Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Michael E. Nathanson, author of Cries of the Eagle. Michael comes from a family of writers (his father is well known for his book The Dirty Dozen). He held a lifelong dream of one day weaving a good story that also points to hope and light in a darkened world. After retiring from the business world he devoted his attention to writing. Cries of the Eagle is his first novel.
Norm: Good day Michael and thanks for participating in our interview.
What served as the primary inspiration for your book Cries of the Eagle?
Michael: The idea of the story for Cries of the Eagle had been on my heart to write for some years. The subject of radical Islamic terrorism looms large throughout the world today. Its scope is not limited to the Middle East and Europe. The terrorists have committed heinous acts right here in America.
Whether as the product of outright subversive infiltration and lengthy planning or spontaneous home grown recruitment through the dark web and social media, the threat of radical Islamic terrorism is very real and ongoing, not some frightening apparition of paranoid minds, as some would put forth.
Those who are fully
invested in the rebirth of a worldwide caliphate and subscribe to the
most violent elements of seventh century Islam represent a determined
minute fraction of the worldwide Muslim population. The sad fallout
of this is that there is a dangerous tendency to demonize and vilify
a religion’s entire body of followers, the majority of whom lead
peaceful lives and want nothing to do with the carnage wrought by
their so-called brethren.
I hoped to bring the reader a decent suspense thriller story with some interesting characters and also, through the context of the story provide an interesting overview of the history and conflict between Islam and the West. I wanted there to be an American Muslim protagonist, a hero who is a patriot, who loves his country dearly even with all of its imperfections, and who detests terrorism and terrorists. So the story was born. I also wanted to offer both the characters within my story and the reader an antidote if you will, perhaps a simple perspective of hope and life in this darkened world that I, in my own humble spiritual belief feel is well worth considering.
Norm: What purpose do you believe your story serves and what matters to you about the story?
Michael: I believe Cries of the Eagle could be ripped directly from the pages of tomorrow’s news. It is both current and future. I would call it “faction,” hopefully a good work of entertaining fiction that is rooted in fact. Within the context of a suspense thriller and some hopefully interesting characters, it serves to give the reader an elementary overview of the history of the world’s three great monotheistic religions, and also the cultural and theocratic conflict that exists between Islam and the West.
Through the story’s characters and events the seemingly infinite battle between good and evil plays out. A young, brilliant Muslim engineer who loves America and its people reminds us that we should not rush to vilify all the people of one religion, even if it greatly differs from our own. The individual heart is what counts. A grieving father, suffering true remorse and contrition for his part in turning his son into a murderer finds ultimate redemption and hope, and perhaps discovers and understands a new humanness within himself and others. I hope that through my story the reader is entertained and possibly made aware of some elements of current events and perspectives that he or she had not previously considered. I hope that the good-willed reader of any faith is in some way blessed by the time spent.
Michael: The history of Islam and the ancient conflict and cultural-worldview divide between Islam and the West is an area of personal interest for me. I first became interested in this after a business trip to the Middle East back in the early 80’s. The subjects of Islamic theocracy, jihadism and the desire for the reestablishment of the world-wide caliphate are fascinating to me as well. I have to say there have been many books read and classes taken over the years in pursuit of gaining an understanding of why we are where we are today, including The Bible and Qur’a
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing this book and what did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Michael: The most difficult part is the writing itself. It is a completely humbling immersive process with much time spent in a solitary world. Lots of research and much emotion and energy are invested in the storytelling, and then countless sessions of questioning your work and doubting yourself on any given day. Following closely is the seemingly never-ending rewriting process. The most enjoyable part for me was developing the characters and then seeing the changes in them through their journey in the story. There is joy in character development. I truly enjoyed that aspect.
Norm: Did you write the book more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Please summarize your writing process.
Michael: Norm, I think that it is indeed a combination of the two, logic and intuition. I knew the rough sketch of the story I wanted to tell and the outcome I wanted the reader to experience, but there is a fair amount of intuition that comes into play as to the road you travel and how you get there.
Norm: How did you go about creating the characters, Aziz Malawi and FBI agents, Gerry Bolton and Jan Hanson?
Michael: I think a novelist’s characters are an amalgamation of a writer’s life experiences and people encountered along the way. Aziz’s character was illuminated in part by a young Muslim engineer that I met during a business trip to the Middle East back in the early 80’s. Gerry Bolton and Jan Hanson were influenced by real people that are near and dear to me. Enough said. The beauty of characters in a novel is that each reader will see different pictures of them through their own mind’s eye and life experiences. And that is just the way it should be.
Norm: What process did you go through to get your book published?
Michael: It was my first novel, which I began a bit later in life rather than as a young man. I self-published this one for a variety of reasons. I had hoped to have it published in time for my aging writer father to see it come to life and hold it in his hands before he passed. He was E.M. Nathanson, author of The Dirty Dozen and other works, and next to my dear sweet wife he was one of my most important readers and editors along the way. I also wanted to get something “out there” to establish my writing life. Self-publishing seemed like the way to go at the time. It was quite a learning experience with regard to the amount of work and rework that is involved! You don’t just write it and push a button and it’s done and self-published!
Norm: What do you believe makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Michael: I believe my novel deals with the subject of terrorism in a unique way, through more than just a “shoot ‘em up” action ride. It examines the motives and actions, flaws and regrets of engaging, believable characters who will draw the reader into the deeper story contained within. It will also give the reader a bit of an insight into the current manifestation of a most ancient conflict.
Norm: Do you worry about terrorism and do you feel we are not doing enough to combat it? Please explain.
Michael: Terrorism is a fact of the times in which we live. The philosophy that wars against the western world and even its own is “Radical Islam,” which embraces the most violent, conquering and subversive dictates of the religion’s seventh century beginnings. This should not be seen as a wrongful indictment of an entire religious population which sometimes seems to be the popular political notion.
We have to get comfortable taking off the rose colored glasses and naming the problem correctly to begin to solve it. The world is not currently in flames due to the efforts of “radical” Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Christianity, Judaism or any other religion one might name. Current events actually reflect the resurgence of an ancient conflict that has never ended. I believe that we, in concert with countries worldwide need to do far more to combat terrorism.
This means physically - to comprehensively strike against the sponsors and perpetrators of terrorism, and, equally as important, commit more resources toward terrorism’s eradication as a philosophy and mindset. This won’t happen overnight. It will likely be several generations of a slow change in thinking to become a new way of life, with no guarantees. In spite of this we must commit one hundred percent to the effort in concert with our allies and peaceful Muslim countries throughout the world. Those countries that foment Muslim extremism in the madrassas must be called out and must cease. Most important is that the Muslim countries themselves take a leading role in the process. It is not going to go away on its own. It might never go away. Who knows? But the world must make the effort.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Michael: Wow. I don’t know that I’ve been writing long enough to analyze that with any surety. I have been fortunate to have traveled much of the world in my life, so people, experiences and cultures all over have impacted me. I was raised in a family of atheists and later in life came to know the joy of a relationship with Jesus Christ. My ultimate hope is not in the things of this earth. So, the evangelical element in my story does come from my heart, which is filled with gratitude for love and grace. I don’t want the reader to feel intimidated or confronted by that, but it’s a gift that I know changed me and I believe is worth sharing from my experience.
Norm: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Michael: My father had always described the writer’s existence as a very solitary one. I now understand the truth of that. No one will do the work for you. You must develop a personal discipline that drives you to get the job done. And believe me, there are frustrating days when you would like to do anything other than forge ahead with your writing. Anyone need a ditch dug?
Norm: What do your plans for future projects include?
Michael: I’m currently working on a sequel to Cries of the Eagle, currently titled Taking the Eagles’s Nest. I hope to have it in print sometime in mid 2017. Beyond that I have one more book in this trilogy to complete and then two completely different novels to jump into.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Cries of the Eagle?
Michael: MY WEBSITE I realize this is shameless self-promotion, but I was told I must have a website.
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Michael: “Why has no one made this into a movie yet? It would be a great story for the screen!” I’m only halfway jesting. I think Cries of the Eagle would make an excellent film. I hope that someone involved in film production somewhere reads it and if so moved considers it.
Norm, thank you very much for allowing me to join you in this interview.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.