A conversation with bestselling author Joel Rosenberg is fascinating in itself, but when one considers his path to that bestselling status, the whole thing becomes a powerful lesson for aspiring writers: You don’t have to follow the crowd.
As was discussed in this space last week, Rosenberg began his status as a publishing franchise by working some deluxe contacts. From there, it all depended upon talent.
As the new century dawned, most Americans were still blissfully unaware of the sinister threat emerging from Islam. The dreadful events of Sept. 11, 2001, forever changed that.
Joel Rosenberg, from his first novel, “The Last Jihad,” seemed to possess an uncanny facility for seeing unfolding events ahead of time. By the time “The Last Jihad” was released and in the system, Americans were scrambling to understand the strange views of Mideast jihadists who seemed to emerge from the sands of time.
For his part, Rosenberg began to marshal his geo-political knowledge and his writing ability. The result has been a string of huge sellers.
So, picking up where we left off last week, agent Scott Miller read what Rosenberg sent, and the fledgling author remembers vividly what happened next:
“He read it, said, ‘This is great! Send the rest,'” Rosenberg recalls. “Well, there was no ‘rest,’ I was just spit-balling here! So Scott told me to finish the rest as soon as I could, because if it held up, he felt we wouldn’t have any trouble getting a book contract.”
The three chapters Rosenberg submitted involved a plot in which Islamic “kamikazees” attack America. The prescience of the project continues to amaze.
Indeed, they did not have trouble landing a contract. Rosenberg has been busy at the keyboard ever since. Following his initial blockbuster were “The Last Days,” “The Ezekiel Option,” “The Copper Scroll,” “Epicenter,” “Dead Heat,” “Inside the Revolution” and “The Twelfth Imam.” Rosenberg insists he is no prophet; rather, he studies Bible prophecy and then applies it to the modern world.
He does, however, use his wits and keep an eye out for geo-political realities:
“In January 2002, I was watching the State of the Union address, and heard the president say how Iraq might be seen as a threat,” Rosenberg remembers. “Suddenly, that changed everything, because the country was now thinking we might go from a kamikazee attack to a war with Iraq.”
He began to see that his stories dovetailed with such a scenario.
“Other writers of thrillers had to wake up on Sept. 12 and process what had just happened,” Rosenberg says. “I happened to have, for whatever reason, a foreshadowing of where this was all heading.”
In other words, Rosenberg had a leg up on the hottest story of our age.
Today, the mega-selling author has settled into a routine of writing thrillers; the rewards that come with that enable him to practice his craft.
“I begin my writing day at 10 a.m. and write through to about 4. I do phone calls and emails before and after that,” he explains. “I also run a non-profit organization called The Joshua Fund, but I try to hold that time from 10 to 4.”
Does he remember the moment when he realized, hey, this could get really big?
“The moment was on the day I appeared on the Hannity & Colmes Show,” he recalls. “I had not been on radio in my life, and certainly had not been on national television. I knew Sean, but I didn’t know Alan [Colmes], and Alan leaned over and said, ‘My producer tells me you’ve never been on national television … is that right?'”
Rosenberg took a deep breath and acknowledged that no, this was new for him. “That wasn’t normal for their show, but I said, ‘Yes, that’s right,’ and then it was three, two, one!”
The weight of this moment in his writing career hit himwhen Hannity leaned over during a break and said “The Last Jihad” (which had been ranked No. 2.3 million on Amazon that morning) was now No. 9 on Amazon. Rosenberg had earlier in the day been on Hannity’s radio program, so that leap is an indication for authors just what publicity can do!
“It was just enormous to me … the power of media,” Rosenberg says.
He did 160 radio and television shows within two months.
Rosenberg is also unique in that his fame as a proponent of Bible prophecy teaching comes from not being marginalized as a “fringe” thinker. He has avoided some of the stereotypes that have victimized others.
“There’s been an enormous amount of interest [in Bible prophecy]. I was on Glenn Beck, and he said, ‘I want us to talk about Bible prophecy.’ You know, that’s abnormal,” Rosenberg says. “I then went to Capitol Hill and have had opportunities to visit with other leaders. I’m intrigued by the fact that with so much happening in our world, more people in leadership are interested.”
In the end (bad pun intended), Joel Rosenberg succeeds on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that he blazed new trails and has done it with quiet and humble confidence. As a writer, he follows a higher leading and lets the chips fall where they may.
He’s gone mainstream, but in a good way! The publishing world is the better for it.