Saturday, May 16, 2015

Story Behind the Story

There's one question I get at almost every author event, and that is, "Where do you get the ideas for your stories?"

The answer can be quite complicated (the merging of life and frequent dips into a world of my own creation), and I'm sure the answer is different for every writer questioned. Today my friend, mystery writer, James Callan, shares his inspiration for writing mystery novels.

As an added bonus, he's giving away a copy of Cleansed by Fire, kindle or print version, to one lucky reader residing in the continental US randomly selected from the comments left on today's post.

The Story Behind the Story
by James Callan

Most of the time, the mysteries I write center on a single idea I read in the news or heard about some other way.  The two books in my Father Frank Mysteries series are perfect examples. Here is the “story behind the story.”

Photo by Salvatore Vuono
taken from
The first, Cleansed by Fire, came from the news. A few years ago, east Texas had a rash of church arsons. The police ultimately caught the two young men responsible, but no motive ever came out, except “Could we get away with it.” 

I wondered about this for a long time.  What would be a motive to burn several churches? The result was Cleansed by Fire.  In it, the fires were carefully planned to cover up a more sinister plot.

The second in the series is Over My Dead Body.  This came from a more personal experience.  The Keystone Pipeline, in the news for the last two years, now passes through our property.  We resisted, but with an eminent domain court order on their side, they clear-cut a swath 150 feet wide and a third of a mile long through our trees, bulldozing down hundred-foot tall pines and fifty year-old oak and hickory trees. Other people filed appeals in the courts trying to stop the appropriation of private land for a private company.  Not what eminent domain was supposed to do. But the pipeline went through, at least in Texas.

I wanted to write a book about this. But I write murder mysteries and there was no murder involved with these protests. And, I didn’t want to name Keystone in my book. So, I switched to a private company using eminent domain for a shopping center, and a tough old man willing to fight it in court. He’s found dead, apparently from an overdose of his heart medicine. The police rule it suicide. Case closed.

But his pastor, Father Frank, does not believe the man committed suicide. Neither does a woman in his church. As they try to find evidence to refute the suicide theory, they find themselves under attack both physically and psychologically.

Over My Dead Body releases on Kindle May 5 and in paperback on May 11.

I don’t want to keep you too long, but here is just one more book and how it came about.  Some years ago, I read an old Texas folk tale about a wagon load of precious metal that was lost and never found. I wondered how an old folk tale could affect the lives of people today.  After letting the idea rattle around in my brain for awhile, I began writing A Ton of Gold.  That idea turned into a 94,000 word suspense novel. 

The secret to gathering story ideas is to listen to what goes on around you.  And then ask yourself the famous writer’s question: What if?  Every day’s news contains the genesis for a book, probably many books.  Just pick one out. Then ask, “What if?”

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. He has had four non-fiction books published.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his sixth book releasing in 2015.

Visit him online at his website, blog, Amazon Author Page, connect with him on Twitter--@jamesrcallan, or find him on Facebook by keywording James Callan
Over My Dead Body, is available HERE!

A large corporation is taking land by eminent domain.  Syd Cranzler stands in its way, threatening a court battle. After a heated meeting with the corporation representative, Syd is found dead from an overdose of heart medication.  The police call it suicide. Case closed.

But Father Frank, Syd’s pastor, and Georgia Peitz, another member of the church, don’t believe Syd committed suicide and begin to look for clues of what really happened. Will this affect Georgia’s romantic interest in the lead detective?

When the priest is attacked and later almost poisoned, they convince the police to investigate further. Immediately, Father Frank becomes the target of rumors and speculation he might have had something to do with Syd’s death.

The more clues Father Frank and Georgia uncover, the more danger they find themselves in. Can they find the real killer before they become victims?  

This is the second Father Frank mystery, following Cleansed by Fire.

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