I’ve asked J.R. Duren to drop by today. He’s written a book about men- from scientists, artists, presidents and missionaries- who have inspired others, to live boldly like lions. I love reading biographies and hope you will check out his book, Living Like Lions. It’s a perfect gift for the man in your life.
-Tell us a bit about yourself, James.
I was born in San Diego, California, but have lived all over the United States and the world: Hawaii, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, California, a small village in Southern Germany and Barcelona, Spain. I’m currently based in Jacksonville, Florida.
I’m married to my amazing wife Heather and we have one daughter, Addison Laia, who is almost 18 months old. She was born in Barcelona, where Laia (LIE-uh) is a popular name. We also have a little rapscallion of a dog named Charlie, who we brought with us from Barcelona to Florida.
I’ve been a writer since I was a kid, at which time I was also an earnest reader obsessed with facts – state capitals, trivia and geography. I think my love for information is what led me to love nonfiction and be a nonfiction writer.
My first and only book, Living Like Lions: 20 Influential Christian Men Past and Present, is a Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas book published in August 2014.
-For you is writing a passion, a calling, or both?
For me, writing is a trade by which people who do it well can provide for their families, communicate powerful truth and provide excellent work for companies around the world. I see myself no different than a carpenter, painter, or construction worker.
I think Christians have a tendency to deify “calling”. Once we’re called, we think that calling is like a positive life sentence. We’re chained to it for life. And I think “passion” is a dangerous word, too, mainly because passion doesn’t get anything done if talent and confidence don’t accompany it. Sure, the world is full of passionate people. However, those passionate people are only as good what they can do, not how they feel.
-What’s the best thing about writing a book?
Accomplishment. But, in my opinion, accomplishment is only valid when what you accomplished is your best effort and objectively excellent. While I’m content with finishing Living Like Lions, I often question my book’s worth based on what it inspires men to do. If you’re writing a nonfiction work to awaken people to a new reality of masculinity based on the time-tested realities of great men before them, what good is that tome if men are not being challenged? As writers, we have a gift that transcends the mess that is today’s cacophony that is the writing world, and in having that gift, we should master it not just in a grammatical way, but in a way that creates change among readers and fellow authors.
-What inspired you on your writing journey?
The single greatest inspiration in my nonfiction writing journey is a guy named Suketu Mehta. He wrote a book about Bombay called Maximum City. Read that book – your mind will be blown. It was a Pulitzer Prize finalist that lost out to a supremely boring work about the U.S.’s post-9/11 operations in Afghanistan. One day many years ago I emailed Suketu and asked him for advice about writing and he responded, “Just tell it straight and true.”
-Share one piece of writing advice you wish you’d had from the beginning.
The publishing process is the most unglamorous thing you’ll ever endure as a writer.
-Do you have a publishing secret you’d like to share with other writers?
Find agents and editors who are more concerned about making your great than they are about coddling you. My agent, Les Stobbe, told me that my autobiography was (and I’m paraphrasing) junk and nobody would want to read it. The sting of truthful criticism by those who are experienced enough to give it can change your career for the better. Also, your work isn’t sacred. If an editor wants to cut something out on behalf of your readers, do it. Even though we may be good at what we do, we are not perfect. The gaps in our game are where agents and editors are crucial.
-Do you have a truth you hope your readers glean from you and what have you yourself learned?
Don’t take everyone else’s advice on what being a godly, strong man means. Decide for yourself. We all have the potential to be sterling examples of Christ to our wives, children, family and friends
The balance between arrogance and confidence. Arrogance is the belief that your talent makes you inherently better than other people, while confidence is belief in your talent.
–Where can we find you on the web?
-Finally, tell us about your book.
Living Like Lions is a nonfiction work about 20 different men – 18 dead and two alive – who had a powerful impact on the world. The men in the book aren’t exclusively preachers, theologians and missionaries. There are scientists, artists, a President, writers and a dishwasher.
Each man gets a chapter in the book, and each book is divided into two parts: biography and application. I talk about what happened in the man’s life and then why we should change our life based on his life.
While most of the chapters in the book laud the lives I researched, two chapters take a different turn. President Woodrow Wilson and missionary C.T. Studd had some pretty ugly weaknesses we don’t know about.
Living Like Lions, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Living-Like-Lions-Influential-Christian/dp/1941103294.