Meet our guest, the author of Peculiar INC, C.S.R. Calloway!
Where are you from?
I was born in Sacramento, California, and since then have spent a great deal of time in Georgia, Florida, and Alaska. Always a Cali kid, though.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Life changed so drastically for me after high school. I would write a chapter and mail it out to all of my friends who were off at college, as a way of staying connected to them. At some point, they saw potential that I didn’t see and encouraged me to really go for it.
Do you write full-time or part-time? How do you balance your writing life with your family/work life?
Hahaha, this is a trick question! I’d say I write part time, as I still have to make time for promotions and manufacturing. However, there are times when the inspiration strikes so hard that I binge write, and during those times, it’s not just full time writing, it’s overtime.
How did you come up with the title?
I pulled the phrase “Peculiar People” from 1 Peter 2:9-10, which talks of being chosen by God for special purpose (“Chosen” was the original title of the novel) Eventually, Peculiar, INC stood out as far more expressive and unique alluding to the afore mentioned scripture, while also expressing the two distinct parts of the teen-to-adult transition. First, there’s the feeling of being strange or not like everyone else. Second, there seems to be ongoing quest during early life to belong to something greater than yourself - this is before we finally come to the realization that we, individually, can be as great as we want to be.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
You’re weird. So what? We all are weird. That’s what makes us awesome. God didn’t design us to be some cookie-cutter version of someone else. He already made that person them, so you be you.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Definitely. Many of their experiences stem from my high school and college experiences, and plenty of the main characters have memories from my childhood that I twisted and manipulated to fit the narrative. I was, at turns, a popular, needy, goody-goody, suicidal, horny, holy, closeted homosexual, intelligent, athletic kid who was into martial arts, church, soccer, and ShowChoir. The more I wrote, the more the main characters became facets of my personality.
What books have most influenced your life most?
The Bible, absolutely. It’s the foundation of my life. Bunnicula, by Deborah and James Howe, because it was the first book I had ever read that crossed genres so expertly. The Twinkie Squad, by Gordon Korman, because it was a multiethnic cast of characters who were messy and hilarious and sad and you loved them because of and in spite of it all. Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher because it taught me how to properly build atmosphere. Robin McKinley’s The Outlaws of Sherwood, because it is perfect. And finally, The Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition: The Unicorns Go Hawaiian. Read it. No further commentary necessary.
What book are you reading now?
A few, actually. The Three Musketeers, which I reread every few years, a Claire Malloy mystery by Joan Hess, The Once and Future King (for the first time!) and a delicious little ditty entitled The Journey of Alan S. Tremain by Bonnie Rauf. Depending on my mood depends on which one I pick up, though it’s becoming harder and harder to put down Tremain.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
D.C. Pierson! WOW, I just read Crap Kingdom a few weeks ago, mainly because I love that there was a review quote from Donald Glover on the cover, and that book quickly became a favorite.
What are your current projects?
Mostly I’m working on the books in The Charismatic Chronicles: I’m prepping a digital rerelease of Peculiar, INC, which is going to have several special features including comic book panels, trivia, an alternate ending, and sample chapters from the in progress companion novel, Purgatory’s Children. I’m also writing my children’s novel, Natty Girl Saves the World, a fantasy adventure about siblings in foster care.
That sounds delightful! I cannot wait to hear more about Natty Girl.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My God. And I have the best friends in the world.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? Of course! The universes we create are in constant flux. That’s why even the greatest writers go back and tweak things between editions. Comic books can use the excuse of alternate universes or parallel worlds. If I were going to change one big thing, I’d have the entire book take place over their senior year of high school instead of their freshman year of college, but that would affect too many of the amazing collegiate characters the readers meet.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
“You seem nervous.”
“Anxiously excited. I understand if it looks nervous.”
“But it matters what it looks like, Doc, because if you’re about to stick a four-inch syringe into my triceps, I don’t need you looking, seeming or being nervous.”
The doctor sighed. His boss was watching this entire interaction on the other side of the glass with the rest of the team. He couldn’t look incompetent at the beginning of such an important trail. He avoided glancing at them, continuing to cleanse the subject’s arm with swab soaked in alcohol.
One type of alcohol made him think of another. “Are there no more graduation parties tonight?” the doctor asked, hoping to lighten the mood.
“Not for me,” the teenager replied detachedly.
“Well, not for the next few days, either. You understand that we’ll be keeping you under surveillance for the next 48 hours, don’t you?”
“I signed it. So I understand it. And, Doc, I’d rather not rehash it.”
Punkass. You’re the one who’s nervous. The doctor reached for the syringe, trying to breathe evenly. The outcome of all of this would be worth the current stress and impudence.
“I mixed this myself,” he said. “And I can tell you this: you’re about to change the world with your efforts.”
The young volunteer smiled for the first time. “You’re brushing past the most important part, Doctor. I’m about to change me.”
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I create complex universes in my head and I have to remember that all of those details don’t need to end up on the page. Just because I know their grandparents’ middle names doesn’t mean I should write three pages about how they got those names.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I know this isn’t a popular choice these days, but it’s currently true - Orson Scott Card. I love how steadily he builds his world before he begins to slap you around with the fantasy. It’s nice to be rooted in deep when the hurricane plot bears down.
Who designed the covers?
The fantastic Mr. Kit Foster of Kit Foster Designs created the cover for Peculiar, INC. That man had this innate ability to see into my soul at times, especially with a black and gold cover before he ever knew that their school colors were black and gold. Brandon Reisgo created the cover to Purgatory’s Children, and his artistic instinct is off the charts. His work is so completely satisfying that words escape me.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Ugh. Finishing it. There’s that moment when you have to say that it’s ready, and as a creator, you can find a myriad of reasons for it never to be ready. So my best friend Tanner called me and said, “Pull the trigger, man.” And within twenty-four hours of that convo, it was in the iBookstore.
I can totally relate to that feeling. My work never feels ready, but you have to let go at some point!
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
There’s not just one thing, but the main thing I learned is that we as people are not monolithic. There are so many shades to us, so many variables, so many essences of person. It’s beautiful. I see it expressed in the characters as they hold a mirror up to me and the world I live in.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Go with your gut. If you overthink it, you’re no longer being honest. Go with your gut!
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Write me! You can email me from the website and you can find me on Goodreads, Facebook and Tumblr. I wanna know your thoughts! Let’s chat it up!
What do you think about e-publishing versus technical publishing?
There’s nothing like that book smell, I’ll grant you that. But our environment needs help, and technology grows in leaps and bounds every day. Don’t get left in the dust!
Do you have an agent or publisher? How did you go about finding one?
I founded my own publishing company, CSRC Storytelling. As demand for my work increases, I’ll get an agent.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Saturn. Of course. What kid didn’t wanna race around on those rings? If we’re sticking to the inside of the asteroid belt, then Brazil.
You're the first guest to mention a place outside of Earth! Awesome!
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Dude, if I could have access to and have the ability to manipulate Hammerspace, I’d be invincible!
Excellent chatting with you, Mr. Calloway!
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