Interview ~ with Clayton Callahan
I recently read a very good book of Military science ficiton by Clayton Callahan, a retired military man who served his country in two branches of the military; Navy & Army. He served two tours of duty in Iraq. His writing skills are self evident and I have written a review of his book that he is about to discuss. Right after a bried introduciton to Clayton with his bio;
Clayton Callahan made his living principally in the “uniforms and guns” professions for most of his life. Just out of high school in the 80s, he served in the US Navy with an anti-terrorist unit in the Persian Gulf. After 9/11 he enlisted in the US Army and is now an Iraq War veteran twice over. Between active-duty deployments, he’s worked as a deputy sheriff, a correctional officer, and as a federal special agent for US Army Counterintelligence (lots of great stories there, can’t tell any of them).
His first novel, Tales of The Screaming Eagle, was released by Double Dragon Publishing in June 2014. In the summer of 2015, readers can look forward to his second novel, The Adventures of Crazy Liddy, to be released, again by Double Dragon.
Clayton has published a role-playing game called Star Run as well as a miniatures game titled Battlefields: from Broadswords to Bullets.
BCP; By reading your bio, it is clear that you have spent a good portion of your life in uniform in one capacity or another. I must ask, is this your primary influence for your writing?
Hmm, good question. I was always the accidental soldier. Joining the navy just out of high school was supposed to be my big adventure. After that my plans involved college and a nice safe job teaching high school history. But the teaching job didn’t exactly work out. A bad relationship with my principal and a county budget cut sent me out on my butt, forcing me to take desperate measures. I joined the Army National Guard so I could meet my monthly electric bill, met a deputy sheriff and got on with the local sheriff’s office. I stayed with the army and law enforcement for years, but always had a history teacher’s perspective on the events that unfolded around me.
BCP; When were you first aware you wanted to write in general, and secondly, write about military science fiction? Or would you call your book “Tales of The Screaming Eagle”
military science fiction? Possibly science fiction with a military component.
Tales of The Screaming Eagle is military science fiction, however it’s seen through the eyes of veterans rather than active duty troops. I’ve always enjoyed creative endeavors; playing Dungeons and Dragons as a kid, performing at renaissance festivals in my youth, and designing games as an adult. On my last deployment in Iraq in 2011, I had some spare time and a used laptop my daughter, Meredith, gave me for Christmas. It couldn’t play games on it, but the word processor worked just fine. Tales of The Screaming Eagle was finished before I rotated home.
BCP; In your book, the 'home' of one of your characters is Portland Oregon. Can the
reader deduce this is due to your own experience and location?
Well, yeah...ya’ caught me. Like I said, I wrote the darn thing when I was in Iraq and my family was in Oregon. Call it homesickness as inspiration, I suppose.
BCP; The first dictum of creative writing is 'write what you know'. Your characters are rather vividly portrayed as larger than life. Are these characters built from your own experiences in life?
Interesting that you would say that. I actually don’t view my characters as larger than life. There are many people I’ve met in my travels who’d feel at home in the Screaming Eagle; long serving veterans, gruff jarheads, nerdy academics and ex-cons alike. I just gave them a place they could all hang out and be themselves. Ordinary people can be quite extraordinary when you take a good look at ‘em.
BCP; In one of the scenes of your protagonist, he is drawn into a battle in a desert on a large Ore carrier, where Marines are called in to assist, and do battle with the bad guys. Speaking as a combat Marine, I found that section of the story to really pulled me in with the language and actions of the Marine characters. Did you derive this insight into Marine nature from your own experiences from combat actions with or in conjunction with Marines? Just curious.
Actually, the soldier’s in that scene were mercenaries, my nod to the works of jerry Pornell and David Drake back in the 80’s. Still, there is a sameness among professional fighters. I’ve worked with guys as diverse as US Army airborne, Special Forces, US Marines, and even Nepalese Gurkas in my time and they all share strong bonds of comradery and competence. In the scene you mention, one of the mercenaries dies and his comrade about goes nuts with grief (terrifying the protagonist). In real combat units, there are no red shirts. Every soldier is a brother and you can count on a true warrior to fight harder for his friend’s survival than he or she will for their own. I did my best to capture that and take your comparison to the US Marines as a high complement. Thank you, Grant.
BCP; You mentioned in your bio that you have a new book coming out soon called “The Adventures of Crazy Liddy”. Is this a continuation of one of the characters from your first book? Is this book going to be as wild and entertaining as your first?
I am more than happy to announce that, due to the success of Tales of The Screaming Eagle, Double Dragon Publishing has taken on a spin off novel based on the characters found in the first book. Our hero’s mentor, Kilroy, once had a wild love affair with a smart, sexy star pilot. That gal’s name was Liddy, and she was such a fine character I decided to give her an adventure all her own. The Adventures of Crazy Liddy is a romping space adventure and is due out by July of 2015. My fingers are crossed.