OJ He Say! Interviews Author Caleb James
You have quite an extensive book portfolio and yet these are the only ones, I believe, that are fantasy books and have M/M romance as a major theme. Fantasy isn’t something I’d necessarily expect from a Yale University faculty member, but here I am inexplicably caught in your masterful storytelling. Can you tell us a bit about this?
First, thank you for having me on your blog and for the props. So don’t let the Yale thing derail you. It’s where I did my psychiatric residency, and they’ve allowed me to stay on the volunteer faculty, I suspect because of the amount I publish.
Now let’s talk fantasy. I love this stuff, but I’m aware it’s not for everyone. That’s why I do these books as Caleb James and not as Charles Atkins. My novels as Charles Atkins, with the exception of a wicked parable about doctors and the drug companies entitled, Go To Hell (Argo Navis), don’t veer from reality.
But starting with Haffling (DSP Publications), I wanted to mix things up. In this trilogy I keep one foot in a gritty New York story while the other slips on the banana peel and tumbles into the upside-down world of the Sidhe.
Having read Haffling and now Exile, it’s obvious that you’ve done some research on this topic. Is this a new interest or have you always been interested in the fey?
I love mythology. It started when I was a child. I devoured Bullfinch’s Mythology, and would prowl my hometown library and area museums for anything and everything. It started with the Greeks and the Romans, spread to the Norse, the Egyptians, the Incas, and hasn’t stopped. In one of my Charles Atkins’ thrillers, Cadaver’s Ball (St. Martin’s Press), which is set firmly in the real world, I dove deep into Amerindian folklore and shamanistic medicine. It’s a trippy read. And in Dark Blood (DSP Publications), a creepy paranormal thriller with a gay protagonist, I used Rom folklore and a bit of the Brother’s Grimm for much of the fantasy element.
So as I thought about worlds that have not been overdone, the fey and Irish folklore seemed a rich and beautiful source to mine. All you have to do is read WB Yeats’ The Stolen Child, and you know you’re going to sob… a lot. Yeats was my inspiration for the general feel of these books, where the music of the prose is more important—to me at least—than perfect grammar. Although I advise aspiring writers to learn the rules before they break them.
Haffling pulled more than a mild trigger for me with the schizophrenia, and yet I kept on and was handsomely rewarded for persevering with the story. I’ve heard it say that schizophrenics can tap into alternate universes? Any thoughts?
The opening of Haffling sees sixteen-year-old Alex Nevus, his little sister, Alice, and their mother with schizophrenia. He’s a kid thrust into a miserable situation, and he’ll either figure things out or bad stuff will happen to him and Alice. I drew on my experience as a psychiatrist when I painted his world and their life. I’ve spent my career working with people with serious mental illness and substance use problems. I talked with thousands of people who hear voices that others can’t. Schizophrenia, when the science finally figures things out, will likely be a variety of brain anomalies. This is where those of us who don’t have schizophrenia need to take a step back and consider the following: Our brain is the organ through which we perceive reality. If part of that reality includes hearing voices and/or seeing things that others can’t, does that make it less real? You might not hear the clatter in my head, but don’t tell me it doesn’t exist. Which is of course what the medical community does.
As to alternative universes, I haven’t run across any, though I have met people who were convinced that their friends and families had been replaced by aliens or doubles (Capgras Syndrome). To me, psychosis is like listening to a radio tuned to a different station. In the case of Alex’s mother, Marilyn, her madness has a unique origin that factors heavily into the mythology of these books. She was broken by travelling between the human and fey worlds. The price of her passage was her mind.
Finn Hulain. Wow! Now there’s a character I can sink my teeth into. Tell us more about him and when can we expect his story.
Yes. Well you can’t name a character Finn Hulain in a book using Irish folklore and not suspect that there will be more. Or as my friend and editor Liz commented, it’s like naming a character Clay Golum in a book with Jewish themes—you know he’s going to get all big and Frankensteiny. Just as I pulled Liam Summer, a not-so-likeable character from book one, and cast him as the star in Exile, a book about redemption, Fire Marshal Finn Hulain, gets front stage in book three. Hound will be the third and final in this trilogy. Earlier today I sent the manuscript to the publisher.
Where to from here? Any more M/M romance books in our future? Please say yes.
I’ve got two books floating around in my head right now. One will feature my two female detectives, Lil and Ada. The last of their outings, Done to Death (Severn House) was a recent finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. The other will be set in the real world, and might be a medical thriller with a gay protagonist. Something cat-and-mouse and similar to Dark Blood, albeit without the Nazi-doctor, heads-in-jars stuff. And yes, the romance line matters. I just happen to like my hearts and flowers with a bit of blood.
I’d like to thank Caleb James for stopping by and chatting with us. We sincerely look forward to more of his wonderful writing.
Caleb James is a pen name used by psychiatrist and author Charles Atkins, MD for his paranormal fiction. He lives and works in Connecticut, is a member of the Yale volunteer faculty, loves a flea market, gives a lot of workshops (including experiential writer’s trainings), and lives with his partner and too many cats.
Web site: www.charlesatkins.com
Caleb James Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Caleb-James-536765356387453/
EXILE AT Amazon: Exile
EXILE at Barnes & Noble: Exile
DSP Publication link: Exile