Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?
I was born in 1953 in Madison, WI, and ever since I can remember I enjoyed spinning yarns. In high school I switched from telling yarns to writing short stories and poetry as a way to express my thoughts and feelings. One of my first serious efforts to publish a work was when I was in college. I wrote a condensed version of the bible for Reader’s Digest. I was rejected. A couple years later, while taking an 18th English literature class, I convinced some other students to collectively write a novel as a class project. The project earned us an A+, and many years after this I turned the novel into a play that was performed by a theatre group I had joined. This play, The Sinister Minister, earned me the Wisconsin Council of Writers Dramatist of the Year award in 1986. The judge said the play was a tour de force of writing that was on a par with Tom Stoppard’s work. That praise made me want to keep writing. Praise is important, isn’t it! Anyhow, soon after that I founded Save the Rainforest and went on a writing hiatus.
Tell us about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it?
Ardennia: The Unlikely Story of Cinderella’s Prince is a Cinderella tale like no other that captures the magic, brutality and earthiness of the medieval ages. It chronicles the many adventures of Cinderella’s prince as he undergoes his baptism of fire in the Battle of Paris, is charmed by Cinderella at a masquerade ball, and sets off on a quest to find her after she flees the ball at the midnight hour. The quest takes him through strange lands supposedly inhabited by ogres, pixies, hobgoblins, man eating plants and giants, and peopled by extraordinary characters that include an epileptic bard, a bean counter who wagers his gold tooth in a dice game, a merchant who can never be too prosperous, a little girl who has a running feud with three bears, pilgrims that argue over who is the most pious and a beggar who has been cursed with leprosy for committing all the cardinal sins. Be on the look-out for a bit of Chaucer-like satire.
I would like people to have the following epiphany: there is much that is magical in this world but there is very little real magic to be had.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
I am going to give two answers. The most interesting non-fiction book I ever read was Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. The most interesting work of fiction, Albert Camus’s The Plague – pretty relevant these days.
What book are you currently reading?
Just finished The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark and am embarking on a reread of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. I love the classics.
What is your best marketing tip?
Do as many free interviews and guest posts for book bloggers as you can. Google “free author interviews.” That’s how I found Waking Writer.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
Once I start writing a book I become obsessed and write every day, turning out about 2,000 words a day if I am in the zone. That is what I aim for.
What does your writing process look like?
A lot of messy handwritten notes that contain a lot of things that never get into the final draft of the book.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Three or four months to get something close to a final draft.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
The prince in Ardennia is interesting in that he is not a natural born knight, nor is he in love with the woman who is chosen for him. But he does his best to do his duty by finding courage in the heat of battle, and makes every effort to reconcile himself to a loveless future with his betrothed. He is also steadfast in his quest to find Cinderella after his betrothed…well, I don’t want to ruin the story.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
For this book, because it is set in medieval France/The Ardennes, I chose a lot of names from towns, i.e. Geoffrey of Ghent. I like the way it sounds and the way it looks on the page.
What are some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?
I want to complete the Ardennia series and then convert Diamond Girl, the play I wrote and produced in 2018, into a novel about a modern day Cinderella.
What is one of the things you’re most thankful for as a writer?
The gift of imagination. We all have that, but it needs to be exercised.
In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?
One who is validated in one form or another. It could be sales numbers, it could be good reviews, it could be winning a contest, it could just be someone whose judgment you respect saying “well done.”
Want to learn more and get the book?
Visit Literary Works of Bruce Calhoun to learn more and buy Ardennia!