Inspiring Heroes Inspire Readers by Jack Cavanaugh

Today, I introduce you to Jack Cavanaugh, novelist extraordinaire. I met Jack in 2003 at the Christian Writers Guild Writing for the Soul writers conference. He was an instructor of one of the classes I took and I have never forgotten the things I learned there. He has the kindest nature and doesn’t mind answering questions and taking time to help others perfect their craft.

Jack is an award-winning, full-time freelance author with twenty-six published novels to his credit. Two of his latest novels (Beyond the Sacred Page and Dear Enemy) are published through OakTara, my publisher, so we have much in common.

A student of the novel for more than a quarter of a century, Jack takes his craft seriously, continuing to study and teach at Christian writers conferences. He is the former pastor of three churches in San Diego County and draws upon his theological background for the spiritual elements of his plots and characters. Jack has three grown children and lives with his wife in Southern California.

We’ll learn a little more about Jack at the end of this article, but first let’s hear what Jack has to say about heroes and how they inspire readers.

Inspiring Heroes Inspire Readers by Jack Cavanaugh

As a reader you know them—

Emma Woodhouse

Jane Eyre

Robin Hood

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy

Atticus Finch


Romeo and Juliet

Sherlock Holmes

You’ve shared their adventures. Shared their pain. And even though in your heart of hearts you know they’re not real, they feel like friends.

Every year Margaret Mitchell gets the highest compliment an author can receive when Atlanta tourists walk into the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and ask for directions to the graves of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler.

How do authors do it, clothe fictional characters in flesh and blood?

Creating characters is an act of inspiration. The word inspire means, “to breathe life into.” So how does an author do that? He follows the same recipe the Creator used when He fashioned man—

“And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

An author begins with dust of the ground attributes:

Physical description,


Hard-wiring his character with a personality type.

Then, the author breathes life into his creation with motivation and intangibles:

Giving him hopes and dreams,

Setting obstacles and opposing characters in his path,

Placing doubts in his mind,

Forcing him to change,

Making him face his greatest fear.

To make a hero, the author adds:


Cleverness and resourcefulness,

A special talent or insight,

And a wound to make him human.

Finally, the author places the character in a scene with other characters and sets them in motion. It’s an anxious moment, even for the author, to see how the hero will handle himself. Bestselling author Terri Blackstock expressed this anxiety at a writers’ conference when she asked the other authors, “Do you pray for your characters?”

How do authors know if their creation has truly come to life? They know they’ve succeeded if at the end of the book the reader suffers mild depression upon realizing they will no longer be spending time with the characters of the story.

As magical as this seems, it gets better.

If authors do their jobs well, there comes a moment when the reader is no longer reading the story, but living it; a dramatic moment of realization when the truth of the story crystallizes and — with a sharp intake of breath — the reader discovers something about himself. His life is changed. His sights are elevated. His resolve strengthens. He is a better person for having read the story.

Not only has the author breathed life into his characters, he’s breathed new life into his reader.

This is inspirational fiction at its finest.

I don’t know about you, but this post inspired me! I am inspired as a reader and as a writer. Thank you, Jack, so much for taking the time to write this post for my blog. 

Here’s a little bit more about Jack:

Jack’s novels have been translated into a dozen foreign languages, largely because of the universal scope of his topics. Jack has not only written about American history, but about South Africa, banned English Bibles, German Christians in the days of Hitler and Communism, revivals in America, and angelic warfare.

Jack’s current writing schedule includes motion picture screenplays and e-book novels with Internet distribution. His novel Death Watch has been optioned to be made into a motion picture by Out Cold Entertainment, Inc.


• Silver Medallion Award (1995), Christian Booksellers Association
• Christy Award (2002, 2003), Excellence in Christian Fiction
• Silver Angel Award (2002), Excellence in Media
• Gold Medal, Best Historical (2001), ForeWord Magazine
• Best Historical Novel (1994), San Diego Literary Society
• Best Novel (1995, 1996, 2005), San Diego Christian Writers Guild

You can find Jack at this website:

Published by Sherri Wilson Johnson

I am a wife/mother/writer/speaker looking to be used by God!

5 thoughts on “Inspiring Heroes Inspire Readers by Jack Cavanaugh

  1. Sherri, at some point in recent days, your interviews moved into the must-read category for me. I appreciate the work you do and especially enjoyed Jack Cavanaugh’s article.–Tom

  2. This blog inspired me because it reminded me that sometimes writing seems like the hardest work in the world and sometimes it seems like heaven on earth when something I’ve written comes together. Writing becomes, as Jack indicated, a bit of creation.

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