New Texas author Michael E. Nathanson has just released his debut novel CRIES OF THE EAGLE. In the book, he brings a careful examination of the contemporary increased incidence of violence throughout the country and the globe and begs investigation as to etiology or cause of the progression of hate, racism, and senseless deaths. A lesson too often forgotten is to turn to history as recorded by the great minds of the past, but equally significant is to find contemporary literature that opens some much-needed windows of insight.
The Northern California Book Festival recently awarded Cries of the Eagle an Honorable Mention in the Fiction category at their 2016 event.
We are honored to catch up with Michael E. Nathanson for this exclusive interview.
Q: Michael, thank you for doing this interview with us. Coming from a family of writers, especially with your dad, were you encouraged to write when you were very young? What attracted you to become a writer?
Although I came from a family of writers I did not actually come to writing until much later in life. When I did finally embark upon Cries of the Eagle, my first book, my father was very supportive. It was a precious experience to share the writing process with him, as he understood it very well. He was very supportive - a willing reader and editor. My father saw the book come to life in print shortly before he passed away. We shared some great moments commiserating about the writer's life.
Q: Tell us very briefly what is your first book CRIES OF THE EAGLE about.
It is a novel, a genre i would call "faction," - drawn from tomorrow's news. It is a suspense thriller that revolves around a homegrown terrorist act that takes place in a suburban Dallas, Texas high school. A bright young patriotic American engineer, who happens to be Muslim, detests both terrorists and terrorism. He accidentally discovers evidence pertinent to the heinous act of terrorism, and through his efforts becomes a valuable asset and partner to the FBI and helps shed light on the activities of a long-entrenched unknown root terror organization in America. The investigation leads the FBI from Texas to Michigan and back. More than that it is also the much deeper story of a family torn apart by the actions of their son and their own unwitting culpability. They attempt to make some things right. Also woven into the story is an evangelical message of the hope, love and redemption to be found in Jesus Christ, offered freely to any man - in this case shared when one of the characters has come to the end of his rope and dangles in the abyss.There are more story arcs and twists and turns within the book, but brevity does not allow me to share and it is hopefully for the reader to discover.
Q: How and why are you interested in this issue of terrorism?
Sadly, terrorism is an issue that is very much with us, and I believe will continue to plague the world for the foreseeable future in one form or another. I first became interested in the culture, theology and worldview of Islam years ago, after a business trip to a Muslim country. I happen to look at the world through a Christian faith. The transmorphism of Old and New Testament scriptures and Biblical characters to Islam hundreds of years after Christ died on the cross are fascinating. After 9-11 my interest and study widened to include the radical islamist-Jihadist mindset. Though a small population component of a religion that claims approximately 1.6 billion adherents worldwide, the radical jihadist mentality and worldview is quite dangerous and has been around far longer than one might think.
Q: There are already many books out there that addresses the issue of terrorism, what do you bring to the table that is different?
I claim no academic standing. I am a novelist, one who enjoys the study of the history, theology, culture and worldview that has brought this ancient conflict to where we are today. Cries of the Eagle is a story that had been on my heart to write for years before I was able to do it. Much of it was framed prior to terror events we have seen in recent years and the current concept of the lone wolf terrorist. I pray the reader finds an entertaining suspense thriller which happens to involve terrorism - but also looks beyond, more deeply into the battle between light and darkness humanity faces everywhere, into the lives of real, empathetic characters and also repulsive characters. The book touches on some theological and worldview differences that impact Islam and the Christian West. There is also an evangelical message of hope, love and redemption within the story. I believe Cries of the Eagle is a multi-faceted story that is far more than one that simply addresses the issue of terrorism.
Q: This book is more than a novel, it also presents many things we can learn from Islam. What are some of the most common misconceptions about Islam we often have?
One broad misconception held by some people is that all Muslims in the world are of the terrorist mentality and bent on destruction and establishing the new world caliphate. It simply isn't so. We must be careful not to demonize an entire religious population. Granted, Islam, in its most ancient 7th century form and practice and in its current most radical manifestation is not a religion of peaceful coexistence (other than with fellow Muslims) as some would espouse. There is much evidence to contradict that notion. However, the largest percentage of Muslims in the world do live peaceably. They love their families. They raise children. They work hard. They seek education. They have rich culture. Sixty percent are born into the religion through tradition and are not considered practicing. Forty percent of the world's Muslims are considered orthodox practitioners, but not extreme. Just ten percent or less of Muslims are considered to subscribe to or endorse the most radical tenets of Islam, and even fewer, the jihadist mentality. That is a distinction to be noted. Tolerance of other religions is not, however, a hallmark of Islam. That said, pre-Reformation Christian history is unfortunately riddled with politics, violence and corruption. We all have baggage to consider - the product of sinful man. There is so much more depth to this discussion than time and space allows here.
Q: What can we do in the face of the dangers of terrorism we are facing now?
This is a multi-faceted and complex question. There is no single all encompassing answer.
What can we do as humans? Ideally, try to know and love people we encounter in our lives as individuals and not automatically affix a group label to them. Live toward people the way Christ loved the church and let people see a difference in us. It might help. It is all we really have to offer. Not that there aren't truly evil people who want to do harm. That, you can't help - they've been around too, since the beginning of people. I realize it is much easier to say than to do. We all have obstacles and pain points to overcome. Hatred is learned, no matter of what or where it is found.
What can we do as a nation? Our security and law enforcement agencies need increased resources to continue to develop more human intelligence, cyber-intelligence and antiterrorism tools to be better able to coordinate the efforts and information sharing of multiple agencies, both domestic and international. The domestic lone wolf, self-radicalized, or inspired terrorist is the soldier of choice in jihad now. Often they are unassimilated or disenfranchised immigrants, living in the shadows. In some cases they are intentional operatives, planted with knowledge and a purpose within communities. These recruits all feed upon the hate and vitriol served up in established jihadist writings as well as slick new publications, dark sites and chatrooms, and they are further encouraged and developed to become martyrs. We need to work to mitigate the access and availability of these materials. We have seen the results around the world. The terrorists know this has become a good weapon - their evolution in the midst of a changing world stage.
Equally, if not more important, this is both a regional and world-wide long-term, multigenerational battle for hearts and minds that must be first and foremost be won within Islam itself. Muslim populations around the world claiming peace and love of humanity must actively engage at home, in streets, neighborhoods and mosques, from youth to adult, to change minds and hearts and press for reform. It can start a new positive movement and worldview. The future depends upon it.
Q: What's next for you? Have you started thinking about your next project?
Yes. I'm in the middle of another book now. It is a sequel to Cries of the Eagle. I hope to have it out within the year. Thanks so much for allowing me to join you today!