kill her 75 year-old grandmother, her only living relative. And there appears to be no reason at all. At the same time, the man who almost destroyed Crystal psychologically is coming back, now with an opportunity to destroy her career.

Cleansed By Fire is available at:

James R. Callan is giving away a copy of Cleansed By FireTo be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your e-mail address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.

                                                    Remember to read wherever you wander, 
                                                    The Wandering Writer,


cjajsmommy said...

Please enter my name for a copy of this book. I gather from the interview that there might not be any romance in this novel -- and to me that would be refreshing. djragno [at] hotmail [dot] com

HomePlace Gatherings said...

I remember playing out on the streets at night also. Hide and seek and had no worries. :)

Please include me in the contest!
Doreen Brannan
priviesandprims at yahoo .com

Anonymous said...

I remember the rash of church burnings. I would love to read this book; thanks for giving one away!
Elizabeth neadnitromom(at)

James R. (Jim) Callan said...

Some years ago, one of my grandsons called. His class assignment was to ask a grand parent what they had as children that kids today don't have. After only a few seconds, I answered, "Freedom." No worries about kidnappers or predators. Wander around after dark until your mother called. What a great time.

marja said...

Jim, You obviously grew up in the same era I did. Summer lasted forever and there was nothing to fear.

Terrific interview, and I look forward to your book.

William Doonan said...

Enjoyed the interview. Thanks. I was a big fan of 'Cleansed by Fire,' so I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

jrlindermuth said...

Kids today don't know the pleasure (and freedom) of playing outside at night. That took me back.
I'm looking forward to trying that cake recipe, Jim. Love pumpkin and yellow cake.

Patricia Gligor said...

I already own (and loved reading) "Cleansed by Fire" so please don't enter me in the contest.
I'm thrilled to see that you have a new book coming out in October. I'll be adding it to my TBR list.

Anonymous said...

I woud love to win this book because it sounds like a good one.

Jo said...

I enjoyed your interview and would love to read the book. It sounds different from most of the books that I have read. Thanks for the opportunity!


ann said...

Grew up around you era too. Thanks for the recipe , Im going to make one. And its interesting that this book came out of the rash of church fires .
amhengst at verizon dot net

Eileen Obser said...

Nice interview, Jim and Karen. I own a copy of Cleansed by Fire, so even though I now own a Kindle, I can't accept a free copy.

Enjoy the Labor Day weekend!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for entering me in your book contest.
This book really hits close to home.
My church was burned down by an arsonist back in the late 30's.
In that same year half a dozen churches in town were burned to the ground.
The person or persons were never caught but it was thought they came by train since most of the churches were close to a railyard.

Teela said...

Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself and for the recipe! I LOVE PUMPKIN, and fall is my fave season b/c of pumpkin everthing including COFFEE...oh yummy! I do hope to win your book, as mysteries are my favorite read. Thanks,

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