Tuesday, January 10, 2012
The Writer's Block Interviews: Tamala Callaway
1) Describe your journey as an author/writer.
The day I began to write was the day my then 15 year old asked my to make up a story about her in a life similar but different than hers. I asked her what she wanted to be. A princess? A surfer? A zookeeper? She answered, "I want to be a vampire... a vampire with 2 brothers and 2 sisters ... and a mom and dad." I told her I didn't know anything about vampires nor did I like them. She said, "Oh, Mom. Everybody knows about vampires and I know you can do it." The story began with the sister of a boy my daughter would soon get to know and fall in love with. I loved love stories, so that's what I created. As I imagined and created a story from my head about Italia, my daughter, I noticed she was staring intently at me as I spoke. Thirty minutes later, I had an audience of several other family members that had quietly joined us. I became thirsty and stopped to get a drink and came back to everyone waiting patiently for the story to continue. Hmm, okay. So I decided to add a twist and find a way to add witches to the story. Not knowing much about them either, I trusted my instincts and let the story flow. Once they became real people with personalities, I was stopped in my tracks by my 15 year old. "Mom, I really think you should write this one down. I can tell its going to be a good one." I replied, "Nah, I don't feel like it." "Please?" she begged. "Please?" my youngest one who was six at the time begged as well. I looked up at the others who were nodding in agreement. Not having a computer, I took a spare spiral notebook from the girls' school supply box and spent the night writing what I had already told them.
The next day, I found myself interested in seeing where the story would go from there and filled the spiral notebook with more of the story. It then contained werewolves as well as a ghost, compliments of my youngest daughter wanting a part in the book as well. When the girls read what I had written so far, they insisted that I keep going. Needless to say, I had 8 spiral notebooks full of a story they refused to let me end. That was it! I had to get with the program and buy a computer, but I couldn't afford one. So I rented a brand new laptop which I now own.
A few weeks later, I came to a point that I felt would be a great ending and stopped there. Not knowing anything about how to set up scenes, word things properly, or catch mistakes, I saved the story to a flash drive and took it to Office Depot. I had them print and spiral bind it for me with a hard back and plastic front cover. I surprised my girls with it one afternoon when they returned from summer camp. My 15 year old, of course, could not wait to share it with her friends when she returned to school in August. In two weeks time, she had let several different friends borrow "her" book and they were excited. One of the main characters was their friend, and the setting was their school in the city where they live.
It was suggested to me that I should publish my book so that other people could read it. I wasn't an author. I didn't know what to do. I gave it some more thought and decided to look up publishing houses on line. Not many were accepting manuscripts from unagented authors. I checked into it and it seemed like such a hassle and a costly one at that. I gave up.
One day, I happened to run into the assistant principal of a local school at the public library.I decided to ask him questions about publishing. He had self-published his own book. That was what I needed to do to at least get a start. I found Authorhouse online and after speaking with a representative, I decided to go with the least expensive package, but I had to save for it. In the meantime, I began book two. By the time Christmas rolled around, I had written three books to a series that seemed to manifest into what my family now describes as the "crack book" No one could put it down once they got started.
By January, I had saved enough money to finally get book one published and went through the process of scheduling for each phase of publishing. Assigned a team, they were very helpful and suggested the editing package. I couldn't afford to spend another penny on publishing the book, and I was becoming very impatient. February 16, 2010, Super Natural New Beginnings went live. I had the very first copy in my hand and a stack of books ready to do my very first book signing. I invited family, friends, and co-workers to come and they did. People were reading my book and loving it. I did several more signings, including one at the new writers night at Barnes and Noble. By March, I had done four successful book signings and completed the fourth book in the series. My biggest road block was the dreaded question, "Why can't I find your book in the stores?" I had tried but, for now, they are only available online.
2) Do you specialize in any particular genre(s)?
So far, I have only written one genre, YA Fantasy Fiction. I prefer general fantasy fiction, like teenage coming-of-age stories. I love it when relationships bud, marriages form, and when the romantic undertones pick up the pace a little.
3) What was your first published work?
Super Natural New Beginnings is the first book I published.
4) Tell us about your Super Natural book series.
Super Natural begins when a family of vampires traveled to the southern region of the states, to settle in a different location than the norm. Along the way, the youngest member of the family realized that her heart was pulling her toward a human boy. After getting settled in, she began to watch him and eventually interacted with him in his dreams--or so he thought. The dream was so real to him that he shared it with best friend, who found similarities in the description of the girl in the dream, with a girl and her family who had just moved across the street from him. The boys found it strange and wanted to see if it was the same girl. So Jarrett's best friend Brian invited him to come over after school to check it out. Before Jarrett had a chance to go anywhere after getting home from school, his parents notified him that a murder had taken place in his best friend's family. Through everything, Jarrett did finally meet the girl from his dream and felt compelled to be with her.
Accusations were running rampant in the city but with another group of supernatural characters, The Witches. The story continued to unravel bringing about werewolves,and finally, the Ghost. Throughout the story, lessons are learned about friendship, relationships, honor, respect, and acceptance. Judgmental assumptions are quickly thwarted from the first book all the way to the fifth book.
5) Where do you find inspiration for your novels?
I find inspiration in my own experiences with growing pains as a teenager, as well as my daughter's. I also see things that go on throughout the school system among young people dealing with self -awareness, cultural backgrounds, racial backgrounds, personality traits. There is good and bad in every type of being. Judging others based on what you've heard is both ignorant and unjust. Super Natural brings about these issues without parenting the teens. I try to be subtle in the way that lessons are being taught.
6) When did you publish your first book? Describe that process.
February 16, 2010. After being rejected by four publishers and hitting brick walls with others, it was suggested that I try self-publishing. There, my journey as a published author began.
7) How do you promote your work? What strategies have been the most successful?
Mostly I promote through social networking, word of mouth, family, and co-workers. I work for the school system and I can promote to the high-school students that way as well. I also have joined a writer's group and a critical writing group to get tips and suggestions on writing and promoting.
8) What has been your greatest challenge as an author?
The biggest challenge as an author is getting the word out about my series worldwide. Locally, I'm a success. I would love to put my series in everyone's hands to give them an opportunity to see things through a teenager's eyes, REALISTICALLY!
9) What advice would you give to budding writers?
My advice to a budding writer would be to write from your heart. Trust your instincts and have a couple of people to read behind you as you write. This gives you the opportunity to find out if what you are writing is interesting, too hard to follow, or so great they can't wait to get to your next chapter.
10) What is your definition of success as a writer?
Success of a writer means finishing what you start and being happy with what you've written. If you're not happy and satisfied, who else will be?
I have been working for Coweta County School System for almost twelve years as bus driver. I have tried my hand at cosmetology and being a paralegal assistant, but found myself wanting to be at home with my children when they were out of school. So, I decided to drive for the school system. I have two daughters who were the initial reason I began writing the Super Natural novel series. My husband is a police officer and a member of the Army National Guard.
Some of the things I love to do when I'm not working, writing, being a mom, or a wife, are interior designing and sketching floor plans for homes. I cannot say that I have degrees or an impressive educational background, however, I am not the least bit disappointed by that. My life might be completely different if I had pursued those options, but I am honestly happy with where I am now. I want to say to anyone who has a dream, passion, or talent they want the world to know about to go for it. The only person that can stop your pursuit of happiness is YOU!
Connect with Tamala Callaway:
Twitter ~ @BestAuthor_72
Facebook ~ https://www.facebook.com/tccallaway