Today’s guest is my buddy, Jack Cavanaugh. He’s here to talk about embracing the whirlwinds in life. While today’s post is focused on his writing journey, I believe you’ll see that it’s also about the faith journey. When I read the tagline for his new book, The Arm of God, it kind of knocked me out of my seat and so I invited him to share with us.
“To find the will of God, you must embrace the whirlwind.”
Wow! How true is that? Well, I’ll turn things over to Jack now.
It was one of those perfect moments. I was living a novelist’s dream.
There we were, sitting at a table in a restaurant in Nova Scotia overlooking Halifax harbor, just me and my publisher. We were attending a conference for Canadian booksellers. I had delivered a keynote speech earlier that afternoon. It went well. So did the book signing that followed. I was feeling good.
Little did I know things were about to get . . .
. . . even better.
I was four books into a seven book contract with the publisher. As we waited for our dinner to arrive, my dining partner—a vice president in the company, young, genial—buttered his bread. He looked up at me.
“Jack, what are you going to do for us next?” he asked.
I let the question linger for a moment. I wanted to savor it.
For thirteen years I’d labored unsuccessfully to land a book contract, suffering rejection after rejection. Then it happened. At a writer’s conference in Mt. Hermon, in the early morning sunlight, sitting across an outdoor table with an acquisitions editor, I made the contact that landed me a four book historical fiction deal. After the first book was delivered, the contract was expanded to seven books. And now the publisher wanted more.
The thirteen year journey had been worth it. That’s what I was savoring.
I told him about a First Century biblical series concept. Book 1 was set in Macedonia, Greece. He chewed his bread. Listened thoughtfully. He was nodding.
“I like it,” he said. “Would it help if we sent you to Greece to do the research?”
His offer blindsided me. All of my research to that point had been in the library. The thought of being sent to Greece to research a novel was beyond my dreams.
“How much time would you need?” he asked.
My mind jumped into overdrive. What airport would I fly into? I’d have to rent a car. Which side of the road do they drive on in Greece? I don’t speak modern Greek, would I need a guide? Everything was a blur.
I chuckled. “You’re catching me off-guard,” I said. “I really haven’t . . . .”
“If we sent you over there for a month,” he said. “Could you do the research in a month?”
Be still my heart.
“Yes,” I said. “I could do the research in a month.”
Great story, isn’t it? And it’s true. Every detail.
What’s also true—
Within one month of Nova Scotia and dinner by the bay, the publishing house was bought out by another company. None of the executives went with the deal. Neither did my Greece offer.
I’m in my sixties now and looking back over my publishing journey, getting new books into the hands of readers has meant reinventing what it means to be a published author.
When I started out it was difficult to place a manuscript because Christian publishers were convinced Christian fiction wouldn’t sell; now, it’s difficult to get a publishing contract because Christian fiction is selling so well.
When I started out if you had a literary agent a Christian publisher wouldn’t talk to you; now, if you don’t have a literary agent most Christian publishers won’t talk to you.
When I started out you had to print out two copies of your manuscript and ship them to your editor; now, you can zip it to them by e-mail attachment.
When I started author promotion and publicity meant book signings, speeches, and radio interviews: now, publishers want you to have a platform and a newsletter, to host your own website with written, video, and audio content, and to have an active social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
When I started out an author was dependent upon a publisher to get published; now, with The Arm of God, I have self-published a book in both e-book and print form. I designed the cover. I designed the interior pages. I formatted the files, uploaded them, and chose the distribution avenues.
What have I learned through all this that I can pass along to those who are just beginning their publishing journey? To paraphrase the theme of The Arm of God, if you want to be a writer, you must be willing to embrace the publishing whirlwind. Learn to do whatever it takes to get your story into the hands of readers.
As for me, while I don’t know what form future novels will take, this I know: I am proud to have been counted among the men and women who have taught and entertained and inspired readers through the powerful medium of storytelling. The whirlwind journey has been worth it.
Thanks, Jack, for joining us today!
About the book:
A novel set in the biblical days of Samson
OF ALL THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL, only one fails to seize the land apportioned to them by God at Shiloh. When key families of the tribe of Dan abandon their promised land and migrate north, Eri ben Helek remains behind, pledging to lead his tribe and claim God’s will for his people. Arrayed against them is the mighty Philistine Pentapolis with walled cities, iron weapons and chariots, and armored soldiers outnumbering them a hundred to one.
FOLLOW THE INTREPID DANITE SOLDIERS as they make daring raids on a Philistine armory, suffer reprisals by the ruthless Seren of Ashdod, march into battle with the Ark of the Covenant, and witness the exploits of the legendary Samson that thrust the tiny village of Zorah into an epic underdog battle for their very existence.
THE ARM OF GOD is a biblical adventure of personal faith, ruthless ambition, merciless revenge, seduction, betrayal, and supreme courage.