Hello lovely readers. I’m so sorry I delayed the posting of this awesome guest post! Life has been nuts lately with finals and sickness and it got lost in my e-mail. Enjoy the following guest post by Anthony R Howard and an interview!
The Catastrophic Thunderstorm of Christian Fiction
Beyond the Bible, do spiritual and Biblical Christian stories sell? As we are now being pummeled by several powerful hurricanes and tropical thunderstorms (Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose), I couldn’t help but see a metaphor as I write this, as I see cities being devastated, and lives being tragically lost. According to weather experts, there are three key ingredients in the creation of a catastrophic hurricane. Similar elements are alive in the Christian fiction arena, and have a similar effect. In an online Christian magazine Relevant an author titled his article: Where is all the great Christian fiction? Basically, the author of the article is disappointed in the state of Christian fiction, indicated innovation is needed and specifically “Christian fiction authors need reprisal”. It was interesting no one had written a response to this article, not even one comment on the popular website. I don’t have the golden solution, I do have some ideas. More importantly, I wanted to open a conversation that’s currently not being had. It’s uncomfortable for many to even talk about this. There are rules. There is a wall of silence and conformity. This is the first step in the tropical thunderstorm: Convergence. In this stage, a low-pressure area must have formed in the low levels of the atmosphere to start winds converging. This is a metaphor for the reason of the current state of Christian fiction. To many folks, the fiction that Christian authors are putting on shelves and marketing as Christian fiction isn’t great art; it’s popular, genre fiction. What causes this state is the Christian Fiction paradigm, or thunderstorm, that many authors get caught in. The book that got me my first book deal was Devil’s Dairy: The Coming. With the civil unrest going on now, the novel is about what would actually happen if the Lord returned tomorrow. How would we receive Him, and what would His enemies do? The publishing house decided to come out with the spy series (The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox) first as a business decision, because of my background with technology, the Dept of Defense, plus the degrees and awards behind my name. I speak at technology conferences on a regular basis but I wasn’t a famous ordained minister, nor did I attend seminary. In their minds, I didn’t have a guaranteed platform to generate book sales. The spy books hit two bestseller lists, so in hindsight, they weren’t necessarily wrong. However, because of the spy series success, I ended up having to start my own publishing company to put Devil’s Dairy: The Coming out, and have it edited by the Harvard Divinity School. The point is, even though they knew it was great work (we know this because that’s the book that got me signed), it was considered too much of a risk in the end. There are simply not too many folks with the ready-made platforms (guaranteed book sales) publishers want to see to get the great Christian work out there. This is the convergence of the storm. Convergence onto profits, and onto mass media behavior – serving up readily available fast food dogma, easily consumed, economical, profitable, but not much nutrition. One of the key purposes of literacy is to bring people to something new. Something great. One of my goals in writing is to broaden the experiences of my reader community and add to the literary art form. It’s key to not only present a fascinating story to the reader, but to bring value to the reader aside from entertainment. I thought I was a Christian author. But that has very specific man made rules (such as no aggression, no kissing below the neck, etc). Many of the rules prevent an author from being different, or fascinating. Then I became an author who is a Christian (which is different from a “Christian Author”) so I could keep writing fascinating stories and bring the Word to everyone. I believe this is one of the key differences of my style of Christian writing. This is component #2 of the hurricane: Impermanence. In other words, low stability or volatility. In a hurricane, this will allow deep convection or cumulonimbus clouds to build to great heights in the atmosphere. Because of this decision to keep writing fascinating stories, I was banned from Christian bookstores and Church bookstores. This poses the question: If you are ONLY writing for the Saved (as the Christian Author rules dictate) – who are you ministering to? One of the primary purposes of ministry is to spread the Good News. The rules make many books in Christian fiction very similar, and less popular to wider audiences. I’d rather not be the same. This causes a disequilibrium, taking the storm to new heights. I write to take the reader deeper. Topics where you finish the book and want to know more. If a writer isn’t different, why should anyone invest the time to read the book? Christian writers can not continue to recycle what is already out there as Hollywood does. This brings us to the final conundrum. Divergence. Air Divergence in the upper atmosphere intensifies the storm. When publishers and many audiences are focused on books like the Da Vinci Code, divergence comes to life. The Da Vinci Code touched on religious history (okay, some say pseudo-history), and was an interesting story (I read the book, never saw the movie). Though Christianity was discussed, there was no ministry or spirituality in the novel, nor discussion of salvation. It was popular because it was controversial. It even challenged the Vatican in some ways, and disputed traditional Christian history, which also highlights the volatility storm element (#2). If you want to sell, be different. With the divergence factor, the success of these kinds of books push publishers to look for more novels like this (no ministry, no salvation, etc), and inspires writers to create book like this to try and be popular and gain a following. This creates the perfect storm. Convergence, Impermanence, and Divergence. So what’s the solution? My particular solution was to start my own publishing company to release Devil’s Dairy: The Coming, put my own capital behind it, and produce my own cinema trailer. I encourage others to do that. If I didn’t, the book may never have seen the light of day, even though it was great enough to land a publishing deal, which is no small feat. We have to be different if we want the Christian fiction genre to thrive. Just as hurricanes take lives, think of those who will not pick up Christian fiction, even by chance, because the rules in place don’t make them relatable to readers outside the church, which limits ministry. As a teacher of the Bible, this storm is serious, and takes lives in the way of those who don’t reach salvation, because they never picked up the book. Let’s have a discussion.
Hello Anthony R Howard, tell us about yourself
How did you get into writing?
Before I remember, I remember writing. I’ve been writing all my life, starting in elementary school. It was simply a passion. A gift. I became a bestselling author in 2010, so I’d say that’s when my writing career took off, however it took 9 years to get a book deal. I stuck with it because it was something I really enjoyed. It’s part of me.
Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
It’s about where each reader falls between the battle of good and evil. If the Lord returned tomorrow (which happens in the book), how would you react? What would you as a reader expect? Would you be ready? This novel appeals to the reader to look inside themselves as they identify with the characters. As current times are as they have been prophesized in several holy books, including a general increase in anarchy, the demoralization of our society’s ethical fabric, the wars, and the persecution of those trying to worship, the stage has been set. Sides are being chosen. Angels and their worst enemies prepare for The Coming.
You last two novels were from the spy/action genre, including one bestseller The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox. How did you make the transition into religious writing, and do you think your platform will follow you into this new genre?
In my mind I didn’t make a transition. This is actually the book that got me my first book deal. It was decided by the publishing company to come out with the spy series as a business decision because of my background with technology and the Dept of Defense, and the degrees and awards behind my name. I speak at technology conferences on a regular basis but I wasn’t a famous minister. I their minds, I didn’t have a guaranteed platform to generate book sales. Do I hope my audience follows? I’d like to think I’ve built an audience who loves good writing, so I believe they will venture into this genre even if it’s a bit new to them, because they enjoy good writing. The point of writing of to bring people to something new. Something great. One of my goals in writing is to broaden the experiences of my reader community and add to the literary art form. It believe its key to not only present a fascinating story to the reader, but to bring value to the reader aside from entertainment. I believe that’s one of the key differences of my style of writing. Everyone loves to be entertained, so I’m obviously going to do that, and I truly enjoy it. Then a lot of people also value riveting, thought provoking idea’s. Topics where you finish the book and want to know more. Motifs that make you want do a bit of web surfing on the topics presented, or maybe dive even deeper.
What inspired you to write it?
With my first books, I wrote the book that I had always wanted to read but had never been written. With this book, I wrote the book that really needed to be read but had never been written. It’s a journey for the reader. You have to ask yourself a question during the book: Are you ready to face your sins? For many people the answer will be no, which makes the book an even deeper journey as they realize where they fall in the battle of good and evil. Each reader will face their own internal journey. Some who are not familiar with any religion will hopefully want to know more as they look inside themselves. Even though the book is called Devil’s Diary, the book is not about evil. The second part of the title is the focus. The Coming.
Is it part of a series?
Biblical Prophecy is a touchy subject. How did you approach it in this novel?
Biblical Prophecy is certainly complex. There are literally hundreds of interpretations and translations. I put them into 3 main categories during my studies. 1 The Past interpretations: meaning that some interpretation believe that the 2nd coming of The Creator has already happened. 2nd group is the Present interpretation, meaning that based on what is happening now, the 2nd coming is imminent, the 3rd group is the Future interpretation which pretty much follow the course the 2nd coming is off in the distant future someplace. I focus on the present interpretation. In the novel, The Creator returns, but it’s not quite what you’d expect. This is not about the rapture. It’s about the war between good and evil. God vs His enemies.
Does the reader have to be any particular religion to enjoy this book?
No. Certainly not. The book is written for all to enjoy. I believe that’s one of most important things about the book. It’s written to give everyone a deeper understanding of not only spirituality, but where each reader falls in the battle of good and evil, and what their purpose is.
Name one of your all-time favourite book covers?
Actually I have to say may all time favourite book covers is Devils Diary (and I’m completely unbiased ☺ ) because there is such a story behind it. Because this book touches on God, the traditional publishers didn’t not want to touch it. I started my own publishing company, Black Fox Imprint, named after my first novel to hit the bestsellers list) to put it out. Instead of doing the usual market research that some publishing houses do, or using a stock image as is often done in the literary arena, I had my readers actually design and pick the cover. I started from 6 select proofs. All of them were good, and posted them for all readers to see, and to and provide feed back to each cover. Literally hundreds of readers responded. Emails, calls, text, social media responses flooded in. Using their direct input, I created a cover that I really liked, but readers actually created and loved. I ended up combining two of the popular cover selections.
From the reviews for the Invisible Enemy Spy series on Barnes and Nobles, Amazon and elsewhere, it seems you’ve drawn not only the spy novel reading crowd, but you’ve pulled from other genre’s. How have you managed to touch readers who traditionally do not read spy novels?
Because from what the readers tell me it’s a great book and an easy read. It’s filled with action, suspense, mystique, intrigue, deception, mystery, romance and even fellowship. The action starts in the beginning and grabs even the folks who don’t read that much. The book is also written for most ages, including junior high school students, yet it challenges each reader. There are adult themes that the younger readers may not pick up on, but in contrast, I present some younger themes some adults might not pick up on. Certain characters represent certain motifs as well. Adults who have not read a book since high school have picked up the Invisible Enemy and read it from cover to cover. Then they wanted to know more. I was fortunately able to entertain and educate by picking a topic the Hollywood has not touched before. No story like this exists anywhere. I checked as I’m a spy novel fan myself. Spy movies have been done. Spy novels have been written, but never a technology thriller exposing the real threats of America and what goes on behind the scenes. No story has posed the hard questions to the reader, then answered them. No story dives deep into how spies are trained, recruited, how the Dept of Defense will exterminate a serious threat, or how lines must be crossed and rights are violated in order to ensure the safety of Americans. The reader even realizes how back-door decisions made decades ago by the government can come back to haunt us, and allies can become enemies overnight. It’s cool to talk about the black and the white areas. I bring the reader into the gray area, where ethics, the constitution, privacy laws, and due process can fall by the wayside when it’s time to knuckle down.
What’s your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?
I can show you better than I can tell you: This is a snippet of Chapter 1 from the audiobook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCk4AV5147E&feature=youtu.be
There is a secret that will bring America to its knees. Also, check out the movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUWj9SkBUYc
From reading the book you clearly have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Dept of Defense, Homeland Security, the CIA, even the FBI and covert technology that really hasn’t been exposed to the civilian global market as yet. How do you know the scoop?
I have a deep background with the Dept of Defense and technology. Currently, I’m an advanced systems consultant for the Defense, Intelligence and Civilian space. I’ve been an advanced solutions consultant for over 12 years. I’ve worked on projects for desert storm and quite a few other programs worldwide that have saved American lives. I’ve won several awards and several case studies of my solutions have been published across the Information Technology industry. I’ve done a sizeable amount of work for the U.S. Defense Sector, Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. I even relocated overseas to Amsterdam, The Netherlands for more than a year to solve technology issues for American based companies. This is in addition to the years of research and personal interviews I’ve done. I didn’t get my information from an encyclopedia, I got it from job experience.
Tell us a random fact about yourself?
I started a small studio, Brookline Studios, because I wanted to change the way audiobooks were created. Traditional audiobooks are boring to many people. One narrator reads the entire 22 hour story in monotone can lull you to sleep. In the Invisible Enemy: Black Fox Audiobook a new genre is opened to new markets and the social media generation with over 2000 expertly placed sound effects, a cast of talented actors reading the major characters, and movie scores created for every scene/chapter, giving the audiobook a surreal movie theatre experience in additional to an exhilarating story. The new millennial generation want experiences to be vibrant, diverse, engaging, and interactive. Listening to one person for 22 hours can be exhausting. In the past audiobook listener have been a very particular audience and demographics. I believe that will change, and I’d like to be ahead of that change. With the evolution of Ipods and mp3 players and other inventions, audiobooks can be listened to while jogging, at the gym, cleaning, running errands, eating, airports, and even while working is an option for some folks. I also want to create a personal experience that the reader/listener can plug into personally. Listeners are diverse and multifaceted. So should the cast in their experience. I bring a new experience to veteran readers and invite younger listeners as well, expanding into a different kind of audiobook market, combining sound effects, multi-cast actors, special effects, a great story, and sound quality into a different and unforgettable experience. To see what I mean, feel free to download or listen to the first chapter for free here. Invisible Enemy: Black Fox AudioBook Free Chapter
Tell us something interesting about the area where you live?
I live in Atlanta, GA. Yes, we have bad traffic – however it’s a great city. It’s got everything except for the beach. An interesting fact about it is Atlanta is represented as a symbol of the mythological Egyptian bird called the Phoenix. A historic fire incident in an act of war that was deliberately set to destroy the city justifies the representation. Atlanta, like the Phoenix, rose from the ashes to become an influential city.
Big thank you to Anthony R Howard for contributing this guest post. Please see the book blurbs below 🙂
What Would Happen If The Creator Returned Tommorow?
In the current world plagued by war and civil unrest, the divine arrival of the Son of Man restores hope to mankind. Like most others, Oniva Mering is not prepared to face judgment, or the violent threat of an ancient secret society. Left in the company of her smooth and streetwise high school friend, Oniva must bear witness to the most catastrophic turn of events humanity has ever experienced. The stage has been set. Sides are being chosen. Angels and their worst enemies prepare for The Coming.
Are You Ready?
Each reader will face their own internal journey as they are enticed to look inside themselves, and realize where they stand in the battle of Good versus Evil. We are all a part of the book of life. But what if there was another book. . .The Devil’s Dairy.
There is a secret that will bring America to its knees. In The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox, Reporter Dorian Valentine discovers the horrific truth regarding the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (a critical peace agreement between the former Soviet Union and the United States): One side is cheating, and even worse – the cheating side holds the ultimate trump card. Brutally trained from birth to live, talk, and think like Americans, foreign powers have constructed the most dangerous network of secret operatives ever known – created for the ultimate trinity: Intelligence, Espionage, and Warfare. This dynamic organization has been planted on US soil long ago by the former KGB to retrieve information at any cost, cause political catastrophe, or kill on moment’s notice. Now they are out of control, striking fear into the heart of the Pentagon. The Central Intelligence Agency assembles a powerful team of assassins that “do not exist” in an attempt to terminate an enemy that cannot be caught by any traditional methods. The Invisible Enemy grabs the reader by the arm, and casts them deep into the furious depths of intense warfare, awesome espionage, and unpredictable deceit – where there is a frightful undercover agenda that even the operatives themselves are not aware of.
Book Review from Associated Press (Yahoo!)
“The reader is paralyzed with anticipation as the plot somersaults out of control after the enemy operatives swiftly perform a devastating political strike, and then realize they have been set up. Here the game changes and no one has told them the rules. Betrayed by their own country and thrown into a world they can not trust, they are forced to depend on the most potent weapon they had ever been trained to use: their unnatural minds. In a fast paced novel that spins from one explosive scene to the next, the most high-tech weaponry is used including speed of light weapons, “smart chips”, artificial intelligence, and never before exposed government technology and organizations, thus introducing a new, exciting, untapped level of spycraft where nothing is what it seems.”
Global Ebook Award Finalist
First they were operatives. Now it’s personal. Recent events have catapulted the American military into a state of emergency and American enemies are planning their assault. This exhilarating sequel casts the reader further into the furious depths of espionage, unpredictable deceit, and intense warfare. As the deadly vendetta between the skillful operatives somersault out of control, a frightful undercover agenda that even the operatives themselves are not aware of is revealed, and a sinister shadow enemy comes into play. The fate of the free world is in the hands of CIA assassins as they now face off against a deadly set of merciless secret agents. These CIA agents are the last link between liberty. . .and a nuclear holocaust.
It started when a reporter discovered the horrific truth regarding the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (a critical peace agreement between the former Soviet Union and the United States): Russia is cheating, and even worse – they hold the ultimate trump card: the one secret that can bring down the worlds super power. To exploit this haunting secret, Russia has constructed the most dangerous network of secret operatives ever known. Brutally trained from birth to act and think like Americans, this dynamic organization has been planted on American soil long ago by the former KGB to retrieve information at any cost, cause political catastrophe, or kill on moment’s notice. Now they are out of control, striking fear into the heart of the Pentagon. In response to a devastating political assassination, the CIA has assembled a powerful team of agents that “do not exist” in an attempt to terminate an enemy that cannot be caught by any traditional methods.