Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wednesday Wonders: PERSONA NON GRATA

Today's Wednesday Wonder features Personal Non Grata by author Stephen J. Stirling. Regarding the photo to the left, the author states:  "Before we get into deep-thinking here, I want to answer the frequently asked question – “What are your qualifications to write on the affairs of Crimea?”  Well, in addition to my own personal study, I have sources on the ground in Eastern Europe that keep me well informed on current international events.  This snapshot of me conversing with three of my most intimate Russian contacts should quell any grumbling on that account."
The author (Stephen J. Stirling) with Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, and Vladimir Putin (standing) at a recent meeting on Red Square in Moscow.

Book description or blurb:

A teacher/adventurer trying to help a former student is thrown unwittingly into the world of high-stakes diplomacy and international espionage.  With nothing but his wits, and willingness to follow “the Spirit”, Paladin Smith is determined to rescue an old friend.  And in the process he will change the world.

A Quest for Paladin Smith

Excerpt from Persona Non Grata — Chapter One

(An unpleasant visitor from the past, Congressman Philip Chase, surprises Paladin in his classroom with news about a former student, Victoria Grant.  Guiding Paladin through a folder of classified material, the congressman explains Victoria’s peril as a diplomatic aid in war-threatened Crimea.)

Turning over the photo, Paladin found himself staring at the portrait of a king in full regalia, perfectly posed for a public relations shot. As he studied the face of the king, he saw the same kind of self-importance he recognized in Chase. But Chase at least knew how to conceal it. This man made no pretensions at false humility and obviously saw no need to. Paladin looked up at Chase.
“Pyotr Vasiliyevich, prince of Crimea. Styles himself ‘Peter the Great.’ ” The congressman laughed to himself. “In committee we refer to him as ‘Peter the Mediocre.’”
“Hmm,” noted Paladin, more amused by the man than the joke. “He’s got a crown, a scepter, and everything.” Still there was an intensity about the prince that was not to be taken lightly. This was a tyrant in waiting. He was no joking matter at all. Paladin wondered if the congressman recognized it.
“Well, his position is merely titular in a constitutional monarchy,” clarified Chase. “He really has no political power.”
Paladin shook his head. “Maybe not. But he wants it.”
“Very observant, Smith. Now take a look at the next photo.”
The next photograph was a picture of the prince, in formal wear, at some kind of a royal function, eating dinner. Beside him on his right, looking radiant, sat Victoria Grant.“Your niece always had a knack for making friends,” observed Paladin.
“The prince is actually quite taken with her.”
“And why shouldn’t he be? She looks like a princess.” Paladin dropped the photo. “So, what more can you ask for—success, romance, dreams come true. It’s all like a modern fairy tale.”
“You know as well as I do, Paladin, that Victoria is in over her head here.”
“Who’s to say that?” argued Paladin, fighting his natural instincts. “The truth is it’s none of my business any more than it is yours. She’s an adult now, Chase. Anyway, I still don’t see what any of this has to do with me.”
“Listen, Smith,” Chase confided. “Crimea is a dangerous place right now. The civil unrest is all over the news. But our sources are picking up other chatter—political conflict, government instability, military dissatisfaction. It’s a very unstable part of the world. I’ve been trying to persuade Victoria to return home. But she won’t listen to reason.”
“She always had a mind of her own. Besides, why should she come home? Life is good.”
The congressman slammed his hand down on the desk. “I’m telling you life is about to come tumbling down like a house of cards in Crimea. But the only one she’ll listen to is Ambassador Ian Keller. She practically worships him. He’s smooth—almost hypnotic. Frankly, the man is lecherous—pure filth. But he covers his tracks. Victoria can’t see it.
“As for Prince Peter—his ambition is frightening, unpredictable. But Victoria doesn’t recognize that danger either. All she can see is the charm and power of royalty. I’m afraid of what a young woman in love might do.”
Paladin considered for a moment and then turned the photograph over again to study the face of the girl. He smiled. “You know the trouble with you, Chase? You never had any confidence in Victoria. But I do. She’s not stupid. I really don’t think this is the kind of ‘Prince Charming’ she’d fall for. And even if she did have a crush on him, I wouldn’t worry.” He looked at the congressman. “She’ll get over it by the senior prom.”
Chase was suddenly livid. “Are you listening to me, Smith? I want Victoria out of Crimea.”
“So order her home!” Paladin shouted back. “Revoke her passport! Send the Marines!”
“I’ve got no authority or legal justification to do any of those things.”
“So go get her yourself.”
“She has no respect for me,” Chase managed to choke out.
“Well, neither do I,” answered Paladin. He stood from his seat. As far as he was concerned, this ridiculous interview was over.
“But I think she respects you.” Chase was quiet now, almost pleading. “I think she would come back if you asked her to.”
Paladin paused, confused. “So—what? You want me to write her a letter?”
The congressman stood to face him. He swallowed. “I want you to go to Crimea and bring her home.”
Paladin froze and looked at him askew. “Are you out of your mind?”


Author bio:

Stephen J. Stirling was born in Los Angeles, California and grew up in the Southeast LA semi-ghetto of Huntington Park.  Graduating from high school in 1970, he received a scholarship to Brigham Young University at the age of 17.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism in 1976, and then spent the next few years wandering America in search of adventure.  Interspersed through his college career and days on the road, he served a mission in Chile and taught for 8 years as an early morning seminary teacher.

Settling briefly in Chicago, he entered the profession of advertising, a field in which he ultimately held many positions with companies from the Mid West to the Pacific Coast.  He eventually planted roots in Orange County, California, where he established Stirling Communications and spent 15 years as a freelance copywriter, scriptwriter, and video producer. 

In 1994 he was hired by the Church Educational System and relocated with his family to Gilbert, Arizona, where he has fulfilled a lifelong dream of teaching released-time seminary for the past 20 years.

He and his wife, Diane, were married in 1981 and are the parents of five children – Jennifer, Lindsey, Brooke, Marina, and Vladimir.  Brother Stirling is the author of several books, including The Ultimate Catalogue and Shedding Light on the Dark Side.

Q & A with the author:

·      What prompted you to write your book?

Years ago, on the venture of one of my first ventures into the unknown, I watched the movie, Lawrence of Arabia.  Since that evening I have been intrigued by the irresistible reality – oft repeated in the timeline of history – that one ordinary man can change the world.  That is the story of Paladin Smith in Persona Non Grata. I believe that each of us has that kind of potential for impact on our universe.  The value of a soul and the difference we can each make – that is the message of the book.

·      Tell us about the title of your novel?

Persona Non Grata is a diplomatic term.  It is Latin and means “an unacceptable or unwanted person.” Technically, the status of persona non grata withdraws from an individual any diplomatic or legal protection abroad. When our protagonist, Paladin Smith, defies the scheming leadership of Crimea as well as his own corrupt embassy, he is officially declared persona non grata – along with the warning, “You are on your own.”  “I’m never on my own,” is his reply.  

·      Do people you know show up in your book?

I’m afraid so.  But the only character in the book who seems recognizable is me. I’ve been frequently accused of patterning Paladin Smith after myself.  But that’s ridiculous because Paladin is taller.

·      What sets your novel apart?

Persona Non Grata is a unique fusion of political intrigue and divine intervention – the blending of action adventure with modern-day miracles.  Paladin Smith, the everyman main character, fills the role of a religious and morally-straight hero, without the hackneyed Hollywood stereotype of pious fanaticism. Persona Non Grata is an entertaining read about a man placed in an international crisis, who meets the challenge with courage and muscle – as well as faith and prayer.

·      What projects are you working on for the future?

Actually, Persona Non Grata is the first book in a five part series. (It’s a delightful progression of adventures.)  Two sequels have already been written, and each one gets better than the last.

·      How long did it take to write this book?

Persona Non Grata came together in an amazing four months.  Perhaps that is because I’ve been thinking about the concept for so long.  Even so, the final story was like nothing I‘d conceived before.  And it turned out impressively well-structured and well-expressed.  The book is a miracle.  Now the sequels have taken a little longer, but that is another ongoing story.

·     How would you describe your book in one sentence?

Persona Non Grata is a blend of political intrigue, international action, and miraculous power set in a world of danger where it is possible for one man to stand up for something – and change history.

Author Links:

Website/Blog Facebook  

Purchase Links: 

Deseret Books  |  Barnes & Noble Amazon

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