Author’s vicarious trips lead to missionary adventure yarn


By Doug Snover

General Perez gripped his binoculars as he watched a Brazilian strolling back and forth in front of the entrance to the building. Although the right eye was covered by a black patch due to an accident, his left eye was very acute and picked up every detail … Perez glanced back at his troops and signaled them with a swift fist to the heart. The troops quickly gripped their weapons and stood at attention.

Some evenings, while his two young children watch television, Mike Strong, an auditor by day, sits at his home computer with his mind far away in some village in Brazil.

This is more than idle daydreaming.

Strong has never been to Brazil. But his imagination has created a sinister world where a madman bent on world domination leads a guerilla war on American missionaries spreading the word of God in South America.

Strong used his vivid imagination to write his first novel, which he calls “The Way.” It is his first attempt at writing professionally, and it is an ambitious one.

“It is a fictional adventure series about a militant group in South America trying to kill missionaries,” he said. “The first book focuses on a team of missionaries from Phoenix that is already there and they get kidnapped and/or killed. There is a team of four individuals from different backgrounds that goes down to try to find them and bring them back.”

“They get down there…and they get stranded themselves.”

Sitting in a local Starbucks, a paperback copy of “The Way” on the table in front if him, Strong, 28, looks more like an auditor than adventure novelist. He has a fresh-scrubbed look of someone who spends his time bringing order to the universe around him, not creating imaginary mayhem in the Brazilian hills.

“I would say that my day job is more left-brain. My night job is more right-brain. I get to be more creative, to think things out. With my day job, it’s more cut-and-dry.”

He is a 1995 graduate of Corona del Sol High School and a 1999 graduate of Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He and his wife Andrea have two children, four-year-old Kaitlyn and two-year-old Ryan.

He began writing “The Way” in 2001, took breaks when the children were born, and eventually finished the story in May 2004. The first copies were published this year.

 “This is all right here in my head, completely fictitious,’ he acknowledges. His knowledge of South America comes from surfing the Internet.

“I’ve always had a fascination with South America. I’d like to go there someday.”

“I love to write. I started writing short stories in the sixth grade. I just have a passion for it,” Strong says.

His strong religious beliefs explain the unusual title of his first book.

“I chose that title, ‘The Way,’ basically from one of my favorite Scripture verses, which is John 14.6 – ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life …’, ” he explained.

In fact, he already has written a second book that he titled “The Truth,” and he plans to finish the trilogy with “The Life.”

Strong is big on cliffhangers. “The Way” ends with three unresolved issues – in other words, cliffhangers. “The Truth,” not yet published, will end with five cliffhangers. Only in “The Life” will the full story be told.

He will have to sell a lot more copies of “The Way” before his readers learn the secrets of “The Truth” and “The Life,” however.

Strong struck a deal with Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, a Christian-based publishing house in Oklahoma, to print the first copies of “The Way.” He said he put up $4,000 of the $20,000 publishing costs and that his deal with Tate specifies that he must sell 5,000 copies before his second novel will be printed.

So far, he has sold about 100 copies of “The Way,” mainly through the Amazing Grace Bookstore at Kyrene and Warner roads. The book sells for $19.95 at Amazing Grace and is also available online through and Barnes and Noble.

Strong acknowledges the difficulty in promoting his book. Which is why he comes to Starbucks after work to talk to Wrangler News instead of going home to imagine more scenes in Brazil.

Tate Publishing “really doesn’t do much marketing. So it’s been up to me,” he says.