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: