Occasionally, at Partners in Prayer for Our Prodigals, I participate in Blog Tours. Often, the authors I have chosen to highlight have written books that offer strength and hope for each of us as we stand in the gap for our prodigals. Most fall in the category of non-fiction writing with applicable tools and spiritual enlightenment for our prayer journey.
"THE CALLING" caught my eye the moment I unwrapped the book. Written by Jacob Israel, I was immediately intrigued by the book cover as well as the author's pen name.
Jacob Israel is unlike many authors we meet today. His compelling writing style brings the reader along a fantastic journey that may stay with them for many years to come. I was excited to spotlight him here and I believe you will find, like his book, there is more to Jacob Israel than meets the eye.
For the readers who don't know you, tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm a father to three amazing children and a husband to a wife I adore. I'm someone that has been through a lot in life and grateful for every moment of it. The good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly, all paved the way to become who I am.
Professionally, I'm an Emmy, Telly, and N.R.B. Award winning television writer and producer, who has been blessed with a steady creative career since graduating university. However, that is not who I am.
Most my life, I was one of those people who wore a mask to fit in. I felt very alone, alienated from those around me. Looking back, I understand why. Everything I've endured had great purpose. Never meeting my biological father, coping with a severe case of Crohn's disease, suffering abuse and abandonment, losing everything, it all played its part to humble me and get me where I am today. I spent the majority of my life questioning the meaning of it, learning that it is better to love than to hate, to give rather than receive, to be content and compassionate.
As a young adult, I was most comfortable on stage. I won a dramatic scholarship to university and that is where I found my love for the written word. It would be years, and many performances of my originals works later, that would I actually dare pursue a career in writing.
Today, I couldn't be happier with that career choice, I am constantly challenged and rewarded by it. There is nothing better than sitting down to write something that, you pray, will make a difference in someone's life. This was the impetus for my novel.
Let's talk about that, why did you write THE CALLING?
I wanted desperately to share a story of how love and forgiveness can overcome all things, even the most horrible. I had to write THE CALLING. I believe I was meant to write it. I had the seed of the story burning inside me most my life, but it wasn't until devastating circumstances in my life about four years ago made it possible for me to sit down and write it.
It was a very dark and hard time, but a lot of beauty rose from those ashes, and I would not trade that experience for anything. It's the reason I chose such a dark and fearful cover. There are too many things in life keeping us from following after our dreams and finding peace. Fear is the enemy of joy. It destroys relationships, hopes, families… it destroys lives. Allegorically, that is why the woods in THE CALLING are dead.
I wanted to write something that would provoke thought and encourage readers to move past fear and into faith, to seek the life I believe we're meant to live while keeping them guessing and entertained along the way.
You mentioned allegory, some have compared your novel to The Shack and Pilgrim's Progress; is that a fair comparison?
Well, I hope it is. I can only pray it has a positive impact on those who read it. As far comparing it, that wouldn't really be up to me. But, yes, there is a story beneath the story that is told. So, in that aspect, sure, there are similarities.
For years, I have studied scripture as well as many other philosophies and religious texts. Of course, the Bible has been my biggest creative influence, not to mention the spiritual. I love the revelation one receives when the heavens of our understanding open up and we finally understand what that verse (that we couldn't understand) finally means. "It is glory of God to conceal a thing, and honor of Kings to seek out the matter.”
In my novel, there are many hidden treasures for those with "eyes to see" if you will. Although, there is no need to look deeper, because I believe the message, intrigue, and suspense are loud and clear. It still is very rewarding, I think, to find the more veiled spiritual meaning but that's up to the reader. From anagrams, to events, locations, names, to the title of the book, and even (clears throat) the author's name, there is a reason for it all. Like, for examples sake, if one were to string every chapter title together, it might be cool if there were a hidden message there, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
What does the title of the book mean?
Well, I believe all of us have a calling on our lives, a purpose we are to carry out. Thomas James, the lead character in the novel is no different. His purpose is a bit grander than most, however. He doesn't truly understand the significance of what he is called to do. The novel documents the first eighteen years of the boy’s life. He's haunted by nightmares of what may come, visited by strange messengers, abused, alienated, and abandoned, yet despite his circumstances he has an uncanny ability to love and forgive. Thomas is ever questioning the role he is to play and his circumstances. Perhaps, Thomas was "called" to be that "voice in the dead woods" the title speaks of, calling people out of the deep sleep that keeps them from finding out who they truly are.
You mention the first eighteen years of Thomas's life, the book does lend to a sequel; will we hear from Thomas again?
Sure, THE CALLING is the first novel in a series. Before the Prologue you'll find two pages with two peculiar quotes. One states, "Your life is not what it appears to be, what will happen when the truth is poured out on a world that is deceived?"
What is interesting about this passage is, it is credited to "The Book Of Thomas James" in the year 2012.
Most may skim past passages like this, but like I said, there's a reason for everything. So keep your eyes peeled for the next book in the series to released in the next year or two.
Who will this book appeal to?
First of all, let's talk age appropriate. I am excited to hear how varied the ages are of those who love the book. I'm most surprise with those age twelve and up. I wanted the book to appeal to a large demographic. So, to have a younger generation also excited about an allegorical fiction with a mature spiritual message and theme is a dream come true.
As far as, what type of person should read THE CALLING, I believe anyone who is not fulfilled in life, who wants more from entertainment than just escape, anyone who has suffered, or experienced great loss and didn't understand why. I think, whole heartedly this is the book for you. You will relate with Thomas's struggle, you will be encouraged by what comes out of it, and inspired by how anything is possible with faith and love.
So, Jacob--what exactly is THE CALLING: A VOICE IN THE DEAD WOODS about?
THE CALLING is an inspirational thriller about a twelve-year boy named Thomas James, whose extraordinary insight and purpose changes the lives of those he meets, and sets the world on its edge.
The self absorbed, greedy, and arrogant residents of Bethel begin to despise young Thomas James for the honest words he speaks. His peers torment him, strange messengers visit him, and an evil presence fights to destroy him every step along the way.
Thomas suffers from prophetic nightmares and visions he does not understand. The loss of his family is almost more than he can take. His internal struggle to make sense of his circumstances leads him down a perilous road, where nothing is as it seems.
Soon, the startling revelation of who Thomas James truly is will confound the masses and inspire all those he sets free.
You have to find out what is in us all that makes us heed the "Calling".
Where is the book available and how do we find out more about it?
You know my website is a great place to start. It is http://www.jacobisrael.org/ and it has video trailers, a synopsis, sample chapters, reviews, links to purchase it online and general info about upcoming events, news, etc. I also do a bi-weekly video journal posted in the author section. Like the book, I hid messages, inspirational poetry, and lots of other fun stuff to find on the web site. The book is available everywhere books are sold, if you can't find it at your local bookstore, see if they can order it for you, and if not, all the major online retailers, from amazon.com to target.com carry it as well.
In closing, what do you want the readers of THE CALLING to take away from this book?
Obviously, I hope they enjoy it and are entertained. However, the most important thing to me is that, those who read it will find that even in the hardest, and most difficult of times, there is hope. Hope…that is what I want people to take away from this book.