Author’s Roundtable: Tamara McCallan


How long have you been writing?

Wow. It seems as if I’ve been writing forever. But, if I had to narrow it down, then probably since high school. I enjoyed English in high school and excelled at it in college. I was a police officer for the better part of a decade and, unlike my cohorts, actually enjoyed writing my reports. (And this was before computers so we had to write them longhand!) Though, I will tell you, writing a police report is a world away from writing fiction.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Not as a profession, no. (I know, GASP!) Like I said in your first question, it was something I enjoyed, but if I’m being honest, I never really put much thought into as a career. When I found myself unemployed for the first time ever (I was laid off) I seized the opportunity (after crying uncontrollably for days) and wrote my first novel over the course of my three-month job hiatus.

What books or stories have you written? Published?

Thus far, I’ve written two novels. (The Twelfth House ~ The Elementals Book I & The Eighth House ~ The Elementals Book II) Both are published through 9 Muses Publishing, a wonderful boutique press based in Lone Tree, Colorado.

I am currently working on the third book in the series, The Ninth House ~ The Elementals Book III. In addition to that, I’m writing a paranormal thriller entitled The Fetch as well as two other novels, one entitled Devil on My Back and the other, Five by Five. The first is an urban fantasy about the oft-times tumultuous love story surrounding good ol’ Satan and a demi-angel; the second is a quasi-dystopian sci-fi dealing with analog radio signals and a lost population.

I’m also the author of two articles on writing: Kinesiology in Writing ~ Stimulating the Brain to Enhance Creativity and Enhancing Character Development The Lazy way (Using the zodiac).

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

The Twelfth and The Eighth House are two paranormal romances in what will be a series of 13 novels. All the novels are loosely based on the 12 signs of the zodiac and the four elements with which each is associated.

Twelfth_house_3DFor instance, The Twelfth House is based around the sign of Pisces and The Eighth House around the sign of Scorpio. The Ninth House will revolve around the sign of Sagittarius.

If any of your readers take a mild interest in their horoscope and they like really steamy, action-packed romances, these novels are right up their alley.

How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

Confession time: I was at a house party, drunker than a skunk and we were lying/lazing around bullshitting about nothing and everything. On the coffee table was one of those really big books about astrology and the signs of the zodiac. One by one someone read off the in-depth description of the personality traits of each person born under each sun sign. When they got to me (Pisces), they read off my supposed traits. When she finished, I was like, “Pssh! That’s nothing like me.”

I swear, all I heard were crickets for about 10 seconds and then the room erupted with a menagerie of the following: “To hell it ain’t!” and “That is SO you!” and “What kinda crack are YOU smoking? It EXACTLY describes you!”

After I sobered up, got rid of my hangover, and let about 10 years pass, I thought, what if I wrote a novel based on my sign? When I got laid off, I seized the opportunity and wrote what was inarguably the WORSE novel on the planet (The Twelfth House).

After sending it off to a couple beta readers, I got it back, checked out their thoughts, and shelved it for about three years amidst MANY tears. In the meantime, I wrote The Eighth House. When it went best seller and people wanted the next in the series, I panicked, pulled The Twelfth House off the shelf, blew off the cyber dust and rewrote the ENTIRE novel. (Yes, the ENTIRE novel…several times) I sent it off to my [new] beta readers and when I got it back, I thought, “Well, here goes nothin’.” I queried it, it got picked up, and after it went through edits, 9 Muses published it, and it (recently) became a best seller.

I think that sometimes, we authors have to write a “practice” novel. And for me, that was The Twelfth House and while this might seem like a waste of time, there’s word floating around out there that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of doing any given skill in order to become a “master” at a trade. For us novelists, that’s around three novels. So, I’m getting there.

Are the books based on personal experiences?

The Twelfth House is somewhat based on my personality traits and when I wrote the law enforcement scenes, I infused a bit of my experiences into the storyline. The Eighth House doesn’t have hardly any of my personal experiences in it, though one of the characters, Night Skye, is based off a real dude. And no, he has NO clue I wrote him into a story.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. Try to read and try to write EVERY DAY, even if it’s just a couple paragraphs. That, and get out. Socialize. We authors tend to be somewhat introverted, happier dealing with the fictional characters in our heads than real people. And while I would much rather play with my heroes and heroines, in order to develop three-dimensional characters, I need to experience real people.

There is a saying: Beware the writer in your midst. But in order to “be” in the midst, you have to get out of the house.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

Well, if you actually want to get published AND you want people to read your work and not troll it into oblivion, cough up a dime for editing. Now, I know, I know, professional editors cost a crapton of money and I get that. But there’s another avenue, one that’s less expensive: Hire college students. There are a ton of students pursuing their degrees in English and the like and who are poor because they’re college students. They will happily edit your novel for a fair price, one you can afford. Speaking out the other side of my mouth, here…if you decide to tap college students for editing services, vet them first. Offer up a chapter or two of your work and use it as a test to see if they’re going to be worth your money. Once you become a more established author, I would then recommend hiring professional editing services if you can afford it. Of course, if you’re with a reputable agent or publishing company, they will have an editor on staff who will edit your novel at no cost to you.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

Applying myself. Look, writing a book is the easy part. I HATE editing. To me, editing is like chewing on glass. It’s painful, loud and it makes me bleed. BUT, it is necessary. So, after I complete a work, I schedule time every day to edit. And edit. And edit. (Like I said…painful.)

How did you find time to write your books?

Finding the time is the easy part. Using that time wisely is the hard part for me. I’m a full-time author so I have aaaaaall day to write. The problem? The Internet. I am an Internet, Web-surfing whore. I would even go so far to say I have an “addiction.” So, I downloaded an app for 10 bucks, and when I sit down to write, I employ the Internet Sentinel. Or babysitter…either way, it keeps me off the Internet by disabling my ability to log on. I set the time (usually three hours) and use that time to write, edit, or stare at the computer screen.

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

This is a good question. Well, I suppose if you’re an escapist, meaning, the real world’s gotcha down, then writing is a great way to escape. As I’ve stated before, I’d much rather play in my head, than in the real world.

As for a benefit that’s a little less esoteric? Then I suppose writing improves the way I speak and interact with people. I find myself choosing my words more carefully, and when I’m not trying to sound intelligent, I imagine ways in which I can incorporate the many interesting people I meet into my storyline.  (I know, I have issues. :))

before the rideSeveral of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

Um, writing is not relaxing for me, and in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I oftentimes find myself writing anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 words (sometimes more) at a stint. I liken it to running a marathon. It’s invigorating as hell, but when you finish, you’re exhausted. And that’s me. Writing psychologically exhausts me.

Can you also talk a little about how writing your book was therapeutic? What do you mean?

Now, I CAN say that writing is therapeutic. In real life, I can’t maim or kill stupid people, BUT in my writing life, I can kill off or impregnate whomever I choose!

Muahahahaha! It’s GOOD to be the Queen!

Kidding. I’m not really that bad. Well, maybe a little. I don’t impregnate people. Or kill them, for the record. Or maim. I don’t do that either.

Has writing made you a better person?

Well, now…THAT’S a loaded question! If I’m being honest, then no. I think I’m a decent person on the whole, but I think what writing and being successful at it has afforded me the ability to participate in activities that let me help those in need.

For instance: I love dogs. Vizslas, in particular. Since becoming a full-time author, I’ve been able to not only volunteer for my local Vizsla rescue, but also foster and become their social media administrator, their fundraising coordinator and the editor for the newsletter. So in that way, then yes, I am a better person because my writing has allowed me to help Vizslas, who, in turn, make me a better, more patient person.

In addition, I’ve designed (and facilitate) a writer’s seminar which helps aspiring authors (Becoming an Author ~ The Journey to Publication). It’s a free seminar/webinar and more information can be found about it on my website. I am a HUGE pay it forward kinda gal. It took me years to get where I am, and the seminar is a way for me to help aspiring authors achieve the same goal, but in less time.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

YES! I love reading. And like I stated earlier, reading is one of the best ways to become a writer. If you don’t read, you’ll have a difficult, if not impossible time becoming a successful author. And in fact, whenever I find myself in a creative bog, I put aside my own work and read. Reading, for me at least, stimulates my creativity.

My favorite genres are paranormal romance, romance, fantasy and science fiction. I’m not big on mysteries or historical fiction, though, if I’m into a romance that falls within a “period piece” then I usually enjoy it. I read Pride and Prejudice & Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, and if I can get through THOSE period pieces, I can get through anything.

And why do I read those genres? I don’t know. I think I like the fantasy aspect, the otherworldly aspect, the idea that these things can’t or don’t happen in our real, mundane world.

EighthHouse_3dbook Or do they?

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Well, that depends. If we’re talking about Amazon or any other major distribution channel, then reviews are pretty important. Amazon’s algorithm is constantly changing, or at least, it seems that way. Reviews tap the algorithm, no doubt, but it’s an author’s sales that have a more significant impact on their ranking and as a result, their visibility. Receiving reviews is simply icing on the cake. (Pardon the cliché.)

That said, do I like to receive reviews? Absolutely. It helps to ground me when someone other than my mother tells me they love my works. And in fact, if a friend or acquaintance reads my story and then reviews it, I actually apply less weight to their opinion than if a complete stranger reads, likes and reviews my story. That might seem odd, but a stranger is (typically) more objective. They have no reason or obligation to write a positive review other than they actually enjoyed the story so I apply more weight to their opinion.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

I have yet to receive a “bad” review, (but, it’s a-comin’ and I know it) but I did receive a less-than-favorable review, meaning, a reader busted my five-star rating run. Was I upset? A little. And it wasn’t the review that upset me, rather, it was the last sentence in the review, which I felt that as an author AND a reader was completely inappropriate and unnecessary, like a final knife-thrust into my gut.

As a result, I researched the reviews of some of my best-selling author friends and discovered that they, too, had received not just the occasional “less-than-favorable” review, which is to be expected, but horrible, troll-like reviews. It got me thinking, and my musings birthed a blog post on how to write a fair review. (In other words, how to express your opinion while keepin’ it classy.)

So, long answer to a short question, I guess the “negative” review hit me hard, but it also reminded me that we all have our opinions and that’s all right and well. I ultimately wrote a thank you response to the reviewer for taking the time to post a review and for some reason she felt the need to “apologize” for her honesty, which somewhat perplexed me.

And to those who say “ignore the reviews,” I challenge you to write a book, take a photo, paint a picture or build a skyscraper, show it to the world and then tell me how easy it is to ignore a review when someone doesn’t care for your work. 😉 That said, receiving a negative (or positive) review should be a reminder that art is subjective.

By nature, we artists are a bit sensitive. Does that make us weak? Absolutely not. In fact, it strengthens us because we give art to the world, something a goodly amount of the seven billion people who inhabit this earth cannot do. And art, no matter its form, gives us the opportunity, whether artist or admirer, to step outside ourselves and dream…if only for a moment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Tamara McCallan

Born in the wilds of southern Florida, Ms. McCallan was fortunate enough to experience the untamed suburban wilderness of northern Virginia, the beaches of Puerto Rico, and the amazing history of South Carolina, after which, she endured a healthy marinara-laced portion of Italy, all thanks to her father’s service in the U.S. Navy.

Though she adores Colorado, she is an east-coaster at heart, and tries very hard to pretend she doesn’t hear the siren call of the south and the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico beckoning her home.

If she’s not writing, you might catch her on her crotch rocket exceeding the speed limit, hoping the cops are busy elsewhere.

WARNING: Irony to follow.

A former law enforcement officer of the better part of a decade, she uses her past experience of working in primarily male-dominated professions to write strong female characters involved in highly romantic and/or sexual relationships.

She is an active member/volunteer with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers based in Denver, Colorado, and enjoys helping aspiring authors achieve their goals of becoming published through her popular seminar Becoming an Author ~ The Journey to Publication. Please visit her website.

The Twelfth House ~ The Elementals Book I, published through 9 Muses Publishing, is the first novel in a series of paranormal romances loosely based upon the twelve houses of the zodiac, and the four elements with which each is associated. Now available, through 9 Muses Publishing: The Eighth House ~ The Elementals Book II. Watch for The Ninth House ~ The Elementals Book III available early to mid-summer 2013!

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