I majored in English with the intention of writing, but I soon found I couldn’t support a family that way. So I went to graduate school in the field of mathematics. For thirty years I worked as a research mathematician. When all the kids were out of college and successful, I returned to writing.
In research, I looked for some little idea that might turn into a big result. In writing, I take the same approach. Some small nugget can lead to a novel. A three paragraph story in the L.A. Times sparked a 95,000 word suspense novel. An old Texas folktale caused me to ask, “Could a folktale affect the lives of people today?” Ah ha! Another novel.
Our youngest daughter sang in the finals of the Sweet Adelines International competition. Of course, we went. Thousands of women in bright, sequined costumes, filled the hotels, restaurants and walkways. Afterwards, I wondered how it would work to weave a murder mystery in amongst all that glitter and glitz. That became a murder mystery which I co-wrote with that daughter, who has published thirty YA books.
Ideas are everywhere. The trick is to recognize them, to ask the question, “What if?” Then you must develop memorable characters–people the readers can identify with, can pull for, can worry about when the character is threatened and cheer when the character succeeds. Those are the keys to producing a successful novel, a novel people enjoy reading and telling friends about. Writing such a novel brings joy to my life.
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 genres, mystery and suspense, with his sixth fiction book released in 2014. At the request of a publisher, he has also written books on character development and how to write great dialog. Check out his book Cleansed by Fire (see a free sample through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature) and take a look at his website.