The Next TargetThe Next Target
Nikki Arana
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When Austia Donatelli, a young widow with an underground evangelistic ministry to Muslims in Los Angeles, discovers that her friend has been murdered, she---and everyone she cares about---are thrust into the crosshairs of a terrorist organization. As the extremists zero in, can she unravel the deception surrounding her in time to protect innocent lives---including her own?

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Nikki Arana

Author and speaker Nikki Arana has received numerous awards for her
writing, including the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the
Year award and Top 20 Novel of the Year for /The Winds
of Sonoma/. Through her ministry, "A Voice for the Persecuted," she
inspires hearts toward evangelizing the Muslim community.

Favorite Verse: Romans 11 -...the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.


 Our Interview with Nikki Arana


Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and two grown sons and (drum roll please) our first grandchild. A baby girl named Melody Anne! I love reading and working in my rose garden. I was a real estate broker for thirty-eight years. Now I help people across the country find Realtors. It doesn’t matter where they are moving to or from. Those referrals help support my ministry, A Voice for the Persecuted. My ministry is my passion. I help persecuted Christians . . . here in America. That is code for Muslims who convert to Christianity. I help provide safety for them.

What is your favorite Bible verse?  (Translation too, please) Why?

The verse that has influenced my life the most directly is in Romans 11 - . . . the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

There have been many times I have considered turning away from a leading I felt was from God. Writing would be one of them. But that verse came to mind. His gifts and His calling are irrevocable. I choose to believe that He would prosper what He ordained.

I feel like God gave me a life verse in the summer of 2010. I was deeply involved with helping a Muslim Background Believer (MBB) who was escaping from a country in the Middle East. In that case, as with others I have helped, I saw God perform miracle after miracle to save his life. If I had not been a witness to them, if I had heard about them from someone else, I would not have believes they had happened. They were so beyond anything that could happen by chance.

I asked God why He was showing me all these incredible things. Why were my prayers and the prayers of others being answered in this way? The same day that I put that question before Him I went to a Bible study class. The verse for the week was Isaiah 43:10. When I heard it, I knew God was speaking to me directly. “10 You are My witnesses, says the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know Me, believe Me and remain steadfast to Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me.” (AMP)

And with that understanding that He was speaking to me came a knowing. I realized that He was telling me that He was making me a witness to His power and authority. To His glory. And that He was doing it for a specific purpose. To make me a witness. And further that I was to tell others what I have witnessed. Just as God brought Israel out of the nation of Egypt, He is now bringing Muslims out of the nation of Islam.


What was your inspiration to write The Next Target?

In a very supernatural way God gave me a love for the Muslim people. He caused the fact that they are lost and what that really means to become my truth. We all know Muslims have not accepted Christ as their Savior. That’s a truth. A fact. I accepted it. But it never grieved me like I am grieved over my loved ones who are not saved. It was never something that burdened my heart and motivated me to take action. That is, until God imputed the same love I have for my family into my heart for the Muslim people. When that happened I began to look for ways to encourage American 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, be the vessel that gives them what Islam can never give. It inspired me to write a book that shows how one woman did that.

That’s an intriguing title; what was the origin?

My working title was Fear No Evil. But as often happens, the publisher, David C. Cook, chose a different title. And it was an excellent choice. The novel opens with an “honor killing.” The barbaric practice, dictated by Sharia law, of a family killing any member who leaves Islam. When the heroine reads about it in the paper, she immediately recognizes it for what it is. And she has every reason to believe that she will be the killer’s next target.

How much of The Next Target comes from your personal experience?

Everything in the book is fiction as to people, places and things. But everything in the book is based on reality as to motives, quandaries, and yes, danger.

You have gone from writing romance to writing suspense; what inspired you to go in this direction?

I wanted to write this story as women’s fiction with a strong romance thread. That is my first love to read and to write. But clearly the story is suspenseful and called for that genre. As I began to write I realized that my love of deeply developed characters and multiple viewpoints acted to deepen the suspense. When you really care about people and you see them on the precipice of Hell, well, it scares you to death.


How much research did The Next Target take?

Not too much because of my own experiences. But I went to a city in the east that has a huge Muslim population. I stayed with people there who were reaching out to their Muslim neighbors. It allowed me to observe Islamic culture and practices so my book would be realistic. I also connected to a man who has been involved with the evangelizing of Muslims overseas for more than thirty years. He advised me throughout the writing of the book. And I did have an FBI resource.

Is this the beginning of a series?  If so, what is the name of the series?

No, it isn’t a series. My next book deals with a heroine who is an activist in the Christian underground in a Middle Eastern country. (smiles)

What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing The Next Target?

I learned that many Muslims in America have become very disenchanted with Islam. They are curious about Christianity. Sadly, many Christians fear Muslims so they never reach out to them.

Evangelizing Muslims is a friendship ministry. You form a friendship first. You don’t start by sharing the gospel with them. That will alienate them and you won’t have another chance to share. Just serve them and when the Holy Spirit draws them, they will ask you about Jesus. I learned that I am not meant to serve man, I am meant for God to serve man through me.

But by far the most interesting is realizing how much we have in common with Muslims regarding family values. I’m talking about sexual purity, esteeming the family unit, caring for their Islamic neighbor. I’m not talking about radical Islamists. I’m talking about the average Muslim who came here to make a better life for himself and his family. Before God touched my heart, all I knew about Muslims is what I learned from the media. When I began to look at them with the eyes of Christ, my life changed.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

It can be very difficult for me to find quiet time to write. My books have many levels and I often set up things chapters ahead of when they are going to come into play. When I have to leave my writing for days at a time to deal with other things (I’m the only caregiver of my parents ages 90 and 94) it is really hard to go back and reconstruct everything that was in midair when I left it.

Also, I don’t have a suspense writer or plotter to brainstorm with. I have friends who help, and I appreciate that so much. But I actually rewrote The Next Target three times because I had to teach myself the craft of the suspense genre! It went to print with only one scene suggestion by the editor so I guess I did okay. And the reviews have been humbling.  Still, I would love to share ideas with an avid suspense reader or writer in the developmental stage of a book.


What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

I love being able to bring the stories that are in my heart to print. All my novels deal with social, political and spiritual issues that affect Christians today. I always have one point of view character who the world considers “less than” or “other” who is pivotal in the story.

I write what many call transformational fiction. It has many levels and the internal story drives the external story. It doesn’t matter what the genre is because it is the spiritual truths embedded in the story structure that make it thought-provoking. It often causes the reader to ponder situations and issues from a spiritual/scriptural viewpoint they had not considered before. I’m not talking about being preachy. That’s why I use the term embedded.

One example of what I’m talking about, I always have one point of view character who the world considers “less than” or “other” who is pivotal in the story. When the reader first meets the character they come to him/her with certain views and maybe even prejudices that they aren't necessarily aware of. As the story progresses they are drawn to the character in ways that surprise them. The experience can be transformational. I received many letters about my novel, The Winds of Sonoma, in which the reader said how they would never look at the Mexicans who labor in our fields the same way again. I loved that.

What other new writing projects do you have on the horizon?

I have another book with Cook coming out next year. I would love to write a book of devotionals. That desire seems to show up on my blog from time to time.

What do you do to get away from it all?

Unfortunately that is not an option for me right now because I am the only caregiver for my aging parents. But if that should change then I would love to spend time at the ocean, preferably the West Coast.

What message would you like your readers to take from reading The Next Target

An ordinary person can do extraordinary things when they are in the will of God. And the question, Would you share your faith if it would cost you your life? is well worth pondering. Like my heroine, Austia Donatelli, I had to ask myself that question. Read The Next Target and you’ll find out why my answer was - Yes.



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