Book Review: Whispers in the Alders by H. A. Callum

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Book Review: Whispers in the Alders

“The drifts formed and moved like waves animated in clay, seeming to have a purpose to the shapes they took and the directions they wandered.”

From the beginning, the story swept me up and carried me along. I was entranced by H. A. Callum’s poetic descriptions. He used his words to paint vivid images for his reader. Unlike other novels, I didn’t feel bogged down in the description, rather I wanted to wade through the words and see this new world through Callum’s eyes.

“Tommy and I had always made the vow to break the mold and live our lives on our terms regardless of the cost. And that is what I did.”

By the fourth page, I had identified with Aubrey, the narrator of the story. This is a mark of how easily Callum draws you into his world. Throughout the rest of the book, I found myself in awe of Aubrey and the choices she faced. Aubrey made realistic decisions with realistic outcomes.

“Tommy went on, ‘But it just happens, right? All your life you dream of getting out and exploring the world, but then life just grabs you by the foot and pulls you back in.’”

Throughout the novel, Callum used dialogue to show his characters in unique ways and to make us fall in love with them. Since the book is narrated by Aubrey, many of the dialogues between Aubrey and Tommy are the only clues we get to Tommy’s worlds. The two aren’t able to talk as often as they’d like, but each interaction gives us a glimpse of the kind and tender heart of Tommy.

Personally, I would have loved more interactions between Aubrey and Tommy. A few scenes explained how they continued to talk to one another, and I wish Callum had expanded those scenes with more dialogue. I think it would have anchored their relationship for me.

As much as I can identify with the characters, I can also recognize Alder Ferry. It may very well be unique in its location and setting, but the town’s mindset is very much alive across the United States. Many readers will recognize the town mentality and shudder to think what or who are falling through the cracks at this moment in time in their own chunk of the world.

I will be recommending this novel to all my fellow readers, and I look forward to seeing what this talented author has in store for us in the future.

Note: I received an advance review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Author Interview: H. A. Callum 2.0

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Author Interview: H. A. Callum 2.0

If you’re a fan of H. A. Callum’s then you know the last interview just left us wanting to know more about this wonderful, supportive writer and his new book, Whispers in the Alders. I’m thrilled to bring you the second installment, H. A. Callum 2.0. Enjoy!

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H. A. Callum’s Whispers in the Alders

Welcome back, H.A. I know you’re busy with the release of your first novel, so I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.

Hi, Donna! The pleasure’s all mine. I greatly appreciate the time you’ve taken away from your own writing for this interview.

 

For those who refuse to read the first interview, which they should since it’s incredibly entertaining, tell us about Whispers in the Alders.

 

Shame on them! Hopefully we’ll get them to go back and read the first to avoid any spoilers! Since there has been more publicity (just a little!) since the first interview, we can give away a bit more as the story of Whispers in the Alders is slowly revealing itself leading up to its release. Whispers in the Alders is more than just the collision of two worlds when Aubrey and Tommy first meet. It reflects society, where we’ve been as a nation socially, where we are now, and how two people can change their places in that social structure, regardless of the emotional cost to them. Whispers in the Alders is a beautiful story about how two misbegotten kids find their escape in the alder stand, and by getting lost in the pages of a book. How many of us can relate to that? I know I can.

 

I haven’t finished Whispers in the Alders yet, but I’m well on my way. I would have to agree. The characters and storyline have drawn me in from the beginning just by being relatable.

My stories often evolve from a spark or a glimmer of thought leading down a rabbit hole. What was the spark or glimmer of thought that inspired Whispers in the Alders?

 

The story behind Whispers in the Alders constantly pulled at me until it was given its rightful place on the page, staring back at me, ready to be told to conclusion. Variations of it played out in my imagination for years. Finally, late one night, I found the inspiration and courage to give this story its due. I hope that, as an author, I’ve done justice to Aubrey and Tommy’s story.

 

Speaking of Aubrey and Tommy, what can you tell us about the stars of the show? Who are Aubrey and Tommy? No spoilers, please.

 

They are an odd pairing, and it’s hard to say who they are without risking spoilers, because so much of the story is driven by their personalities and their relationship. Aubrey is the daughter of privileged parents, her childhood spent touring the country via countless relocations caused by her father’s corporate position. She’s the new girl in school every year, and her father’s reputation always ushers in her arrival. Finding friends is never easy for Aubrey in the towns that become part of her vagabond childhood. She backs up Tommy, who is the shy, free-spirited boy that spent his days hiding behind a book. He’s also from Alder Ferry’s lower economic class, and the shame of that is apparent in his first encounters with Aubrey.

 

Most of your fans only have two questions for you, where can we purchase your book? And is it available for pre-order?

 

Finally! I thought you would never ask! The kindle edition is available now for pre-order on Amazon at: http://a.co/egUo7XR. On release day, it will also be available on B&N, iTunes, Kobo, 24 Symbols, and many other online stores.

 

Many folks love eBooks, but for those who don’t, will there be a paperback or hardcover release coming in the future? If so, when can we expect to see it?

 

Yes! Paperback will be available for order on May 26th through all online retailers. As of now we are also working to place the paperback in select independent bookstores in the Philadelphia metro region. I also make personal deliveries for signed copies (wink).

 

I know what I’d do on release day for my book, but what will you be up to May 26th while the rest of us are reading Whispers in the Alders? Any fun festivities planned for the days leading up to and after the release?

 

I decided against the traditional launch party. In the end, I want to celebrate the release of Whispers in the Alders finally getting into the hands of readers. May 26th is going to be a busy day for me on social media promoting the book, and I plan to cap the day off with a dinner date with my wife whose support has been incredible. The writer’s life takes its toll on everyone whether or not we notice it.

Which isn’t to say there will not be any events! For as much time that goes into writing a novel, why sell its release short?

 

That sounds like a wonderful way to spend your release day! If I lived closer, I’d say, “Drop off the kids and have a fabulous time!” I’m sure you both deserve the celebration.

I intend to live vicariously through all my friends who get published, so what’s it been like realizing your dream? From words on a page to a novel?

 

Phenomenal, and challenging! It’s remarkable getting Whispers in the Alders out there, and finally holding the finished book in my hands is a priceless experience. There’s nothing that would stop me from doing this all over again, exactly as it has played out. To quote a line from Whispers in the Alders, “This is why we write.”

 

“…exactly as it has played out.” Are you sure? Nothing you’d do differently the second time around?

 

Honestly, no. Some of the best memories I have writing Whispers in the Alders are the many late nights my infant daughter spent snuggled against my chest. She’ll never remember those nights, but I’ll never forget them.

 

What a beautiful memory! Thank you for sharing it with us.

I asked a mutual friend, C. M. Turner, if there were any questions she’d like you to answer. She gave me one, and I have to agree I’d like to know the answer as well. Is H. A. Callum a planner or a pantser? Do you have the story worked out before pen touches paper? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and see where the story takes you?

 

Yes – to both! I’m a planner, but not one who is afraid to let the story dictate the direction it needs to follow with some guidance. Whispers in the Alders had a drastically different ending when I started. Very different. After workshopping a draft of the first chapter at my writer’s group, I decided to outline the first several chapters. It gave the initial guidance I needed as a writer to stay on track, especially with the advice I received from experienced members of my writers group. I still outline in this way: the first several chapters, then outline each chapter prior to writing. As things change, so does the outline.

Writing is a process, and I’ve learned from experience that preparation never fails the writer. I will always be a student of writing, and I know it shows with each new story or poem I commit to paper.

 

I’m sure C. M. Turner will be just as surprised by that answer as I was.

Now that Whispers in the Alders is on its way to fame, what projects will you be focusing on? Any new books in the works?

 

Why yes, of course! My next novel is – nearly outlined – since you asked! I’ve begun drafting, and it’s a contemporary literary work. Partially inspired by recent events, it has also inspired a poem which is now out on submission, titled “Snow Ghost: Whitefish, Montana.”

 

You have a gift with words, my friend. Is there any chance of a poetry book in the future? Or a collection of short stories and flash fiction?

 

Aww … thank you! How did you know to ask?!?! I have multiple poems and short stories out on submission. Look for them in the next few months. I am considering a poetry collection as well, especially with the overwhelming and positive response to the poetry that I’ve posted on www.hacallum.com. Here’s another hint: Whispers in the Alders features new poetry as well.

 

After reading your poetry, you’d have to be daft to not put out a poetry collection. You have a gift with words and imagery.

When I’m not writing, I’m drawn to other creative projects. Do you find yourself drawn to other creative forms? If so, which ones?

 

Let’s just say that other mediums and I don’t get along very well! Running is a great outlet for me to recharge and get the creative juices flowing again. When I have time, cooking is a great way to express my artistic talents. But I think the best thing for me is being around my daughters and letting my imagination walk with theirs. That is what births creativity. Somewhere along the line most of us lose that, and without it we lose inspiration. My advice – stay in tune with your imagination, and never place boundaries on your imagination or the imagination of a child.

 

I couldn’t agree more. I draw so much from my children. They look at the world in a way many adults have forgotten.

My family and friends can’t wait for me to finally finish a book. How do your family and friends feel about having a published author in their midst?

 

They are full of love and pride. Everyone knows it’s an accomplishment, and really, how many people even attempt to write a book, let alone send it out to the world to be scrutinized? But here’s the thing: I don’t talk about it unless asked, and I refuse to be “that guy” turning every family event into a book signing. My family’s been great and I adore them for recognizing this milestone. The look in their eyes has said it all. What more could a writer ask for?

 

Researching for this interview, I read a blog post on your website about the querying process. I know it is the moment I most dread. Any advice for those of us filled with dread?

 

Don’t dread it. Just do it right – research agents and publishers that are open to submissions in your genre and follow their submission guidelines. You have nothing to fear if you do these two simple things. I spent many evenings querying, and trust me, it takes time. Two or three well-crafted and personalized queries in an evening is huge if you are balancing your writing life with family and work. Keep it personalized to whom you are submitting and professional in tone, then send it off and wait. I read the complaints from other writers about querying, and honestly – not to say that it was easy – for me it was a pleasant experience. I was surprised how many agents and publishers actually took the time to respond to my queries, and some even offered advice – which I considered in my edits and rewrites. In the end, publishing is about people and I hope that my work querying Whispers in the Alders, if anything, worked to develop my future relationships with agents and publishers. Next stop is to attend some of the many writer’s conferences offered in New York City and Philadelphia, pitch my work, and get to know the amazing people involved in the world of books and publishing. The people I’ve met along the way, and the friendships made, are a large part of what has made the publication of Whispers in the Alders so special.

I’m always amazed with the writing community, and Donna, you’ve been a shining example of how we as writers work to support not only our own works, but each other. Thank you again for supporting the upcoming release of Whispers in the Alders!

 

It’s not easy being a writer, worried if you’re any good and finding the time to get it done. The least we can do for one another is be supportive through the process. I’m honored to have been able to help in any way. Thank you, again, for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you much success with the release of Whispers in the Alders and in the future.

 

To find out more about H. A. Callum:

Website/Blog

Whispers in the Alders

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Blue Deco Publishing

Author Interview: H. A. Callum

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Author Interview: H. A. Callum

He’s a supportive author, a friend to the writing community, and his writing will leave you speechless. He knows how to sling words, bringing you to his world and making you feel what he’s feeling. So just imagine my excitement when I scored an interview with H. A. Callum, author of the upcoming novel Whispers in the Alders. *hand to forehead, fangirling*

Without further ado, may I introduce you to the mysterious, H. A. Callum.

***

Hi H. A.! Thank you for allowing me to interview you. I’m excited and honored to have this opportunity.

I’d like to start by congratulating you on getting Whispers in the Alders published. No small feat, my friend. I’m sure many of your fans, myself included, would love to know what the process was like, from finishing your novel to getting published.

What did the journey teach you overall? Anything you’d do differently?

 

Set fear aside and query, send that manuscript out into the world. All the agents and publishers I queried offered great advice. I received many rejections, but along the way was given feedback that honed down my query letters and gave me the encouragement to keep going—which led me to being signed by Blue Deco Publishing. I know I’m about as solitary as writers come, but we can’t forget that publishing is a people business and we need to get ourselves and our work out there.

 

Any advice for those of us writing our first novel?

 

This may sound kitschy, but just enjoy the experience. Forget about word and page counts and just write the damn thing. Write every day. You only write the first novel once, so fall in love with it and enjoy the ride.

 

For those of your fans who don’t know, what is Whispers in the Alders about?

 

Whispers in the Alders is a contemporary coming of age story that addresses issues like gender, sexuality, social class, at-risk children, and access to higher education. It’s also a story about how Aubrey and Tommy—kids from very different social backgrounds—overcome the prejudices of a town stuck in its past. I pitched it once as “Born in the U.S.A.” meets “Born This Way,” and it’s true. Aubrey and Tommy defy a town set on destroying their unlikely and uncommon relationship. No spoilers here—but it’s not an easy road for them.

 

What can you tell us about Whispers in the Alders that we don’t already know?

 

It’s a story that anyone who has come of age during the past two decades should appreciate. The struggles are real, and I’m sure many readers will be aware of the forces working against Aubrey and Tommy. It doesn’t matter if you’ve experienced what they experience. The fact is that young people have had to deal with some sweeping social changes that have challenged society, some for better, and unfortunately some for worse. It’s these changes that defined two generations, just like it did for Aubrey and Tommy.

 

Whatever I write, I end up with a few favorite scenes or characters. Did Whispers in the Alders spark any favorites?

 

Definitely! One of my favorites is when Aubrey and Tommy prepare to go their separate ways after high school. It’s touching and heartbreaking, but has to happen. It’s a reminder that the relationships that matter most will always be there. For the first time, they realize the difficulty of balancing a relationship against life. They’re two kids that never had any real solid example of how to be in a relationship, or what true, authentic love really was. Seeing them figure it out is a reminder of the love that exists in all of us—as hard an idea that can be to understand when seeing some of the hate that exists in our world.

 

My current novel has known it’s fair share of ups and downs. What difficulties did you experience with the writing of Whispers in the Alders? How did you overcome them?

 

For me, I’ve come to accept that writing a novel is a journey down a long road, and a very lonely one. No one else can tell the story—it’s ours to own in all its glory and faults. I’ve met plot roadblocks in Whispers in the Alders that I didn’t plan for as the story unfolded and began to tell itself. Time away from the manuscript always gave me a fresh perspective. Like I said before, enjoy the experience. I learned that forcing a story onto the page was more unproductive than not writing at all. So, I would turn to another project, or read. Both keep me creative without burning me out.

 

Now that you’ve got us excited for the release, when can we expect to see a copy of Whispers in the Alders?

 

No firm date has been set, but we are anticipating a release sometime in the Spring of 2017. The cover reveal could be as early as this winter.

 

I adore the author bios at the end of a book. I love even more when an author gives that little extra. What’s in H. A.’s bio? And what’s that little extra nugget you’re willing to share with us, your fans?

 

That’s a tough one. I’m a very private person, and mostly avoid talking about myself. Then I wrote a novel, something I should have done before reclusive writers went out of style. I’ve never been one to catch a trend in its early stages.

 

 

Like I said, “the mysterious, H. A. Callum” folks. *snickers to herself*

 

Whether it’s stories of the kid who loved the writing assignments in class or the lady who decided to write down her life story, I just love hearing how an author’s love of the written word got started. When did you start writing and what was the flame that ignited that passion?

 

My family wasn’t one with much of a literary background. I would usually be off on my own, exploring, fishing, kind of a suburban Huck Finn. I was always the quiet kid reading, and books became my escape. My early years weren’t easy, but I could always find peace in the pages of a book. When I was nine I wrote my first poem, and writing poetry became my outlet as a teenager. After high school I scored my first gig writing a weekly fishing report for a local paper. Seeing my name in print that first time has kept the spark to write alive in me.

 

 

The people of my life, nature, and the beauty and ugliness that surround us every day inspire me and my writing. What inspires your writing?

 

All the same things! Nature always offers inspiration, and Whispers in the Alders is a testament to that. But I find great inspiration from my children. A simple mind may ignore this, but their unspoiled view of the world shows me what I overlook. Quite a few of my poems have been inspired by being in the moment and listening to what they say. My poem “3/4 Time” in the Literary Arts Review magazine is a perfect example of that inspiration.

 

I used to comb those little pamphlets they brought around for book sales as a kid and beg my parents for books. It wasn’t until I discovered an Agatha Christie, though, that my true love of books came through. Which authors make your heart and mind sing?

 

I know I’m leaving quite a few names off the list, but Toni Morrison, Virginia Woolf, John Updike, Maile Meloy, and Harper Lee have all inspired me to keep on writing. But honestly every author I’ve read has inspired me in some way and shaped me into the writer I am today.

 

It can be hard to find time to write. How do you find the time you need? Do you ever feel like any other parts of your life suffer when you’re writing?

 

I’ve made night time my time. I sacrifice sleep so I can write. Following a dream requires sacrifice somewhere along the line, and I figured—enter cliché—that I’ll sleep when I’m dead, and hopefully leave more than memories behind to remember me by.

 

Now, I’ve got to throw you a hard question. Every reader hates to limit themselves, but if you had to choose only three books to live the rest of your life with, what would they be? Only three. No exceptions. Okay, you can have two honorable mentions, but that’s where I draw the line.

 

Are you kidding? Not fair, but I’ll play along! My top three would include To Kill a Mockingbird, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. Only two honorable mentions? I’ll take a couple of the classics, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. I think a more reasonable question would have been to limit myself to three libraries—but that’s just me thinking out loud.

 

Out of all the authors I know, I feel like you’re possibly the most mysterious. So give us the scoop, Mr. Mystery, how does H. A. spend his time when he’s not wooing minds with his words?

 

Do you know that unicorns are all around us? My daughter and I’ve narrowed them down to living at the end of the rainbow. But wouldn’t you know it that we just can’t get to the end of the rainbow in time to find out for sure? I’m also a huge U2 fan and will be on the lookout for scoring some tickets to their Joshua Tree tour. Bono, if you’re out there, please read my book! That’s it, no more fandom or shameless plugs from this guy.

 

Donna, thank you so much for having me! It’s been a real pleasure. I’m looking forward to catching up with you again soon, and can’t wait to read your novel!

 

Thank you again for allowing me this interview. It’s been a real treat to work with you. I wish you much success with your book launch and the future.

To find H. A. Callum:

Website/Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Blue Deco Publishing