The Last Saint – An interview with author J.R. Cooper

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Today we are chatting with J.R. Cooper the author of The Last Saint.

 

Tell us something unexpected about yourself?

My artistic endeavors began with music. I was a front man for a rock band for 10 years. We tried to get signed, make a career of it, and were very good, but never quite made it far enough to reach a critical mass. As things do, that part of my life faded away, and took my artistic outlet with it. That loss of creativity left a vacuum, a need to create something. Instead of songs, I began writing stories, which of course led to my writing of The Last Saint.

 

What novels affected you the most growing up?

I was always a great fan of big adventure stories. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Hatchet, Treasure Island, The Count of Monte Cristo. These were epic tales to me, that spanned far off worlds and the gravest circumstances. There was courage, and tenacity, and within them I found the romance of living outside of safety, was taught the danger of freedom, but also what awaits those who face there fear. I dreamed of one day being as bold as the characters in those books.

 

Where did the idea for your current book come from?

After years of studying and teaching apologetics, and Creation vs Evolution, and after the aforementioned band break up, there was a perfect storm of knowledge and the need to create. In Christian Fiction, post-rapture stories were popular, but there wasn’t much about the events leading up to the end, and I had my own ideas about how that would look. Early on I wanted a strong female character, someone who was empowered, and yet challenged by the danger and chaos she was perceiving all around her. The events had to take me on a journey like those novels of old, but they had to also be true to Christian doctrines. Often we have seen Christians portrayed as horrible people in literature and in film. I wanted to paint a truer vision of what reasonable, loving Christianity was, rather than this skewed Hollywood version of faith.

 

Do you think there’s any way you could ever run out of ideas for books?

Sure, I suppose the well of ideas can dry up from time to time. It isn’t something to be scared of though. I think ideas come from experience, and love, and emotion. In the band, it was always harder writing songs when life was content. The three basic conflicts, right? Man vs Man, Man Vs Nature, and Man vs Self. If there isn’t a premise for conflict, something you can latch on to that is salty enough, intense enough, if a writer struggles with contentment, then it is possible he/she would have to wait for that conflict to arise organically so that there is passion behind the idea. Sure, and idea can be forced, but that isn’t art. That’s fulfilling a contract.

 

What is your routine for writing and has this method changed over the span of your career?

I wrote my novel the same way I wrote lyrics to my songs. I would concentrate on an emotion or a setting, and then crank up the intensity. I would approach it manic, reveling in the emotions of a character in order to decide dialect and direction. After that, and the basic conflict was decided, I simply experiment forward, feel out how to get from one circumstance to the next. Most important thing for me is to take copious notes. I always have an alternate outline/notes page up, and if I get an idea, I bullet point it, so I can make sure it makes it into the story. A good plot is wonderful, but if you add in the details that render nice full characters, and have tied up loose ends that even your reader has forgotten about, it makes, in my opinion, for a much more satisfying journey.

How important is marketing and social media for you?

I have to say, I am embracing it. I understand why, in this day and age, it is so important. I have a lot to learn, and I, like most writers I’m sure, would rather gain kudos from the trade craft itself. But the truth is, it is simply another part of the writer’s journey, and not without its own reward. Relationships and dialogue with fans can be developed, and other opportunities to network with guilds, promoters, business people, and the like can be discovered, where as without social media, opportunities would have stayed unrealized. Plus, for me personally, I have a publishing company who has put there faith in me, and I owe it to them to market my book as well. It’s about doing honor to the blessings you’ve been given.

 

What advice would you have for other writers?

I don’t think at this point I am qualified to give advice to other writers. There is much I still have to refine. But I will say that there is a world full of joylessness out there. A world full of the anonymous negative, who hate that they have not risked, or that they have never tried, because they think if it doesn’t work out, if the world doesn’t make them ‘go viral’, it is tantamount to being nothing. Those people will attack, they will use the anonymity of the web, or the distance between your effort and theirs to berate and slander and cut down who you are. And I understand that not everyone has the self-confidence to face such a world. That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. But, as a man who has written songs I feared people would hate, and stepped on stage to sing when I knew that I wasn’t one of the vocally blessed, and written a novel half convinced I wasn’t qualified to write, I will say that following through is an awakening of self-discovery. Each show, or story, both the good and bad, has forced me to reflect upon my path, and honestly assess who I am and where my power lies to affect others for the better.

I would encourage you all to try and push the boundaries of those passions you love, those things you spend hours doing, perfecting, and to then put that love into the world. The world will never get better by taking from it, only by giving to it, and you all have something unique to give. Let it fly, and do your best to not just hear the negative joyless, but look beyond to the courage you have to love the world in a way only you could.

 

What are you reading now?

Right now my studies continue, and I am reading along with my Bible, Frank Turek’s “Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case.” And Gary Bates. “Alien Intrusion.” And for pleasure, I am re-reading my childhood favorite, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, but the unabridged version this time, which is adding an element to it that I must say has me positively excited.

 

What’s your next step?

We have pulled the trigger on releasing my novel, The Last Saint, and I will divide my time between marketing it, and finishing the first draft of my second novel, which I hope to have out in 2017. I find the premise to be extremely exciting, but it is a much different tone than The Last Saint. So I am studying a great amount, to not only get the science and theology correct in it, but also to develop my craft enough to keep the reader engaged using more subtle elements than action, such as tension, inner turmoil, and suspense. I love the challenge my new idea has brought me, and I hope that it is as rich and fun to read as my first. I hope those who have read this interview will follow me in that journey, and I look forward to finding out what God has in store for me.

 

The Last Saint by J R Cooper is available here 

 

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Introduction- The Last Saint

the-last-saint      The off-duty soldier finished the note, quickly shoving it
between the pages of a diary. A true paper journal, not
the holographic Sky-pad that left nothing sacred. Walking from the coffee shop, he noticed the pursuers for the second time
that day. When coupled with the recurring presence of the drone,
just a shimmer in the sky, it was obvious that this was not
random. Though he exemplified a casual stroll, his heart raced
nonetheless. Gaining distance without being conspicuous wasn’t
easy. They looked so strange, he thought. They were singularly
focused on him. They chose not to break cover in the crowd,
showing some semblance of logic and restraint, however
anything longer than a glance would prove that the twisted
creatures following Lincoln were not mere commuters. The
sporadic, twitchy movements and dead eyes challenged the
camouflage of normalcy. These two were off.
He slipped into the local post office. Waiting in line was a
toe-tapping, knuckle-cracking nightmare; each second felt like
days, but at least there was cover. He kept checking the
windows—glancing, watching for their status to change. Yet the
two followers were content to mill around outside and not draw
attention as they surveilled the building. Lincoln wondered what
type of confrontation they had in mind. If this was base he’d have
a 10 mm XM17 on his hip, and if running an op, full tactical gear,
Armor Survivability Kit, and Rail Rifle. But protocol in Jerusalem
during peacetime dictated foreign soldiers be unarmed within
the city. All that was left, then, was a mind no longer trustworthy.
The world had come loose from its moorings. Was the beginning
of the end imminent? The book had conjecture, yes. Supposition,
even. But it couldn’t possibly be the upstart this attention
suggested, could it? Unless he was onto something, and the diary
was striking too close to the truth for the powers that be to
ignore. The sluggish line finally ended at a counter where he
forced the diary into an envelope. Addressed to his wife, Olivia, it
T he off-duty soldier finished the note, quickly shoving it
between the pages of a diary. A true paper journal, not
the holographic Sky-pad that left nothing sacred. Walking
would ship out to their small condo in the states. She would not
understand it.

Olivia never believed as Lincoln did. He would come home
from church or from a class and start pouring out facts and bits
of trivia, only to see his wife’s eyes glaze over as if to say, “Here
he goes again.” She would almost roll them, but after many years
of eye rolls and witnessing the disappointment that followed, a
practiced gaze of empathy had been perfected. They found this
city, and uncovered that temple, and it all fits with the Bible… he
would explain, with Olivia counting down the seconds until
Lincoln jacked into the home’s office-hub to pour it all into his
book—his diary. The end of these enthusiastic monologues were
always met with a great sigh. Now, after seven years of marriage
broken up by three military tours, there was palpable spiritual
distance between the two. To feel emotional oneness and
physical compatibility only to be denied the spiritual closeness
he yearned for was frustrating. But he did love her. They kept
putting off the possibility of kids. She didn’t want to force God on
a child. Instead, did a child not deserve to grow up without the
mindset of the parents? To be free to think as he or she pleases?
Lincoln, conversely, passed all of his views and opinions through
a biblical filter, and there was no separating them. As time went
on, they had found it tougher to joke and be playful; tougher to
make financial decisions; tougher to agree on the social issues of
the day. Olivia always considered the Bible just a bunch of
stories, and it was baffling to her how an intelligent man like
Lincoln could buy into such ludicrous tales. But he was in love
with a fantasy, so she chose to navigate around it as if it were
merely an obsessive hobby. But it was changing him. Changing
them. There was enmity now, an invisible chasm that neither
could stitch together.

He practically flung the diary at the open mouth of the
mail-bot when departing the post office. The two unusual men
wasted no time reestablishing the tail, following Lincoln north
into the marketplace. They did a decent job blending with the
crowd, but their intensity escalated proportionately with
Lincoln’s speed. And adrenaline will certainly quicken the feet.

“I need my pistol.” As he spoke the words aloud, the gravity
of the situation bubbled over into fear. Deciding it was time to
take the chance, he blasted into a run like a bolt from a crossbow,
ducking through the shopkeepers’ alleyways and corridors. The
tail followed suit, and between breaths he heard their snarling.
Those wet, grotesque mouths. And did they file their teeth? Why
are they so pale? Another joined the chase, forcing the footrace
into a sprint that slipped past clothes racks and knocked over the
local street vendors’ food pyramids. The pretense was fully shed.
They were coming.

The army reserves had inspired an athleticism in Lincoln
that never left. So many miles logged—both running and
marching—so many iron plates lifted. He and Olivia excelled in
physical fitness and agility. On the spiritual battlefield things
weren’t always eye to eye, but their training had always been
magical. Olivia ran and kick boxed; Lincoln preferred climbing
and cycling. When they’d lift weights together, the healthy
competition was fierce. So, why were these pursuers gaining? He
was fit, strong, and able to perform at a moment’s notice. How
were these pale, wheezing figures closing ground? Digging for
every iota of physical prowess created no extra space. All speed
and screaming, like rabid animals, the creatures hurdled the
same carts and threaded the same lines of bystanders. Their
body types were not fit, but after blocks of running, none tired,
save Lincoln. And through it all, they howled the whole way.

Tight corridors in this sprawling mess of an ancient city
were almost impossible to navigate, even if one wasn’t in a
panicked dead run. For Lincoln, the decision to cut left down an
alley proved the last one he would ever make and brought a swift
end to his growing ministry. The old stone wall demised the alley
halfway down, preventing any chance of escape. The frothing
men that plowed beyond physical capability were immediately at
his back, celebrating the hopeless dead-end with fury through
burning lungs. Scanning the grounds for a weapon proved
fruitless, as the rooftops began to fill with more manic, pale
bodies. What had he uncovered? Lincoln turned to face the first
three, sweating and breathing through his mouth. Swimming
through his mind were hundreds of things he would never get to
do. Kiss Olivia again. Drive that Ford Scythe that he had his eye
on. Be a dad.

The possessed men got close, throwing their arms open
and spreading across the width of the alley while intermittently
rifling off shrill, piercing screams. It was like the sound of a train
grinding on its rails to stop. He could see their eyes now. Grayed
out. Dull, but focused. On him. Cracked lips pursed in savagery,
revealing teeth that were certainly formed for scaring, or tearing,
or both. A shriek descended almost on top of him, followed by
another, preventing focus in any one direction. They threw
themselves down from the roofs. The first body landed to his
right with a thud. The flat smack against the stone jarred and
severely winded it. It clawed the ground with great gasps, too
damaged to rise up. The second hit behind Lincoln with the
snapping sound of a large branch. That was its leg, no doubt.
Another jumped from a roof, landing behind the three in the
alley. The ones that had fallen were frenzied and bleeding. The
closest was a convulsing, writhing mess attempting to close the
gap by standing on its shattered leg. Lincoln smelled its rage and
frustration. The other wheezed and clawed along on its belly,
desperate despite how badly its body had been impacted. Lincoln
looked up as the rooftops filled. The drone had called in his
position. So many converging. Some were women. Some barely
more than children.

Lincoln harbored no delusions as the mob circled. This was
where his story ended. He fought the good fight, but was
overpowered in that lonely alley by sheer numbers and surreal
strength. Teeth sank in, elbows and fists rained down, damage
hailed from every direction. A torrent of strikes landed with
maddening force, taking his consciousness and filling his every
sense with thick destruction. His last thought before all went
black was of Olivia. But not in fondness. In worry. He muttered
his last words, “Please God, count her among your sheep.”

To order your copy, printed, or on e-book (limited time only $4.99) please go to amazon.com and order today! Please share intro with friends if you feel they would enjoy a fast paced Christian Fiction! Thank you and God Bless.

Lincoln and Olivia Fischer

(Back Story: The Last Saint)

“You don’t think it would be an amazing adventure?”

“I think it would be an expensive one, if that’s what you mean?” Olivia chided Lincoln’s attempt to entice her, and not for the first time, to consider a trip to Israel’s holy land. “It just isn’t in our budget, love. It’s output versus reward. At the end of the trip, we’d be $20,000 further from being in the black, and have 200 digital pictures in a file on our E-hub that we never look at.”

“You are looking at it wrong.” Lincoln set himself sternly facing her. He almost faltered against the glare he received, as she reacted to his insinuation. She was obstinate, surely, but from time to time, despite the deep love for his wife, Lincoln chose a battle to stand his ground. Their mutual respect for each other prevented catastrophic blow-ups, but with the self-control exercised by each, came the ratcheted-up, unresolved tension that could last days. “It isn’t just a vacation. It is part of history, of heritage. From that place grew almost every belief and law and value that this country used to hold dear. Most of that history you can’t even find anymore because of the Purge! It isn’t for the pictures. It’s to stand somewhere special!”

“I just got you back from overseas! Are you not somewhere special right now?!” Olivia wondered loudly.

“You mean, Tennessee?”

“No, you schmuck! Home! Here! With me!” Olivia about-faced and walked from the room, leaving Lincoln standing in their living room to consider her absence, and all that it implied. He heard the tires screech as she pulled from the garage, and as the engine reported back her growing distance from their condo, he sighed audibly, and collapsed back on their couch. “I guess I won’t be going to the gym with you then.”

Why was this so difficult, Lincoln wondered. Only back from military duty for a few days, and already the fondness caused by such a long absence had withered. “I should have known better than to bring up religion again.” It happened every time. Such a wall there; something so repellent towards his love of biblical studies.

Lincoln made his way to the study, calling to the house, “Lights at 35%.” They dimmed to his specifications as he slumped into the desk chair, dejected, and jacked in to the e-hub. “Pick up where I left off” The private journal file appeared on screen. This journal was kept off the Sky, the world’s cyber-drive. He could see at the lower right he had several more requests for the growing collection of material. The Purge had caused quite a demand within certain circles.

Lincoln Fischer focused his energy on research. Olivia would be gone awhile, and he could get a good bit done before trying to salvage the evening. It was an easy escape, a love of something mysterious and complex, that wanted to be discovered. But was Olivia not just such a mystery? So lovely, so full of fire.

Lincoln bowed his head at the desk, “Father, please help me to be a better husband. To find a way to love and respect my wife on terms she will understand. For us to find common ground, hopefully, eventually in spiritual matters, but not just that. Let her… please just let her see my love for her, in all I do; in my actions towards her. And please, help her to to see Christ in my life, and help it to soften her heart. She is so strong, and so brave, and I love that. But, Father, though she has these characteristics, I know deep down, she will need humility too. To finally see what I see; to be in awe of you, and in that new knowledge, realize her need for your grace. I don’t know… I don’t know what will… just help me Father, be who I need to be for her. Amen.” The screen was sleeping when he opened his eyes. Lincoln stood resolved to love his wife through this spat, and made his way to the kitchen to prepare a candlelight dinner.

(To find out the fate of Lincoln and Olivia, read The Last Saint by J.R. Cooper, out in only a few days on amazon.com or here at www.jrcooper.org available for pre-order now!!

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