Please Welcome...James BeauSeigneur

This month our interview guest is Christian speculative fiction author James BeauSeigneur.

James BeauSeigneur is a former intelligence analyst who has worked for the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. As an author, he has worked with the Department of Homeland Security by serving on “Terrorist Red Cells” to speculate on possible terrorist targets and tactics. He is a former newspaper publisher, and he taught political science for two years at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

In 1980, he was the Republican nominee for U.S. Congress running against Al Gore. He’s been married for 38 years and has two daughters and four grandchildren.

James currently consults with several Fortune 500 companies in support of their marketing efforts to government customers. His background brings a special focus on scientific and political realism to his novels, which have been published in 12 languages.

And now, the interview...

WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with you. What have you been doing lately?

James BeauSeigneur: I’ve spent the last several months preparing for a new release of The Christ Clone Trilogy. I’ve done a major re-edit to account for technological changes that have occurred over the past ten years and to dramatically sharpen the pace and tempo of the story. I’ve also added some scenes. But the most significant change is that I’ve integrated a study guide that allows the reader to see the scriptural basis for how the story plays out.

There are hundreds of seemingly minor twists and turns and details in the story that address specific biblical prophecies —things that most readers may have missed in the previous release. Now readers will be able to compare the event in the story directly to the Bible passage that inspired it. For example, when the Antichrist is shot and resurrected in the second book of my trilogy, he’s blinded in one eye and has lost the use of his left arm. With the previous edition, most readers would have concluded that I did that as an editorial device to add texture to the story. In fact, it’s based on specific prophecy (Zechariah 11:16—17); and now readers will be able (in the eBook) to link directly to the Bible passage so they can compare it with the story.

I’m also including a prophecy cross-reference guide that allows the reader to start with a verse of prophecy and then find that event in the story. If, for example, you want to know how Isaiah 38:18—19 fits into the overall last days events, the cross reference would point you to a specific book, chapter, and page of the trilogy.

Finally, I’ve been developing a trailer to promote the trilogy. That’s a painstaking process, but it’s lots of fun too. It’s exciting to see the story summarized in professionally produced action clips and still shots and backed up by a powerful musical score.

WhereTheMapEnds: That sounds like a great “author’s preferred” edition of the book. Yes, the ability to easily embed links adds a new dimension to reading. In the expanded edition of Sharon Hinck's The Restorer (released by my independent publishing house, Marcher Lord Press) we did something similar in the eBook. There are new chapters that, through links, can be read right in sequence with the original material. It is very cool, and more convenient than having to flip to the end of a print book.

What is your favorite speculative novel of all time, and why is that your favorite?

James BeauSeigneur: My favorite, which was also the first book I ever read, is 1984 by George Orwell. Like most speculative fiction, the story is really about us—in this case, about our possible future. Orwell didn’t exactly intend it in this way, but I think Big Brother in 1984 is a type of Antichrist. Big Brother is able to sway what and even how people think. What makes Orwell’s story so terrifying is the understanding that it doesn’t take godlike powers to achieve this level of mind control. That, plus the realization that people like Hitler and Stalin and Mao (on the grand scale), and Charles Manson and so many other political and cult leaders have achieved it over and over again in the real world.

1984 is a remarkable book in so many ways, but it’s Orwell’s depiction of how Big Brother manipulates individuals that I found most gripping. The love story between Winston and Julia in that environment is uniquely (and I use that word in its true meaning) tragic. Orwell’s genius is exquisitely shown in Big Brother’s ability to sever not only the relationship between Winston and Julia but between Winston and his own humanity.

WhereTheMapEnds: I may have to go read that one again! What made you want to write Christian speculative fiction?

James BeauSeigneur: I’ve been interested in “last days prophecy” since I was about six years old. I was driven to understand how the events of prophecy could play out in the real world. I read numerous books on the subject, both fiction and nonfiction, but wasn’t satisfied.

The nonfiction prophecy writers either lack imagination or feel restricted from using it. They also tend to ignore continuity, by which I mean that they deal with the prophetic judgments in isolation. Their explanation of later judgments all too often ignores the lingering effects of the earlier judgments. In a way, fiction is actually more disciplined because it requires a storyline. Nonfiction is written in sections, and those sections are subject to internal contradictions and inconsistencies.

Fiction writers of prophetic events, on the other hand, tend to abandon scientific realism and even logic, forcing them to depend entirely on readers’ willingness to suspend disbelief. That’s okay for something that’s purely fiction, but as someone who believes the Bible is true, it seemed to me that there must be some way for prophecy to play out in the real world.

I’m not claiming that I’ve figured it all out. Only God knows how it will actually happen. But I have provided a unified theory of how the End Times could occur, such that everything in the scenario is internally consistent, scientifically feasible, sociologically and politically reasonable, and finally, within the realm of possible interpretation of Scripture.

WhereTheMapEnds: How was your first idea for a Christian speculative novel received (by anyone: spouse, friends, parents, agent, publisher, readers, reviewers, etc.)?

James BeauSeigneur: I knew before I started my first book that finding an agent and a publisher would be difficult. I had a friend from high school who was an agent, so I thought that might be my road into the business. I decided to draft the first ten chapters and outline the rest and then ask him to take a look. I promised my wife that, if the agent didn’t think there was a real possibility for publishing it, I’d drop the idea.

The agent loved it. At the time, I estimated that it would take about four months to finish the first draft. I was so wrong. It took about eight years and grew from one book into three. By the time I had finished the trilogy, my friend had died, and the agency he had worked for rejected it the same day they received it.

I tried for about a year to find another agent or publisher, but got nowhere. Unwilling to give up, I decided to self publish. It was five years later, after we had sold 40,000 books before an agent called me and then Warner Books decided they were interested.

WhereTheMapEnds: Wow, 40,000 copies of a self-published book. That’s remarkable. What is your favorite speculative genre to read? To write? If they’re different, talk about that.

James BeauSeigneur: I love time travel, even far-fetched time travel — as long as it’s not just a lame excuse to have modern characters fighting dinosaurs. I’ve given considerable thought to finding a plausible time travel storyline, but haven’t found it yet. Maybe in the future. :)

WhereTheMapEnds: Interesting. Our interview guest last month, Brian Godawa, also mentioned time travel as his favorite. I wonder if that indicates a niche in need of more literary exploration. Hmm...

So, what advice would you give to someone who aspires to write and publish Christian speculative fiction?

James BeauSeigneur: Unless you’re writing for your own enjoyment and that of a few friends, you’re not just writing a book: You’re going into business. It will require a lot of work that has nothing to do with writing.

Plan to self-publish. Unless you’re already famous or happen to know someone in the publishing business, finding an agent and then a publisher is extremely difficult. Even if you do find a publisher, they’ll do almost nothing to promote your book. They may even get in your way as you try to promote it yourself. With the advent of eBooks, you can publish and sell your books worldwide at almost no cost.

If you’re successful there, then consider adding print-on-demand (POD). But be careful. There are a lot of POD companies that are very difficult to work with. Several friends have highly recommended a company called Lightning Source. There may be other good companies out there, but all the other stories I’ve heard about POD companies have been negative.

If you don’t want to go POD, you can also do your own printing and fulfillment through any of scores of book printers. You should expect this to require an investment of a few thousand dollars and storage space, plus a significant investment of time. This is what I did originally. My basement became my warehouse.

As to what advice I’d give on writing Christian speculative fiction, I’d say to remember that you are representing Christ and His Church. In whatever you are called to do, make your product worthy of your calling. You are not responsible for the results, but you are responsible for the effort. Do it well.

WhereTheMapEnds: Huh. Last month's guest also hyped the advantages of today's POD technology. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not doing a bit of time-traveling right now!

That said, Lightning Source is one of the outfits I use for Marcher Lord Press. I used them exclusively at first, and I was very happy with them. Then I learned about Snowfall Press, who I’m using for most of the printing we do at MLP. They offer the same quality as LightningSource, but they’re less expensive, don’t have all those fees, and are a Christian company.

What’s the best part about writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?

James BeauSeigneur: I think for any writer, having people you don’t know (and therefore, who have no reason to lie) write to you and tell you that they enjoyed your creative work is a pretty great feeling. Close behind that, for me, is simply being able to read the story myself. When I start writing, I know the main points I need to convey in a scene, but the characters have their own personalities and points of view. I never know how the story might change as I give the characters free rein to act and interact. They sometimes take me in directions I never expected. That’s great fun.

But best of all for Christian writers has got to be getting letters and emails or even meeting people who have become Christians or more devoted Christians through reading our book(s). A young woman in Germany had been getting involved in New Age religions when she read my books, and she turned to Christ. Both she and her husband wrote to me, and when my wife and I were in Germany a few years ago, we met them and their extended family. Her mother-in-law told me they had been praying for her for years, and that I was an answer to prayer. Nothing can compare to that.

WhereTheMapEnds: How amazing! What writing project(s) are you working on now?

James BeauSeigneur: I’ve been working on a novel about the early days of Islam and the recent discovery of a lost version of the Qur’an. The chapters of the story alternate between the seventh century and modern times. The ancient story is almost entirely in accord with the early Islamic histories, which are amazingly detailed and colorful. I’ve added just a little to the historical record to hold the story’s events together. The modern story begins with the discovery of a lost copy of the Qur’an in Yemen (based on an actual discovery) and leads to a massive terrorist attack on Washington, DC.

WhereTheMapEnds: Wow. Sounds great, James.

That's All for This Time

Another terrific interview! Thanks again to James BeauSeigneur for stopping by. Be sure to visit him online.

Also, if you missed any of our previous interviews with other speculative authors, including Frank Peretti, Jerry Jenkins, Karen Hancock, Tosca Lee, and Ted Dekker, you can read them here.

Come back next month for an interview with another heavy hitter in the world of Christian speculative fiction.


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