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Jack Cavanaugh

Former pastor-turned-writer Jack Cavanaugh has written a number of historical fiction novels and is the co-author of the Great Awakenings series. In this interview Cavanaugh describes his spiritual journey as a series of ongoing personal awakenings and explains how his calling to serve came first through preaching and now through writing. Read on to learn more about his interest in national revivals and how his prayers were answered by finding the opportunity to write about that subject matter with a colleague, Dr. Bill Bright.

Jack Cavanaugh Answers The Faithful Fifteen

MAY 2006

Writing Could you give a brief summary of your latest book?

Jack Cavanaugh: Here's a brief summary of STORM:

First-year student Asa Rush isn't surprised that he's one of a handful of Christians on campus. After all, he's been recruited by President Timothy Dwight to help bring revival to the school. Once a bastion of faith, Yale is now a hotbed of atheism…following on the tails of the popular French revolution.

Fellow student Eli Cooper is determined to make Asa's life miserable…especially when both men fall in love with the sensuous, wealthy, and mysterious Annabelle Byrd. Just when Asa thinks things can't get worse, Dr. Dwight charges Asa with a shocking commission that shakes him to the core --- bring the man who is your greatest enemy to the Lord.

As America, barely two decades old, faces its first divisive presidential election, voters arm themselves in anticipation of the outcome. Asa and Eli are caught in the eye of the storm. Is the battle political or spiritual? Will the nation choose revolution or revival? And when the winds subside, who will be left standing?

FR: What role does faith have in the book? What inspired you to write it?

JC: Desire for national revival is not only the theme of the Great Awakenings series, it's what brought Dr. Bright and I together to write the novels. As a writer of historical fiction, for years I'd wanted to tell the story of our country's great revivals. When Dr. Bright contacted me and said he wanted to do a series on revivals, both of our prayers were answered.

FR: What do you feel your calling is as a writer?

JC: When I was a junior in high school God called me to communicate the gospel --- first as a preacher, and then as a writer. Whether in sermons or novels, I have had a single theme: God's ways are always best.

FR: Who are your favorite authors and mentors? How have they influenced your work?

JC: All of us who are writing Christian fiction owe a debt of gratitude to Janette Oake, Brock and Bodie Thoene, and Frank Peretti for opening the door for us. Among my mentors, those who have greatly inspired me are some of the great masters; among them, the writings of C. S. Lewis and John Milton's PARADISE LOST.

FR: Do you have any favorite stories of encounters with readers?

JC: GLIMPSES OF TRUTH is one of two books I wrote that were set during a time in England when it was against the law to own or even read an English version of the Bible. The penalty for doing so was death. These novels portray Christians risking their lives to secure our privilege to read the Bible in English. One reader, a woman who owns a bookstore, told me she finished reading GLIMPSES, set it down, looked at all the Bibles on her shelves, and wept. When I read her letter, I thought, "Bless you! You got the message!"


FR: Tell us about your personal faith journey.

JC: Raised in a Christian family, I came to know the Lord at a young age. My spiritual life is a good example of God's grace of sanctification through a series of personal awakenings --- at a Billy Graham crusade as an adolescent, at summer Bible camp when I discovered personal Bible reading, through a call to ministry in high school, and through a challenge to write in seminary. Most recently, I have been rediscovering the joy of prayer.

FR: Who are your spiritual mentors?

JC: My pastor in high school, Rev. Edward Burgess, was influential in my call to ministry. In seminary, several of my professors challenged me both with the content of their teaching and the example of their lives. Since then, my mentors have been voices from history --- the recorded sermons of history's great preachers and the writings of great Christian men. My 3,000-volume library is my most precious possession.

FR: What is your current church community involvement?

JC: Having recently moved in order to care for my elderly mother, we are currently settling in to a new church. Now that I am writing full-time and no longer pastor of a church, I enjoy teaching Bible classes, supply preaching, and singing in the choir.

FR: What are your Scripture reading habits? Prayer habits?

JC: Bible study has been my passion for decades. Time flies when I study scripture. There is little I enjoy more than translating and doing word studies. As for prayer, the older I get the more precious prayer has become to me. I'm living the old hymn: "Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer, that bids me from a world of care; and calls me to my Father's throne…."

FR: If you had one message for Christians today, what would it be?

JC: "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." (Philippians 4:5) And pray for national revival. God has swept our country with spiritual renewal before, He can do it again.


FR: Tell us about your family. Spouse? Kids?

JC: I have been married for 33 years to a woman who has been my constant companion and support. Marni and I have three grown children: Elizabeth, 27, is a police dispatcher in Iowa and a gifted writer; look for a novel from her in the coming years. Keri, 25, is a police dispatcher in San Diego, CA and is a gifted vocalist. And Sam, 23, is an actor who performs at Disneyland and in Southern California theaters.

FR: Do you and your family have any special traditions?

JC: We have a close family who loves getting together. Several times a year we gather together to celebrate birthdays and holidays --- my brother, sister, and their families. As our children have grown and moved away, they tell us what they miss most are the family celebrations. My son recently drove two hours each way just to spend little more than an hour with us at our Easter gathering.

FR: What are some of your favorite hobbies and activities?

JC: The good news about writing novels full-time is that God has given me the desire of my heart. I used to dream about being able to write fiction for a living. The bad news is that there is little time for anything else. If I'm not writing fiction, I'm reading fiction and researching material for the next book.

FR: What are your media habits? Television? Movies? Music? Etc.?

JC: With children in the theater, it should come as no surprise that we enjoy attending the theater. Southern California has many venues, several of which take advantage of the ideal summer climate with outdoor performances.

FR: What excites you about life?

JC: Learning. There is nothing I enjoy more than reading and studying and learning. I prefer taking college classes to watching television. I'm particularly interested in literature and seeing how other authors of faith communicate spiritual truths through stories.

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Current Titles

STORM (1798-1800, Yale Revival)
Bill Bright & Jack Cavanaugh
Howard Publishing
Historical Fiction
ISBN: 1582294933

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Upcoming Titles

FURY (1825-26, Second Great Awakening)
Bill Bright & Jack Cavanaugh
Howard Publishing

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American Family Portrait Series:

  • THE PURITANS (England to America) Victor, 1994
  • THE COLONISTS (Colonial America) Victor, 1995
  • THE PATRIOTS (Revolutionary War) Victor, 1995
  • THE ADVERSARIES (Civil War) Victor, 1996
  • THE PIONEERS (Going West) Victor, 1996
  • THE ALLIES (World War I) Chariot-Victor, 1997
  • THE VICTORS (World War II) Chariot-Victor, 1998
  • THE PEACEMAKERS (1968/Vietnam) Chariot-Victor, 1999
African Covenant Series - Out of Print
Book of Books Series
  • GLIMPSES OF TRUTH (Wycliffe Bible) Zondervan, 1999 - Out of Print
  • BEYOND THE SACRED PAGE (Tyndale Bible) Zondervan, 2003
Songs in the Night Series
  • WHILE MORTALS SLEEP (Bethany House, 2001)
  • HIS WATCHFUL EYE (Bethany House, 2002)
  • ABOVE ALL EARTHLY POWERS (Bethany House, 2004)
The Great Awakenings Series (with Bill Bright)
  • PROOF (1857-58, Prayer Revival) Howard, 2005
  • FIRE (1740-41, Great Awakening) Howard, 2005
  • STORM (1798-1800, Yale Revival) Howard, 2006
  • FURY (1825-26, Second Great Awakening) Howard, Fall 2006
DEATH WATCH (with Jerry Kuiper)
  • DEAR ENEMY (Bethany House, 2005)
  • POSTMARKED HEAVEN (Devotional) Revell, 2002 - Out of Print

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