Q&A: Kenneth Zeigler (The Final Conflict)
Q: What were your goals writing the Tears of Heaven series?
Firstly, I hoped to take my own near death experience and turn it into something more than just a brief tale of personal adventure. I wanted to take what I learned and create an epic adventure story centered about a group of ordinary people under extraordinary circumstances. I wanted characters that ordinary men and women could relate to. Initially, in the book Heaven and Hell, these characters are a young married couple; Chris and Serena Davis who face their separate eternities following a terrible auto accident. I wanted people to know that our choices here on Earth have far reaching consequences. If attempting to scare people into the Kingdom of God is a crime I stand guilty as charged.
Secondly, I wanted to bring a new aspect to Christian fiction; Christian science fiction/ fantasy. Young people in particular are fascinated by books like the Harry Potter Series and the Twilight Series. In The Children of Eternity, the fourth book in the series, I have created a Christian adventure story set around four young people in Heaven who set out on a great adventure. They are endowed with incredible powers born of the Holy Spirit and face two challenges worthy of those gifts.
There is nothing boring about the Christian faith or stories about it. Nor are Christian people weak, poor souls at the mercy of the dark powers. They are endowed with power, up to the challenge posed by the principalities and powers that stand against them.
I want people to think of matters of faith in a different light. I want them to reevaluate their own lives and their decisions. I want them to realize that there is something better out there. If I succeed in this then my mission is accomplished.
Q: The Final Conflict is the fifth volume in the series. What can readers expect
from this installment?
My primary goal is to establish closure, to bring the characters from the previous books together in a final effort to defeat Satan, the enemy of humanity. Readers will also see a very different portrayal of the enigmatic two witnesses spoken of in the Book of Revelation. Many are convinced that they are two Old Testament prophets returned from the grave, but suppose this interpretation is wrong? Suppose they are more ordinary men but in extraordinary circumstances?
I invite my readers to get ready for a wild ride through the second half of the Tribulation. It is the time of the two witnesses, through whose eyes we view the crumbling world.The beast is certain of victory but he is in for a surprise.For this man is not the seemingly unstoppable force that he might imagine. Though the majority of the lost and misguided people of the world stand by his side victory is not his.This is not a world in which the only outcome a Christian can look forward to is their own martyrdom. It is a turbulent era of struggle and the outcome seems very much in doubt as the world inches toward the final conflict Armageddon.There are acts of bravery and heroism that will encourage the reader, and an ending that will put you on the edge of your seat.
Q:Who is your favorite character from the
My favorite character stands at the very center of the conflict.From humble and uncertain beginnings she slowly discovers herself and her potential.During the course of the series she becomes an inspiration to so many, a revered woman of courage, even a legend.Her faith moves fallen and discouraged angels to action, her love frees tormented souls, and her courage begins a revolt that will eventually change the face of the kingdom of evil.Her name is Serena. She is only a central character in book one and three but her influence is woven into the fabric of the entire series. Satan hates few people more than Serena.She is an obsession to him, a woman of God who stood up to him and led him to his inevitable defeat.One person can make a difference.In so many ways this is her story.
Q: How many more books will you add to this
This is the fifth and final book; with this book the Tears of Heaven series comes to an end.However, I am leaving open the possibility of a Children of Eternity Series branching off from book four -- in this case, book four of the Tears of heaven Series would also become book one of The Children of Eternity Series.
Q: What type of research do you do for your
First and foremost I make certain that my book adheres to the teachings of the Bible, though I openly admit that my interpretations sometimes diverge from the more classical ones.I often see subtle nuances in scripture that many might miss.I am after all a scientist, and my view of things tends to be a bit more analytical.I also study ancient manuscripts, though I tend to give them less weight than the books of the Bible.
When it comes to historical events around which my story is based I also check my facts.I want my storyline to conform to real history and not some variation of it.
Lastly I check my scientific facts.If the story is to be believable, it must be possible.For example, in my books I speak of a process called gating, a means by which persons move from one place to another without seemingly covering all of the distance between them.It involves what physicists refer to as a non-gravitationally induced wormhole.It may seem like pure fantasy but it is theoretically possible.
My whole life and my experiences are research for this book.My six years of study in chemistry and the sciences as a whole led up to its creation.
Q: Your books require a great deal of
imagination as you make the story come to life for readers.What fuels your imagination?Do you ever get stuck or do you find that you
always have ideas?
My imagination is fueled by the infilling of the Holy Spirit, an unbelievable near death experience, and a life filled with the goodness of God and His Son Jesus.Much of what is portrayed in Heaven and Hell in my books comes from that higher source.
But in a very real sense I’ve been a story teller since I was a child.I told stories on summer evenings by the fire at church camp.I spent countless hours writing stories, even as early as junior high.My senior English composition teacher encouraged me to pursue my gift in writing.
Elements of these early stories surface from time to time in my current novels.There have been times when my conscious mind has fallen asleep, yet some part of me continued to write on.I became aware of this the following morning when I read a part of a story that I have no recollection of writing.
As for writers block; there was one notable incident and it involves the current book.I had been playing around with the story for many months.I had two very different first chapters that seemed to lead nowhere.It didn’t matter, I had plenty of time, or so I thought.
It was then that I got the bad news from my doctor.After a battery of rather invasive tests it was determined that I had a serious and irreversible heart condition.The prognosis was not good.My first thought was not the one you might imagine.Facing my own mortality I came to the realization that I could not leave my book series incomplete.I had long viewed it as my life ministry.While on a book signing tour for my then new release The Children of Eternity, I became convinced that the next book had to be completed by June of 2013.But to do that my publisher informed me that the book had to be finished in 17 days.Clearly this was impossible.I told them to schedule it.They must have thought that I was crazy.After all, I’d hardly begun.I insisted.
On the train ride home I sat there in the lounge car for hours with my laptop computer trying to put the story together.On a cross country trip I barely put a chapter together and decided upon which of the two chapter ones was the real chapter one.Arriving home I faced two more days of writers block.I wasn’t going to make it.My ministry was going to be a failure.It was late at night with only 12 days left when the inspiration of the Spirit overcame me.I typed at speeds that were previously unheard of for me.I did so with virtually no errors.Most of the time I had no idea what the next paragraph would hold no less the next chapter.The characters had come alive like never before, seemingly acting as if they had wills of their own.
All the while my wife edited just a single chapter behind the one I was writing.I was amazed when my alternate chapter one slipped into the story line at chapter 13.On that Friday that was to be the due date I had a workable story.I think my publisher’s editor was surprised.But something was wrong.I lamented that if I’d only had a bit more time there would have been another chapter in the very depths of the book, a very moving chapter.She hesitated then gave me the weekend and two business days to finish.By Sunday the story was complete.My wife told me that it was the best thing I had ever written.The editor had to read it twice.Not that there were problems, but that she got so caught up in the story line the first time through that she had to do the editing the second time through.
So my writers block broke in a way that I could hardly have imagined.Now the work is done.As for my heart condition; the supposedly irreversible condition reversed inexplicably.That is to say inexplicably from a natural perspective.Perhaps the Father sought to give me a little bit of incentive to get the project done.Why?That remains to be seen.I look forward to the answer.
Q: What are some examples from the series where you drew elements from real life?
I drew key elements of Heaven and Hell from my own near death experience and from those of others that I considered credible. I also drew on the Bible and other credible ancient manuscripts such as The Apocalypse of Peter.
Immediately in the first book, the character Serena Davis stands out. In reality her story is based upon that of a real living person's harrowing life story. To be credible fiction must have a basis in fact. She is only one of several examples throughout the series. Each of the children of the Children of Eternity have lives based upon those of real people, some more closely than others.
The entire series is based upon my interpretation of the events of the end of days as portrayed in the Book of Daniel, in Revelation, and in so many other passages in the Bible. So in that sense it is all based on real life. As a scientist I see life and prophecy in a somewhat different light. I comprehend aspects of a vision that many people do not. They become images of familiar physical principles. A burning mountain from the heavens crashing into the sea and turning the waters bitter becomes a comet rich in ammonia and other primordial gasses entering the atmosphere at 50 miles per second. Heaven and Hell become all too real hyper-dimensional realms predicted by the Super String Theory.
Real life is at the very core of my books. Inspiration and imagination carry us from there.
Q: Which character in the series surprised you most?
There are rules to writing -- every English teacher will tell you that. In writing I violate most of the rules. Rule No. 1 is to develop a detailed outline of the book before you dive into writing it. Sometimes I really have a plan as to where I want the book to go. Unfortunately, my characters usually have other ideas. Many have been uncooperative, but there is one who stands out: David Bonner. He breaks all of the rules, gets himself into trouble, gets other people out, and when all is said and done, wins favor in the Father's eyes.
We watch him grow up through the books. He is a teenage genius in book one, Heaven and Hell. He comes up with wild conjectures and theories that even his oh so patient mentor, Johannes Kepler has serious doubts about. The thing is that he is usually right.
In the second book, The War in Heaven, we see him as a twenty something scientist who has nearly surpassed his mentor in brilliance and deductive reasoning. Yet like so many gifted young people his ideas and warnings are scoffed at until his detractors are compelled to come to him to fix the problems they created through their lack of insight.
He is brash, facing Satan down one on one within his own stronghold and then making good his escape along with the captured angel Gabriel utilizing totally untested concepts of space time distortion.
By book five, The Final Conflict, a 32 year old David is prepared to step into the fray again, only this time assuming the role of the most enigmatic character in the Book of Revelation. I wrote the vast majority of this book in the course of two weeks. There were times that I wasn’t sure what the next paragraph would bring. It was David who surprised me the most, doing absolutely radical things. He was the loose cannon that sank the enemy ship.
Q: What do you hope readers get out of the series?
More than anything I want them to walk away with a sense of hope. All too often, evil is portrayed as possessing all of the power, holding all of the cards. Even in the early books of the Left Behind Series I saw it. The Christians were on the run from the beast. No, that is not the way it works. Evil does not dominate the game of life, even in the end game. In The Final Conflict good stands toe to toe with evil, challenging it openly at every turn.
I want my readers to clearly understand this. The battle between good and evil is a battle, not a massacre. And understand this: There is no sitting on the sidelines, and no straddling the fence.
As Bob Dylan said, "You're gonna have to serve somebody. It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody." It is just that simple. The road to Hell is strewn with the bodies of those who had good intentions but never acted upon them. Don't be one of them.
You were bought for a price. Stand boldly for your Savior, proclaim to the world who and what you stand for. Jesus said that he who acknowledges Me before men, I will acknowledge before my Father in Heaven. In the end that is what matters, that and love. Love others as your Father in Heaven has loved you.
Q: What are you writing next?
I plan to develop a series of shorter works about Biblical prophecies and science. The first of these is already finished and is called Wormwood's Ambassador. There are more to follow.