A Conversation with Jimmy Root, author of Distant Thunder

Jimmy Root Jr., author of Distant Thunder: Book One of the Lightning Chronicles is a life-long student of Bible prophecy and has connected ancient prophecies with world events in a fast-paced fiction thriller. Jimmy has been an ordained Pastor since 1982 and has served churches in Nebraska and Missouri. He and his family also served for five years in Colombia, South America as a church planter and educator. He is an alumnus of Central Bible College of Springfield, Missouri, and Southeastern University of Lakeland, Florida majoring in Theology and Cultural Studies. Raised in the Mid-West, Jimmy is an outdoorsman and sports enthusiast. He is an aficionado of the military thriller genre and is an avid blogger as well as an author. More can be discovered about Distant Thunder and the Lightning Chronicles series by visiting his website at: www.lightningchronicles.com. He also hosts a blog dealing with current world events and their relationship to Bible prophecy at: www.prophecyalert.blogspot.com, as well as a writer’s blog at: www.lightningchronicles.blogspot.com.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Jimmy. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Jimmy: I would best describe myself as a regular guy, nothing extraordinary. But I find myself in an extraordinary profession, serving a church as a pastor. In this position, I am privileged to see the very best in people and help the reach their full potential as human beings. Writing is simply a part of the everyday life of a pastor. Everything from letters to sermons must be written weekly. You also have to be a storyteller. In those capacities, I have been writing for thirty years. However, it wasn’t until late 2007 that I actually set out to write a book. That book turned into three and I’ve loved every minute of it.
Can you please tell us about your recent book and why you wrote it?

Jimmy: Distant Thunder is the first book of a Prophetic Fiction trilogy called The Lightning Chronicles. The story poses a question that I believe needs to be asked: What would happen if radical terrorists somehow got their hands on tactical nuclear weapons, and then used them against both America and Israel? It is a frightening scenario that is becoming more and more plausible in light of current world events. But in the midst of unimaginable terror and tragedy, two unsung heroes rise to extraordinary heights as they begin to understand that everything has been prophesied.

Two main characters form the storylines of Distant Thunder. Moshe Eldan is an Israeli F-16 “Lightning” fighter pilot who is doing his best to defend his country against the latest cycle of attacks. Unbeknownst to him, the greatest horror imaginable is waiting in the form of a nuclear tipped missile. Moshe finds himself in an unlooked for journey toward faith as he attempts to save his people.

The other character is a man named Ty Dempsey. His story is a bit closer to home. He is a suburban Kansas City pastor who, in working through the grief of losing his younger brother to the war in Iraq, has begun to discover the ancient prophecies of Ezekiel. So enthralled is he by the information that he preaches the prophecies to his congregation. Some of his people listen and are interested. Others, however, do not want the status quo of their comfortable lives challenged by something they consider allegorical in nature. A good old fashioned church conflict ensues. Ty decides to stay the course in face of tremendous opposition and is ultimately vindicated when nearby Kansas City is the target of a terrorist attack. Moshe and Ty become connected throughout the story in strange, spiritual ways that will only increase as the series progresses.

What kind of research was involved in writing Distant Thunder?

Jimmy: The research for Distant Thunder took two very different tracks. The first involved the study of Biblical prophecy and how it relates to current events. This has been a life-long passion of mine, so that part of the research was easy. The second track was to research the military aspects of the book. It entailed everything from what it’s like to fly an F-16 in combat, to the various military assets belonging to countries in the Middle East. Though the book is not necessarily classified as a military thriller, the information is accurate and sufficient to bring the reader into the action of combat. Once the two tracks were thoroughly researched, building the storylines was relatively easy.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Jimmy: I admit I was absolutely clueless as to what is involved in finding a publisher. The dream of seeing your book in print is blissful. Making it happen is practically a nightmare. Many authors have come up against the odds and found it easier to go the route of self-publishing. I chose to persevere and continue to search until I found a traditional publisher willing to look at the work of a new, unknown author. Thankfully, I found that publisher.

I’ve been asked by other budding authors how many query letters I had to send out before I received a response worth looking into. That number approached two hundred and fifty. Most queries never received a response. The ones that did usually carried a nice note explaining that Distant Thunder did not fit into that particular publisher’s future plans. A few, thoughtful correspondents gave a word or two of encouragement, but most were simply form-letter rejections. However, three publishers finally bit on the book, two of which were traditional. I chose the one that fit my needs, and here we are today.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Jimmy: I sat down and began writing on December 2nd, 2007. I had a very vague outline and lots of wintery weather to start. The rough draft was finished exactly two months later. I presented the story to my son and some congregants in my church, and they were thrilled with what they were reading. Each made editorial suggestions that proved helpful. By March of 2008, I was seeking a publisher. But it wasn’t until late May that a contract was finally offered. From that point onward the process went relatively quick even though it was extremely thorough. Just fifteen months separated the signing of the contract to the release of Distant Thunder on August 10th, 2009.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

Jimmy: One of the first things I did was to search for an agent. Again, after dozens of queries, only one responded in the positive. As she did not fit what I was looking for in an agent, I decided to do the work of finding a publisher myself. However, I am not opposed to a future partnership with a good agent should that materialize.

Do you plan subsequent books?

A: Yes! My writing continues. The second book of the Lightning Chronicles series, A Gathering Storm, has been contracted and I am in the early stages of the editing process. In the meantime, I am putting the finishing touches to the final volume, Then Comes Lightning. Following the conclusion of the Chronicles, I plan to begin a historical fiction series on the life and times of Old Testament prophet Daniel. I have also stepped up my blogging by adding a site to encourage young writers. The response to both my blogs has been overwhelming, and I expect that to continue.

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

Jimmy: Anywhere I can sit upright and listen to a long list of movie soundtracks on my IPod. Mainly, my office has been the most productive location for writing. As my function as a Pastor is practically a 24/7 job, writing has to be fit into the schedule whenever and wherever I can.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

Jimmy: If I could, I would invest the money to multiply what I am currently doing by way of promotion. Much of putting the book of a new author in the hands of readers is by word of mouth and through internet buzz. This is exactly what I am doing now and enjoying every minute of it.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Jimmy: From what I am learning, self-promotion is not only the key to putting the book into the hands of the reader, it is imperative. I am currently in the process of creating awareness on the internet by blogging, commenting on related blog sites, and using affordable promotional avenues like Pump Up Your Book. Offline, self-promotion includes everything from taking advantage of every opportunity to sell and sign books, to speaking to groups large and small whenever possible. I have also found that if the story is worth reading, people naturally talk about it.

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

Jimmy: I think the odds are stacked against new writers in today’s market. Really, that is what it has become, a competition to market books. Hunting for and publishing good literary work seems to have been relegated to the past. As it is now, a few big-name authors hold most of the market, and that adds up to discouragement for new authors. You almost feel like David against Goliath. But we must remember that David won that battle. So can the new author.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Jimmy: First, stay true to your dream. It is easy to give up when things don’t seem to be falling into place. But perseverance will eventually pay off if your story is worth telling. Second, allow rejection to refine, not discourage you. My story really didn’t fit with everyone, but I knew that it was good. That was confirmed by the way people were responding to the rough draft. Be open to criticism and allow it to guide you toward growth as a writer. Then, be prepared for a whirlwind of activity once your story finds publication. Writing is the easy part. Publicity means work, work, and more work.

Thank you for your interview, Jimmy. I wish you much success!

Jimmy: Thank you, so much.

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