Nikki Arana is an award-winning author who has two passions—writing and reaching out to Muslims. Her writing ministry has continued to grow since the 2005 release of her first book, The Winds of Sonoma, named “One of the Top 20 Books of the Year” by Christianbook.com. Nikki has received two American Christian Fiction Writers’ Women’s Fiction Book of the Year awards, the Excellence in Media Silver Angel Award, and the Beacon Award.
Her ministry to persecuted Christians, A Voice for the Persecuted, reaches out to those who are under the threat of death because of their faith. The Next Target, Nikki’s most recent novel, raises awareness for the need of safe houses in America.
What sparked your passion for writing? What was your first step on the journey?
My story is a little unusual. I never had a passion to write and never thought about being an author! It was May of 2001 when I first felt the tug of the Spirit, then a whisper, then a strong impression that got me to thinking about writing. I enrolled in an Internet course called Writeriffic. It was online so I did it at my desk at work as a real estate broker when I had a break. That teacher, Eva Shaw, really encouraged me. She said I should send out my writing for publication. I didn’t know how to do that, so I bought some books and followed the directions and send out my homework. I sold everything I sent out!!
I thought it was fun and easy and I’d always liked to write poetry. So I bought some books and found out what kind of poetry publishers wanted. Free verse. I didn’t know how to write free verse . . . so I took an online class from the University of Washington. I sent out my homework and sold it. Here and in Canada.
When I started selling things, I was asked for a bio. I didn’t have one because I’d never written anything. So I decided I should join some clubs. I went online and found the Idaho Writers League had a local chapter in CDA. I joined and went to my first meeting in June of 2001. At that first meeting I found out that they had a section where you read your work. I read a story I’d written about two brothers going to a wrestling tournament. Write what you know, they’d told me. One of the ladies there said, “You know I think that’s good enough for the state contest.” So I entered. I won second place.
I wrote some more magazine articles and poetry.
In March of 2002, I began to feel the Lord was calling me to write a book. So I bought about ten books on how to write a novel and then sat down at my computer and started. In May I became aware of a writers conference in Seattle that only cost $99, and I could drive there. I read in the brochure that the Acquisitions Editor for Tyndale Publishers of the Left Behind series would be there, and if you wanted, you could be part of a group interview. You’d have three minutes to pitch your book. I only had three chapters written, but I knew where my story was going. But how do you pitch a book? My dad had given me Publishing for Dummies when I started writing, so I went to it and found a page on how to write a synopsis . . . so I did. I went to the Seattle conference, pitched my book in three minutes, and was asked by the Acquisitions Editor to submit the first four chapters to Tyndale. So I went home, wrote the fourth chapter and sent it in. That led to a request for the full manuscript.
With a request for a full manuscript, I got an agent, Natasha Kern, who is still my agent today, and she ended up getting me a three-book contract with Revell. That was the beginning of my career.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
Boy, has he ever. God was blessing my socks off and assuring me that He had called me to write. At least that’s what I thought . . . until 2008 when I began to write my fifth novel, The Next Target . . .
The economy had begun a downward spiral. CBA was looking to broaden their appeal by moving toward fiction written from a Christian worldview rather than the transformational fiction I was known for that deals with tough issues and is overtly Christian. The subject of this fifth novel was evangelizing Muslims. You can’t get much more evangelical and overtly Christian than that!
Though my previous books had won many national awards, suddenly their sales were not so stellar in the slowing economy, and my once-rising star began to dim. My agent found she couldn’t sell my manuscript. The topic, Muslims, engendered fear in some and disdain in others. In some cases, publishers offered a contract if I would write something else. But I knew the Lord had called me to write about the need for safe houses for Muslims in America who convert to Christianity.
This marked the beginning of a four-year journey in the desert. I won’t go into all of it here, but it was a huge detour that had it not been God ordained would have marked the end of my writing career. I wrote about it recently on my blog. The post is call “Encouragement for Writers.” If any of you are facing a struggle with wondering if you are called to write, please read it and the comments other writers made.
As a result of that detour I learned many, many things about God and His call on my life. I’m not called to write. I’m called to intimacy with Him. My writing is the fruit of that relationship.
How does your faith play into your writing?
My faith and my life experience are a big part of my writing. I write transformational fiction.
Here’s what the book is about: Austia Donatelli, a young widow with an underground evangelistic ministry to Muslims, discovers a friend, someone close to her heart whom she recently led to Christ, has been murdered. She realizes immediately it was an honor killing. The brutal practice of families killing one of their own for converting to Christianity. Suddenly, Austia, her ministry, and everyone she cares about are thrust in the crosshairs of a terrorist organization. As the extremists zero in, she must unravel the deception surrounding her and protect innocent lives, including her own.
The reviews of this novel have been very strong. I was especially happy to get a rave review from Publishers Weekly, which is not a Christian organization. “Arana’s vivid imagery is imbued with spiritual force and her pacing is fiercely powerful.” I’m pretty confident that if you like suspense, you’ll really enjoy this book. You might want to put on your seatbelt while reading.
What was the inspiration for it?
The story was inspired by my ministry, A Voice for the Persecuted. I help persecuted Christians who are under the threat of death . . . here in America! That is code for Muslims who convert to Christianity. I help them find safety. You can learn more about my ministry at http://www.avoiceforthepersecuted.com. There’s a Cause page on FB too, if you have a heart for the persecuted, please “Like” it.
I felt God was calling me to raise awareness about two issues that are at the heart of my ministry. One is the need for Christians to reach out to the Muslims who live and work among us, model the love of Christ to them, and then with the leading of the Holy Spirit, give them what Islam can never give. And the second is about the huge price Muslims pay to know Christ. Most I’ve talked to live under persecution by their former friends and family. Most have no jobs because they live in a Muslim community and are shunned. And of course there are those who have been deported and/or killed.
God often uses our stories to teach us when we’re writing them. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?
The tagline of the book is Would you share your faith if it would cost you your life? I chose that line after writing the book, and there is a very important reason I did that. There is a deep spiritual truth that that line will reveal to the believer who really ponders what it means. (smile) In a way, it is a riddle. I’m going to write about it on my blog soon, so I won’t reveal it here. For every true believer, the answer lies within the question.
The things I learned from writing this book I described in detail above. It was a difficult journey. But so worth it. There is nothing more valuable than spiritual growth. But after a growth spurt I always think to myself, I praise Him for that, but had He asked me if I wanted to go through it, the answer would have been NO!
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Hmmm. I would say my favorite comfort food is thick, creamy soup. But my favorite food to eat any time is Asian food.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
When my youngest son graduated from high school I decided to do some of the things I’d always wanted to do, but never had time for. The first thing I did was take piano lessons. I LOVED it. I took for two years and advanced to the level that I could play some of the beautiful pieces like Clair de Lune. I had a baby grand piano in my living room and it fed my soul to play. But one of the persecuted Christians I was helping in the Middle East needed money for food and shelter. I sold the piano and sent him the money. I so hope that one day God will return a piano to me!
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
I love pretty much all music. I think I would have to be a gospel song. The kind that gets you clapping and raising your hands.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
I am definitely the strong, female lead. I am very driven and goal oriented. That is both a blessing and a curse. But it is how God made me. And I do believe that He knew I would need those qualities to serve in the ministry He gave me.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
I have to tell about a cat named Channo. We had a persecuted Christian living with us and he got a cat. A free barn cat. The cat was part Siamese and part human. I’m sure of it. He did everything he saw us do. If we opened a cabinet. he would watch and then do it. If we got our medicine out of it, he would wait until we left the room then open it, and knock the pills off the shelf to the counter. Really! He would hide around corners and when we passed by he’d leap out and grab our legs. I mean both front “arms” locked around our calves. Then let go, tear down the hall and out of sight. He was a four-legged human. He’d use his front paws like hands to eat. One day we watched him sit at his food bowl. And instead of crouching down to eat . . . he took his left paw and scooped up some food and put it in his mouth!! It was hysterical. We loved him so much. But he moved with his owner and helped him start his new life.
Thanks, Nikki! It’s nice to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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