Cliff Graham has a lot going for him right now.
The 30-year-old Rapid City native is an accomplished author and speaker, and is about to see his work hit the big screen as filmmakers adapt his writing into a movie.
Graham's experiences in the military and ministry led him to write the book series that traces the story of David and his Mighty Men, a band of 12 warriors. The first book of the "Lion of War" series, titled "Day of War," is currently being made into a movie by GiantKiller Productions.
Graham felt called to write the books for two reasons, he said: He wanted to change the perception of the Bible, and he wanted to give men a fresh perspective on some of the Bible's stories and characters.
"The Bible is typically seen in popular culture as just a gentle little book about Jesus petting lambs," he said. "It's actually a dynamic, fiery account of God's work on earth filled with passion, courage, romance and redemption."
For men, it seems to be particularly challenging to care about spiritual matters, he added.
"I thought if we presented the story of King David and his warriors in pulse-pounding, ‘Braveheart'-style battle epic, then it would help capture their attention for the Scriptures," he said. "My time as a soldier showed me how special the bond between fighting men is. I saw that within David's story."
Graham researched and consulted many sources for the books to maintain historical accuracy, but the Bible skipped around a lot when describing David, a person Graham said is an enigma in many ways.
"Fiction is the venue where I can creatively fill in the gaps," he said. "By focusing the stories on his warriors, known as the Mighty Men, I have more room to paint a picture."
Graham credits his time and activities in Rapid City as the birthplace of his foray into the creative arts. He attended Pinedale Elementary School, West Middle School and Stevens High School.
"Many of my creative impulses were cultivated in the Stevens theater department, where I developed lifelong friendships," he said.
The author spoke with students at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell earlier this month as part of the school's 2011 Entrepreneur in Residence.
Graham's visit to DWU was a bit of a homecoming for the author, who now lives in Utah with his wife and kids.
"I couldn't have asked for a better place to grow up, and still consider Rapid my hometown," he said.
Speaking with students about entrepreneurialism in the creative arts was great, he added.
"Even though I am a writer, I still have to be business-minded at all times. It was a blast sharing tips with them," he said.
Rhonda Pole, executive director of the Kelley Center at DWU, said Graham was inspirational for students.
He was the perfect fit for the program because of his South Dakota roots, his success and the path his life has taken, she added.
"He was extremely effective and what an impact he had on our campus," she said. "You could just feel his passion. He believes in what he does and he loves what he does."
As he continues to promote his books, Graham has been deeply involved in the adaptation of his "Day of War" novel into film - a project that he is "thrilled" to be a part of, he said.
"I have been blessed to work with a top-tier Hollywood team who have as much passion for the story as I do," he said. "What makes it especially exciting is that it's been done the right way to do honor to the Bible. Mega budget, top talent."
Graham worked with screenwriter John Fusco, who wrote "Hidalgo," another movie with a South Dakota tie.
"We bonded on that level," Graham said.
Graham said he has grown close with Grant Curtis, who produced the Spider-Man movies, and David L. Cunningham, who directed "Path to 9/11."
He also makes frequent trips to Hawaii, where they are working to build the oversized production facilities for the movies, built in the same way as they were for the "Lord of the Rings" movies, filmed in New Zealand.
As for the future, Graham is booked for a long time.
He plans to finish the "Lion of War" series during the next six months, and expects to continue his partnership with the movie team to film the entire trilogy.
He also has a modern thriller that will be released in January, and he is hoping to tackle more Bible stories in the Old Testament.
His intent is to educate and entertain readers.
"It's not preachy at all, but we take the Bible seriously as the book that communicates the meaning of life," he said.
"The ultimate vision would be a new generation coming to know and love it."