When indie author A J Calvin was a teenager attending school, she wrote a letter to renowned American writer Dan Simmons. ‘I had asked him to sign a copy of The Fall of Hyperion for me,’ says Ms Calvin, speaking to the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction. She lets us know that the response she ended up getting was something she hadn’t expected.
Beaming with joy, the thirty-seven-year-old author, who lives with her husband in Colorado, the US, tells us that not only did Mr Simmons sign her book, but he also wrote her a two-page letter in return! ‘He encouraged me not to give up, and he even took the time to answer some of the questions I had posed about his own writing!’ exclaims Ms Calvin, who was overwhelmed by his response. ‘I had not thought he would take the time to write such an in-depth response to a teenager. I still have that letter,’ she says joyously.
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‘Have Been Writing Since I First Learnt How’
Becoming a writer, however, was not something that Ms Calvin considered until much later in life despite the fact that she had begun writing at a tender age. Be that as it may, the author of the three-book fantasy series The Moon’s Eye Trilogy asseverates that writing was something she always did and enjoyed doing. ‘I have been writing since I first learnt how,’ says the author, who works full time as a microbiologist.
Talking about her novel Hunted, which she finished writing a decade ago but plans to launch on the twentieth of this month, Ms Calvin tells us that it is a dark fantasy that primarily focuses on the Order of summoners. ‘It is a story of adventure, ambition, love, betrayal, revenge, and heartbreak,’ she says.
Explaining the synopsis of Hunted, Ms Calvin, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology, says that one of the novel’s main characters named Chandra Grey had walked through life believing that she was ordinary until a chance meeting with a man calling himself a summoner opened her eyes to another world of possibilities. ‘The summoner’s life is one of secrecy, danger, and eternal conflict,’ she lets us know.
The summoners in the story are forced into hiding, pursued tirelessly for millennia by the group calling themselves hunters, who are those sworn to destroy the Order of summoners and the demons they command. ‘The allure of the summoner’s power cannot be resisted, and Chandra finds herself drawn into the conflict, discovering along the way that her twin sister has been recruited by the very organisation that seeks to destroy her,’ Ms Calvin goes on to explain.
Upon being asked why she decided to publish the novel now, the famed indie author says that she couldn’t consider publishing it at that time as she had too many things going on in her life. ‘And I didn’t believe I could give Hunted the attention it needed to make something of it,’ she lets on, adding, ‘I made the decision earlier this year to publish it because my circumstances have changed for the better.’
‘Hitting’ the Moon’s Eye
Discussing The Moon’s Eye trilogy, which is more towards the young adult/teen end of the literary spectrum partly because she finished writing the series’ first book at the age of eighteen, Ms Calvin lets us know that she had never intended to publish the trilogy in the first place. ‘But after much encouragement from my husband, I decided to,’ she states with a smile.
Notwithstanding, although she had finished writing the trilogy by the time she turned twenty-three, the author tells us that the first book was released only after nine years. ‘The Moon’s Eye was released in 2008, about nine years after I finished writing it, and the other two books, The Talisman of Delucha, and The War of the Nameless, were released in 2009 and 2010, respectively,’ she points out.
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The Plotting Panster
As the conversation warms up, we ask her whether she is more of a plotter or panster, and she responds right away, telling us that for the novels that she has completed writing, she did have a good idea of the plot and main characters before she began. ‘However, I have started many other writing projects where I did not have the plot sorted out ahead of time, and most of those are now sitting in my cabinet of projects that I hope to come back to one day,’ she says.
Revealing that if she doesn’t have a clear idea of where the story is heading, she tends to get stuck, Ms Calvin, who has always found time to write in between everything else that goes on in life, emphasises that not every event that takes place in a story is planned out ahead of time. ‘I usually have the big plot points figured out first, but the twists and turns the story takes are often things that come to me as I write,’ she lets on.
As for the characters, she doesn’t really have every character in mind while starting a project. She explains, ‘Usually, I have two or three main characters that I work on, but as the needs of the story arise, others get added. Sometimes those other characters are intriguing for me as the author, and they take on larger roles than what I had originally intended for them.’
We learn over the course of the interaction that every once in a while she will have a character turn out completely different than what she had planned. ‘Sometimes this turns out to be a good thing, whereas other times, I end up disliking the character. If I like the story and not the character, sometimes those characters come to an unfortunate end,’ she asserts.
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A Fan of J R R Tolkien
A believer in the power of consistency, Ms Calvin makes sure to write something every day regardless of whether it is for one of her writing projects or her blog. And as far as her favourite writers are concerned, the author says she has always loved the writings of late English writer and poet J R R Tolkien.
‘Perhaps it is because my introduction into the fantasy genre was reading The Hobbit when I was about nine years old,’ she says, adding ‘ I loved the characters and places Tolkien created through his writing and the depth of the lore in his world.’ She also tells us that Dan Simmons has remained one of her favourites ever since the letter episode transpired.
Writer, Reader, Scuba Driver, Traveller
While Ms Calvin, who wishes to become a full-time writer one day, says that she is in her element and happy when writing, she does tend to read a lot. ‘I read most genres. I am a scuba diver, and I enjoy travelling when I can,’ she tells us.
She also makes known that she has recently completed writing a four-book fantasy series titled ‘The Caein Legacy’, which she is querying for at the moment. ‘The main character of that series is a shape-changer, half-human and half-dragon,’ she adds.
The Parting Message
As the conversation comes to a close, she has just one strong message for budding authors: Never give up! Says she, ‘Your story is worth telling even if it doesn’t make a best-seller list. There is someone in the world that needs to hear your specific story even if you may not realise that at present.’
As a person who believes that we need to bring more creativity to schools, Ms Calvin avers that art, music, photography, and creative writing are all worth preserving. ‘There has been a trend the last number of years where those classes are the first to be cut from the curriculum, and I believe that’s very unfortunate. Our society benefits just as much from the arts as it does from math or science,’ says Ms Calvin, signing off.