LATEST work: The Third Target (9781414336275, $26.99, January).
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House Publishers.
What is the premise of your new novel, The Third Target?
The premise is very simply, but also—to me, at least—terrifying: What if ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] acquires chemical weapons? Today we know that ISIS leaders are currently trying to bring down two governments in the Middle East—that of Iraq and Syria. I wanted to explore this question: Whom might ISIS go after next? What is the third target? The United States, Israel or some other country altogether?
What type of character is J.B. Collins?
J.B. Collins in an award-winning and highly respected New York Times correspondent. Primarily focused on national security affairs, he covers terrorism and has reported from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s in his mid-40s. Single. Hard-charging. Very competitive. Cultivates great sources. And for all those reasons, he’s willing to take enormous personal risks to pursue a story.
Why is Tyndale releasing this novel three months earlier than planned?
I began developing the idea for The Third Target in the winter of 2013. ... I remembered Tom Clancy once saying that the New York Times, for all its flaws, is one of the world’s most effective intelligence-gathering agencies. That intrigued me, and I began playing with the idea of creating a new series around an American foreign correspondent who is essentially an intelligence operative, but one who openly publishes what he learns for the world to read and doesn’t write top-secret reports that remain within the intelligence community.
The challenge was that when I first began writing, no one at Tyndale had ever heard of ISIS. Actually, most people in the world hadn’t heard of ISIS at that time. But by the time the manuscript was finished, ISIS was the number-one story in the Middle East. They were gaining so much territory in Syria and Iraq and becoming such an enormous threat that everyone was talking about ISIS. President Obama, who only months before had said ISIS was a “jayvee”-level terrorist group, was now declaring war on ISIS. And given how fast ISIS was moving, the executives at Tyndale thought maybe we’d better get the book out before the events I wrote about fictionally were overtaken by real life.
Whom did you interview for this book?
Two former directors of the CIA, a former director of the Mossad—Israel’s intelligence agency—as well as several very senior officials in an Arab government.
What helped you to be able to communicate the thinking of radical Islamists?
I talked to a lot of experts who have spent their lives hunting down, arresting and even killing radical Islamic terrorists. I specifically met with people who know ISIS, who knew its forerunner, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). In addition, I interviewed people who used to be terrorists and have since had dramatic conversions and have become followers of Jesus Christ. My conclusion is that ISIS is far more dangerous than al Qaeda ever was. This is not just an evil band of men. These are Satanists. They are genocidal, and God forbid they ever get their hands on weapons of mass destruction.
This story seems chillingly plausible. Do you sense you have a gift of prophecy at work in your fiction?
It could really happen. And I think that’s what draws people to my novels, that sense that these stories could be ripped from tomorrow’s headlines. That said, I don’t ascribe to a gift of prophecy. I write about geopolitical events and how they could lead to the fulfillment of biblical prophecies, and I do a lot of research to try to make each book as realistic and as plausible as possible.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I’m trying to use fiction to get people to focus on the truth, spiritual truth like in a world of evil and terrorism: Do you know where you are going when you die? And geopolitical truth, like the fact that ISIS poses a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States and our allies in the Middle East, and if we don’t take decisive action to crush them, they will hit us with genocidal force.
Too many leaders in Washington are exhausted by all this talk of war and terrorism in the epicenter. They want it to all be over. But Bible prophecy tells us wars and rumors of war and revolutions in the Middle East won’t end until Christ returns. Instead, they will get worse and worse. So we must stay on guard against great evil, lest we be blindsided by it. I’m deeply concerned that the president and his national security team are in over their heads. I don’t think they understand just how serious a threat we face.
Will you continue this story?
Lord willing, The Third Target is the first of a series. As far as I am aware, this will be the first novel about ISIS ever published. Let’s just pray none of it comes true.