Today, I’m interviewing James R. Callan who has just published a book on character development titled Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel.
Before we get to the interview, I want to tell everyone a little about the man
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.
James, since you normally write mystery/suspense novels, how did this book come about?
I had given several workshops on character development, so when a publisher asked me to write a book on the
subject, I jumped at the opportunity.
How long did it take to write the book, including preliminary work?
The preliminary work came from the workshops I had given on the subject. I spent about four months working on it. Of course, I was working on a suspense novel at the same time, so the character book didn’t get all that time.
What was the hardest part in writing Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel?
The hardest part was to keep it down to twenty thousand words, which is what the publisher wanted. I believe so strongly that character development is the heart of the novel that I could easily have written forty thousand words on the subject.
One of the chapters is on naming characters. Why is that so important?
I believe the naming of characters is very important. The name is the first impression that the reader gets of your character. And we all know how important first impressions are. Pick a name that puts into the mind of your reader the impression you want. Imagine if Scarlett O’Hara were named Jane Doe. Would you have started
out with a very different impression of the heroine?
I agree with you James. I know when I write, if the name doesn’t feel right for the character imagine, I can’t get into the story line.
You call character the heartbeat of the novel, what about the plot?
I talk about the importance of the plot. It is the engine of the book. Without a good plot, the book goes nowhere. But, the characters are the heart of the novel. Without memorable characters,
you don’t care about the book. Ask yourself, what is it that propels a reader to read book after book in a series? The author crafts a character that you want to follow a character you
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
There are many chapters I think are extremely important. But if I need to pick just one, I think I might pick the chapter on internalization. When we hear what the character is thinking, we can believe that is a true reflection
of the character. When you talk to yourself, when no one else can hear, you don’t need to lie. Your true feelings come out. And the writer has the opportunity to give the reader the true nature of a character through internalization. And the reader will believe it. Of course, there are limits on how this is used, and I talk about
those in the book.
How did you come up with the title, Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel?
I believe characters are the heart of the novel, or should be. So, I wanted is put that in the title. The publisher came up with a great cover, using an electrocardiogram as the background.
Any last words on this book? In addition, I'm sure many readers are interested in learning more about you and your books. Do you have a homepage where they can do so?
Yes, I do. The book has lots of examples of how to create memorable characters. And most chapters end with an exercise to help develop these interesting characters. I invite all your readers to visit: http://www.jamesrcallan.com where they can find information on all my books, plus reviews of them.
Lastly, I want to thank you for having me on your site. It is my pleasure to visit with you today.
I enjoyed having you on my blog and learning a bit from your expertise; your book will help all of us authors to become better writers. I’m sure the readers found your answers helpful also.
Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel
By James R. Callan
From Oak Tree Press,
On Amazon, in paperback,
Blog site: www.jamesrcallan.com/blog
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