Ethan Freeman wakes up one morning and discovers that he is the sole survivor of a commercial airline plane crash that killed everyone on board, including his wife and two teenage children. He becomes the FBI’s number one suspect in what is believed to be an act of domestic terrorism and must find a way to prove his innocence. The problem is, he was on the plane, sitting next to his wife, across the aisle from his children and blacked out the instant of the fiery crash.
As Ethan struggles to find out what happened to him and the others on the plane and wrestles with his guilt and torment over the death of his entire family, he is drawn into an ever-deepening, epic, and millennia-old conspiracy. An ancient evil has been released-- from the prison it was sealed into during the time of the pharaohs--by a mysterious and powerful cult of demonic monks known as The Nine. The Nine have summoned the ancient evil with the intent of prematurely opening the angelic prison spoken about in the Book of Revelation and referred to as The Abyss. They seek to steal the Key to the Abyss from The Guardians and use it to unleash a holocaust upon an unsuspecting world.
Ethan is thrown together with an eclectic mix of individuals, including the woman heading up the crash investigation for the NTSB, a Black FBI agent who is a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, a British astrophysicist, an orthodox rabbi who survived Auschwitz, a Hmong warrior who wields a mysterious and unusual weapon, and a South African wilderness guide who is a tenth generation shaman. Together, the seven companions must stop The Nine and prevent the ancient evil from opening The Abyss, unleashing unimaginable evil and enslaving humanity.
2. Where did the idea for the book come from?
It was a dark and stormy night . . .
Ooops. Not really! J Sorry Snoopy.
I regularly drive long distances and have a great deal of time to think. One morning, as I was headed to an appointment, the opening lines from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities scrolled through my mind unexpectedly: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
As I meditated on those powerful words in terms of the present condition of our fallen world, a fascinating thought popped into my head. What would happen if my wife and I were on a commercial airliner that crashed within a few minutes of takeoff killing everyone on board—except us! We awaken exactly 24 hours later, at home, in our bed, dressed in the same clothes we’d worn to the airport. How would we explain what happened to us?
This is how all of my novels are born. A vivid opening scene, generally an action-filled, pulse-pounding sequence of events, but sometimes several lines of riveting dialog from a character I have yet to meet. In the case of Infernal Gates, the opening line was “Less than ten minutes before we’re all dead, thought Ethan Freeman, and there is nothing I can do about it!
I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. I’ve never done an outline. All of my stories begin as movies in my head. I have a general idea about plot, but it morphs into something bigger than my imagination over time. My characters are born, grow, and mature as I write. At some point, they take control. Then, all I do is transcribe as fast as I can whatever I see and hear.
Unbelievable fun—and I get paid to do this!
But I digress. Back to the “inspiration” theme.
Most of us, sadly, see the world three-dimensionally. But, as Rod Serling, the creator of The Twilight Zone was fond of saying: There is another dimension--a fourth dimension. A dimension not of sight or sound, or taste or touch, or hearing, but one that overlays the one we accept as the “real” world. A parallel universe layered over the terrestrial realm like a gossamer veil. In order to “see” into this realm and interact with it we must use gifts given to us by God that transcend our fleshly bodies—and our souls.
The realm of Spirit.
I’m inspired by God to write about this realm and explore the consequences of ignoring, denigrating, or misrepresenting its power to impact our lives for all eternity.
I hope you’ll take a chance on an “unknown writer” and join me in my world.
3. Who and what inspires you to write?
First, and foremost, I’m a storyteller. I love to entertain readers with pulse-pounding action, flawed–but intriguing–characters, and fascinating plots that have my readers asking, “How did he come up with that?” My tagline is "stories that ignite imaginations and stir souls . . ." I like to get people thinking about the world they live in from a very different perspective than they are used to, especially as it relates to the realm of the spirit, angels and demons, and the intersection of the biblical, scientific, and historical disciplines.
There is an ancient battle being fought around us on an hourly basis in the realm of the spirit. It regularly manifests in the natural, or terrestrial, realm yet few people really understand the true nature of the battle. Hence, many perish for lack of knowledge. Like Toto in the Wizard of Oz, I love pulling back the curtain and exposing “the wizard” for who he is–a short, balding, fat man from Kansas!
While all of my thrillers do have the purpose of provoking my readers to examine their belief system, at their core I hope they are simply good stories; the kind that keep you turning pages long after the sun goes down and make you wish there was more to read once you’ve finished. My heart is to figuratively serve up a ten course meal with each new story I tell, and leave my readers hungry for their next serving.
4. Each author has his or her own inspiring journey. How did you begin writing?
The hard way! J I’ve been a voracious and eclectic reader ever since I can remember. When other guys were focusing on athletics, memorizing sports trivia, or talking about cars, I carried on a not-so-secret love affair with reading. For me, the smell of an old book is like a pheromone. I love libraries, I love books, and I love reading. I’ve had the same mistress since I was ten.
With that kind of foundation, I guess it was only a matter of time before I decided to give writing a try. I started out writing poetry, then tried short stories, and finally realized that full-length novels were my niche. In 1984 I had what I thought was a pretty cool idea for a really big story spanning two millennia, a couple characters having a conversation in my head, and an opening line: April is a month to be reckoned with.
I sat down and started writing—longhand--on a legal tablet every chance I got.
Several years later, I had a manuscript that was longer than Moby Dick, Atlas Shrugged, and War and Peace. I sent the behemoth off to a NY Agent and received an eight page, single-spaced rejection letter (which I paid for!).
I was depressed for a while, then shook the dust of my feet and carved my baby up into three books. A couple of years later I sold the story to Crossway Books, and officially became a published author.
That’s when the real challenges began.
But that’s another story, best told on a cold evening over a hot cup of Honduran coffee or Black Tea from the Ukraine--and some soft chocolate chip cookies.
5. What has been the most pleasant surprise about writing? How about an unexpected down side?
Most pleasant surprise is every time a reader takes the time to contact me personally and share with me how much they liked one of my books, or how, in some way, their life has been impacted. Unexpected downside--the number of rejections from traditional publishers and the grueling process of marketing my books. I would much rather spend all of my time writing than spending any time trying to promote myself.
6. Do you have any writing rituals?
Not really. I write by the seat of my pants and pray everything fits together and comes out okay. So far, that seems to be working.
7. Do you write your books in order?
For the most part, yes. I typically start with an idea, then usually a dramatic scene, or a line of dialogue, pops into my head. I think about the overall concept and come up with several key scenes I’d like to see incorporated into the story. I have a very general idea of the climax, but not much else. Then I start writing. At some point, the characters take on a life of their own and I just sit back and write down as fast as I can what is happening to them. I see all my books in my head as movies. It’s really quite fascinating, and fun.
8. Any favorite writing snacks?
None. When I write I’m so totally immersed in what I’m doing I lose all track of time. Hours pass and feel like minutes. Now, if I want to treat myself after a writing session, I never met a warm, soft, chocolate chip cookie I didn’t like. J
9. What advice would you give writers who aspire to be published?
Be clear about why you write and who your audience is. Become knowledgeable about your craft and the market. Be passionate about your writing. Seek out those who can help you succeed whenever and wherever possible (writing is ultimately a very solitary habit). Do whatever it takes to refine your craft and tell a great story with memorable characters. Read my agent Don Maass’, book, “The Fire in Fiction,” to learn about the extraordinary power of “micro-tension,” and “Writing 21st Century Fiction” to understand where fiction is headed in the next few years.
Last, but not least: “Never, never, never, ever give up” (courtesy of Winston Churchill.) Speak those words over yourself in those dark moments of the soul when you feel there is no point in writing another word. Keep writing what you believe in and have a passion to share with others--and trust God to do the rest.
10. Are you working on anything new right now?
I’m finishing up “Devil’s Cauldron,” the follow up to “Infernal Gates.” I’ve written the first couple of chapters for thriller number 7, tentatively title “Ghost Hunter,” and I’m researching book number two in a non-fiction trilogy I’ve been working on for some time.
Here’s a teaser from the Prologue of “Devil’s Cauldron”:
It is a sunny, crystal clear, late Southern California afternoon, and something wicked is brewing deep within the bowels of the old house.
The house is large, imposing, and very expensive, one of the many pre-war mansions dating from the turn of the century that line South Orange Grove Avenue like guardians of another time and place. To the casual observer there is nothing obvious to suggest that anything is out of the ordinary at the two-story home located on a quiet, typically American street that has come to be known by locals as Millionaire’s Row.
The only portent of evil hovering over the stately home like a ravenous predator is an odd blue-grey haze that suddenly appears just before five p.m. and swiftly shrouds the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking the city, obscuring the pristine-white snow-capped peaks . . .
11. Who is your favorite character in your current book?
This is a tough question. Normally, I might answer my primary protagonist. However, the truth is, I fell in love with every one of my main characters, except the demonic ones. If I had to pick, I think I’d choose my Hmong character, Vang Lou Chang. As I researched his genealogy and personal history I became fascinated with Hmong history and culture. Vang wields a Hmong free-reed instrument called a geej. It’s a musical instrument used in Hmong culture, but also a mysterious and powerful weapon. I had a lot of fun pushing the limits of reality and incorporating Hmong history and culture, both ancient and modern, into the story.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
13. Tell us in one sentence why we should read your book.
Angels, demons, and lots of action and adventure—“Oh My!”