Disclaimer: I understand that these questions will seem odd or out of place compared to what “could be asked”. I created these questions as they were interesting to me, and could be answered quickly, so I wouldn’t take up too much of the author’s time. As I’m known to say, this is a “no-nothing blog” and I’m a no-nothing writer, so even getting an author to answer a few of my questions is a joy. I am a subscriber of Mr. Callum’s Patreon account located here.
About the author (taken directly from his website):
My name is James T. Callum and I’m not going to talk to you in the third person or make it seem like I’ve got some publisher or editor who has a bio on me.
This is just me, talking to you, the reader. I’m no different than you, I love reading and gaming just the same as everybody else.
In fact, I’ve loved reading for as long as I could remember. From the very first fantasy book I read, Wizard of Earthsea, I was hooked.
For just as long I’ve also been an avid gamer and DND player (as well as other tabletop RPGs). Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Illusion of Gaia, and on through the years as stories and graphics became better and better.
You’ll be able to find hints of inspiration from all sorts of RPGs and video games in my works. From the Final Fantasy series to Warcraft, Age of Empires to Anno, and games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. Because who doesn’t love a little cosmic horror thrown in for fun?
These games (and countless others) have inspired me ever since I was a kid, and they continue to serve as my muse now that I’m much older.
Writing has always been my greatest aspiration and with your help, I hope to make it a full-time job. At the time of this writing, I still work a day job like most people. It is only thanks to Patreon that I was able to dedicate some of my spare time to writing.
So, if you’d like to provide direct support and help me achieve my goal of writing full-time (so I can write even more stories for you awesome people!) you can hop on over to my Patreon page where you’ll find tons of content.
Patrons get access to advanced chapters of upcoming books, special discord roles and discussion channels, early releases of books before anyone else, maps, cover reveals, voting, and a lot more.
Question 1: What made you want to write litRPG and how has it affected your personal reading lists?
Answer 1: I’ve been an avid gamer (tabletop, trading cards, consoles, and of course PC) since I was a little kid when the NES first came out what I still consider my first RPG-like game, River City Ransom. I still love the bits out of that game, no pun intended.
When I learned that there was a genre that sat smack dab at the intersection between my two loves, telling stories and games, I was sold. I’ve always wanted to write. I have so many stories to tell, and if LitRPG hadn’t existed, I would have given typical Fantasy and Sci-Fi a go. Something I still plan on doing eventually.
As a LitRPG author, I’m also able to make game systems and design interesting spells/powers. I’ve always been incredibly dorky about mechanics and understanding them down to the decimal place. It’s something I just do naturally when I play games, and I love that I get to apply some of that passion to my works.
However, aside from just being aware LitRPGs exist, it hasn’t changed my reading lists much. The obvious being that I read LitRPGs because I like them, but I still read the gamut from children’s books like Percy Jackson and Alcatraz to high fantasy doorstopper books from some of the big names out there.
Question 2: How do your characters come alive to you? Are you more of a streamer (stream of consciousness) or an architect (plotter).
Answer 2: Not gonna lie, this is the first time I’ve heard of streamer! I’m fond of gardener/architect, but I assume every writer (still feels weird to include myself with that word) has some pedantic reason they prefer the terms they do.
But the gardening aspect works for me because I conceive the character and plant them. From that point forward I merely watch and document. I don’t force a scene because a beat needs x moment in it. My brain just doesn’t work like that, and I feel it makes the characters more lifelike because even I don’t know exactly what they’ll do.
The world puts them through their paces and some of them show a level of strength or cunning that I didn’t know they had. That’s also more-or-less how I write. It always feels weird saying it out loud (or typing it out, as it were) but I consider myself more of a cameraman recording the wild stuff that goes on in my mind, instead of a person that crafts a scene.
Question 3: How often do you write, and do you track your own writing while doing so?
Answer 3: I still work as a part-time EMT, which for my case is multiple 12-hr shifts a week on average, often clocking in just shy of 40hrs. With the pandemic and tensions rising everywhere, it’s been rough.
Over the past few months, I’ve gone from full-time EMT to part-time and put in more time for writing wherever and whenever I can. I started just writing on my breaks, taking out a little notepad and jotting down stuff that appeared in my head.
I do my best to write every day, but I can tell you that after a 12-hr shift it’s rough. And when I get a string of them, sometimes I need to crash just to function. Despite that, I have never once missed my 5 Patreon chapters every Monday in about a year of releasing weekly chapters.
I track word count, the time it took me to write, hours worked that day, things like that. I’m a very data-driven individual (it’s why I enjoy mechanics so much). I’ve already impressed myself with how much more writing I can get done going from full-time to part-time, I’m excited to see how much more I can get out when writing is my sole focus.
Question 4: What is your ultimate goal for your writing? Why do it atall?
Answer 4: To tell an entertaining story! Every time I put the proverbial pen to paper, I try to improve in any way that I can. Telling stories feels like it’s in my blood. It’s kind of like asking “why do you breathe?” I do it because it’s who I am.
Even if I wasn’t paid a single cent or saw any success from my writing, I would still do it. Heck, I wrote a lot of stuff over the years that has never (and likely will never) see the light of day. I make stories in my head riding from one call to the next, it’s how my mind processes things.
I could no sooner tell myself to stop breathing than to stop making stories on the spot.
That people seem to enjoy my writing is, quite frankly, flippin’ nuts. Got some pretty severe imposter syndrome going on, not gonna lie. But I try to take it all in stride and remind myself that I have an obligation to be the best writer I can be, so the people who do enjoy my stories can get the best versions possible. It’s the least I can do, I am eternally grateful to every person who reads what I write.
Question 5: What can the reader expect out of you in the future? What kind of timeline do you set for yourself?
Answer 5: Aside from more books? I’ve got at least 5 story ideas raring to go, but I don’t have the time to balance more than 2 series at a time right now (Pyresouls Apocalypse & Beastborne Chronicles). If I’m able to make the move to full-time, I might add another series or two that I write simultaneously.
I’ve got quite a lot of the mechanics and systems already outlined for a heavy crafting and settlement building focused LitRPG. A Cultivation/LitRPG hybrid featuring two races rarely ever seen together (never that I’ve seen, but I havne’t read every LitRPG) in LitRPGs, a Sci-Fi Cyberpunk meets Retrowave story, and some darker stuff told from the perspective of a villain.
Honestly, all I need is more time. There never seems to be enough time in the day.
As for timelines, I have a weekly timeline of releasing 5 Beastborne Chronicle chapters. That’s pretty much the only hard timeline I have that I’ve never broken and hope never to break. In the roughly 4 months since the release of the first Beastborne Chronicles, I’ve released 3 books.
I’d like to continue that pace into the next year and get several more books but 2020 threw everybody for a loop. I’m not about to go jinxing things by making plans for 2021. I feel like if I set some hard timelines for myself next year (say, getting out 6-8 books) the moon from Majora’s Mask will appear.
The last thing I want to do is wake up on January 1st, 2021 to see “Dawn of the final day.” No thanks. Hard pass.
A big shout-out to Mr. Callum for responding and responding so quickly to my interview request. Based upon the speed at which he writes and releases his books, plus his work as an EMT, he’s a very busy guy and it’s extra special that he lost time just to answer these questions. I’m going to link all three of Mr. Callums books below, and if you’re interested in visiting his website please click here.
I'm a high school English teacher in Texas. I also hold degrees in radiography and radio and television broadcasting. Though I obtained certain knowledge and skills from my prior degrees, I do not currently use them.