Dreamspinner senior editor Elizabeth Fitzgerald grills author Caleb James about his new thriller Dark Blood
Liz: So Caleb, you lying S.O.B., that’s not your real name is it?
Caleb: Why no Liz, and thank you for insulting both my mother and myself. Caleb is a pen name I use for my Dreamspinner books.
Liz: So what is it with all the pen names? Why can’t folks just come out and say who they are, where they live, what they ate for supper, and the color of their underwear? They do it on FaceBook all the time.
Caleb: Excellent points, Elizabeth. I’ll cover them in reverse order. My boxers are Night’s Watch tartan, we both had fettuccini with shrimp and spinach at Carlitos. I live in CT and don’t want to say what town because I have had stalkers in the past, and pen names are personal.
I can speak to why I use one with Dreamspinner. It’s because my other novels and nonfiction books, written as Charles Atkins, and Dr. Atkins are very different. The ones with the MD added are clinical, such as one on working with people who have both substance use and mental health problems. The Charles Atkins novels run the gamut from cat-and-mouse thrillers to cozies to one about the devil running a major pharmaceutical company. In hindsight, I wish that last one had been under a pen name, as it has nothing to do with the others.
Liz: Then why not do Dark Blood under Charles Atkins? Is it the gay thing?
Caleb: No, and as Charles Atkins, I have a series of murder mysteries about two women who fall in love with one another while solving murders in the Connecticut Antiques industry. The most-recent in that series, Done to Death (Severn House), was a 2014 Lambda Literary Award finalist. The Caleb James books have both gay protagonists and strong paranormal themes. Also the first Caleb James book, Haffling, was YA, though it is mostly read by adults. Dark Blood, while not YA, could be considered New Adult.
Liz: So Caleb James is a product line?
Caleb: Exactly. Readers want what they want. It can be a mistake for an author to think that just because someone enjoyed one of your books, they’ll like one in an entirely different genre. This is especially true when you cross from real-world-based stories into speculative and fantasy fiction.
Liz: So what’s the story behind Dark Blood?
Caleb: I’m not going to tell you that? Why would someone read the book if I did?
Liz: No, ninny, the story behind the story. Why did you write the damn thing?
Caleb: It’s a long story. But I’ll make it brief. I started the book over fifteen years ago.
Caleb: Yup. I’d just read a book by top agent, Al Zuckerman (Writer’s House). I was trying to sign with him. In his book entitled, How to Write a Blockbuster Novel, he dissected The Thorn Birds. So I figured, let me try my hand at a multigenerational Gypsy saga. And that was the origin of Dark Blood, which was initially entitled, Children of the Wind.
Liz: Why did it take so long?
Caleb: It’s not the book Al wanted to work on. So I was faced with the decision of going with an agent who wanted to work on Dark Blood, and Al, who wanted to work with me on psychological thrillers. I went for door number two, and I have no regrets. He’s a fabulous agent. But in the meantime, the book got shelved. I also realized, early on, that it was multiple books, and that it needed to be a thriller, not a Thorn Birds-style romance—though it certainly has a strong love story and even a twisted triangle with a starry-eyed sociopathic teen.
Liz: I love the book, by the way.
Caleb: Thanks. It’s been through more rewrites and revisions than I can count.
Liz: I’m especially struck by the way it dips in and out of magical realism. The character of Miles’ dead great-grandfather is quite delightful.
Caleb: Yes, for a dead guy, Tomas has lots to say, and he gives me the opportunity to play with forms of storytelling that are pure fun.
Liz: Twisted fairytales.
Caleb: Yes. And some, like the story of the seven swans, I left close to the original, as it contained important lessons for my heroes.
Liz: So what comes next? Is there a sequel to Dark Blood?
Caleb: My next two books with Dreamspinner Publications will be the second and final installments in the Haffling Trilogy. After that… I have no idea. Although something always comes.
Liz: No writer’s block?
Caleb: Never. When you write as three different people, there’s no time for that.
Liz: Any final thoughts?
Caleb: Sure. For anyone who reads this, here’s a not-so-subtle reminder. If you like a book and an author, the best thing you can do for them is leave a glowing review on Amazon, Goodreads, and of course, blogs like this.
About the Book
Handsome, brilliant, and surrounded by good friends, twenty-three-year-old medical student Miles Fox has a secret. It’s not that he’s gay, though he harbors a crush on his straight best friend, Luke. Miles, like his grandmother Anna, possesses the healing gift, an ability she’s made him swear never to use or divulge, lest horrible things befall those he loves. It happened to her when her family was butchered by Nazis.
It all goes to hell when Miles heals a terminally ill father on a New Orleans cancer ward and wakes to find himself on a locked psych unit. Worse, news of the healing miracle has spread. For millennia, its carriers have been hunted by those who would steal it. Dr. Gerald Stangl and his teenage son, Calvin, know what Miles possesses. They, like their predecessors, will stop at nothing to take it, including kidnap, torture, and murder. As the Stangl’s noose tightens, Miles and Luke are trapped in a death match, with stakes higher than they could ever imagine.
About the Author
Caleb James is an author, member of the Yale volunteer faculty, practicing psychiatrist, and clinical trainer. He writes both fiction and nonfiction and has published books in multiple genres and under different names. Writing as Charles Atkins, he has been a Lambda Literary finalist. He lives in Connecticut with his partner and four cats.