James Redfield

updated 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Between sips of Perrier, James Redfield has just nixed Harrison Ford. "William Hurt," he says, conjuring the ideal leading man for a film of The Celestine Prophecy, his super-naturally successful New Age novel. "He's more sensitive."

The setting isn't L.A.'s Spago—it's a Middle Eastern cafe in Birmingham, Ala., not far from Redfield's home. But with five movie offers on the table, the 44-year-old rookie writer, a former children's therapist, is undeniably, incredibly, a player. His novel is the tale of an angst-ridden boomer who treks through Peru in search of an ancient manuscript that dispenses nine transcendent insights. It's a mélange of psychology, quantum physics and theology. "Lots of people," says Redfield, "feel strongly about the message."

Which is, to simplify only slightly, synchronicity: the idea that life is a stream of coincidences that, once we tune in to them, carry us inexorably to a higher plane. Something has certainly carried Redfield. Spurned by a string of small presses, he self-published 3,000 copies two years ago for $13,000, draining his life savings and borrowing money. One thing synchronistically led to another, and Warner Books, impressed by the book's burgeoning sales, purchased the title for $800,000 last year. Though critically excoriated, Prophecy exploded into an international phenomenon, spawning a Redfield-published newsletter and hundreds of Celestine study groups. Redfield also runs workshops on the book with his wife, Salle Merrill-Redfield, 34, a former massage therapist. "I'm reluctant to say I was chosen," says the author, who is now working on a sequel, The Tenth Insight. "But I certainly was driven."

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