Monday, December 9, 2013

The 11th Demon Surfaces! Bruce Hennigan Interview!

Welcome back! We're here today with a special guest: author Bruce Hennigan--a huge monster kid as well as the author of the "Christian Horror" Jonathan Steel Chronicles. Often described as a sort of "Jason Bourne versus demons" this is a wild series that doesn't pull the punches on its creatures. Bruce and I served in the trenches at Charisma Media and he's been incredibly supportive of my work over the years. I love having him drop by and I'm super excited that this week marks the release of his new monsterpiece The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos!

Greg Mitchell: Bruce, welcome back! Tell us what you've been up to since our last interview!

Bruce Hennigan: I have just released my third book in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel, The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos. Its been just over a year since the second book came out. Since then, Ive switched publishers and it was a real struggle to get the third book to the marketplace. But, with this new publisher came a new freedom to expand my story beyond word count limits imposed by my previous publisher. So, it gave me a freedom to write the book I would want to read, not a book that had to fit very narrow parameters.

Starting over with a new publishing venture is always difficult. You have to convince the new guys that this aint my first rodeo and, as a published author, I kind of know what to do. Still, its really hard work to bring a new publisher in on something that I am so passionate about. Ive spent the past six years with my main character Jonathan Steel so I know the potential of my book series. Selling that anew to the next publisher is always a challenge.

GM: Don't I know it! :p

BH: I also have signed a contract with B&H Publishing to release an update to my book, "Conquering Depression. My co-author, Mark Sutton and I have finished the updated manuscript and the new book will be released in the fall of 2014 as Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression. So, lets just say Im still working very hard on writing, publishing, marketing, editing, blogging, tweeting, and building a platform to promote the new depression book and my continuing Chronicles of Jonathan Steel all while trying to keep up with my day job as a physician in the field of radiology. And, in this day and age of Obamacare, it isnt easy being a physician!

GM: Busy indeed! On to the new book. Jonathan Steel is back for another round with Hell's worst. What's in store for him this time around?

BH: The third book, The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos is the next step in Steels battle against the demons on the Council of Darkness. In the second book, The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon, Steel finds a new partner in Theophilus King and the court mandates that Steel and his mentor, Dr. Cephas Lawrence are now guardians of Cephas nephew, Josh Knight. The four of them go back to Louisiana only to discover that Cephas has purchased a new home for his collection of evil artifacts and that home was the house once owned by Robert Ketrick, the host for the 13th demon in my first book, The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye.

Steel isnt too happy about moving into Ketricks old house but they have no choice because it doesnt take long for the next demon on the Council to move in on the territory of the 12th Demon, banished to hell in the second book. Soon, the 11th Demon shows up on the scene and takes on the demonic form of a chimera, a monster with the head of a goat, the head of lioness, the body of a lion, and a fire breathing serpent for a tail.

Of course, Steels old nemesis, Vivian Darbonne Ketrick is back searching for an artifact from Ketricks collection of evil torture devices known as the Ark of the Demon Rose. Steel doesnt realize what is still hidden within the walls of Ketricks old house!  With the Ark, she hopes to control the Council of Darkness and force the members to give her a seat at the table. But, the 11th Demon has plans for the Ark. And soon, a new force of evil arises in competition for the Ark, a remnant of a once secret society from the time of the early church. This secret sect practices magic and misdirection and doesnt flinch when it comes to killing off anyone who stands in its way.

Steel is soon dropped right into the middle of this mixture of evil and chaos and must confront the 11th Demon before he can open the Ark and release chaos on the world.

GM: Wow! Talk about action-packed! How has reception been on the series so far? Has that affected the direction you've taken the series?

BH: I am so blessed to have a very dedicated following. I get emails every week asking for the next book in the series. Switching to a new publisher always brings a delay of two years between books, so I have had to push very hard to release the third book within a year of the last book to please my fans. I can tell you that encouragement from my former editor, Andy Meisenheimer, and encouragement from my readers has allowed me to make my book series fresher and more scary than I ever thought I could get away with. In fact, I have taken some chances with my story line and with my characters because I feel safe with my readers.

With this new found freedom, Ive upped the scare quotient, so to speak. No gratuitous violence or gore, but the store has more gripping and realistic elements. In a way, Ive gained some freedom to take the series in a direction Ive always wanted. Youll be able to tell this in the latest book when we see the once stalwart and righteous Cephas Lawrence makes some very questionable choices near the end of the book that will come back to haunt him later on.

GM: You've spoken a bit about switching publishers and a new sense of freedom it's given you in a storytelling sense. What other changes has the changeover brought about?

BH: You know, Greg, I find it interesting that a few years back, Michael Hyatt, the former CEO of Thomas Nelson made the statement that Christian speculative fiction (CSF) was the fastest growing sub-genre. Unfortunately, this in no longer true if you look at the sales numbers and talk to authors like the two of us who have been burned on our prior contracts.

This past February, I had the good fortune of attending the PLATFORM conference and sit next to Michael. We discussed what I call the implosion of CSF at major publishers. He wasnt too surprised. He encouraged me to go the route Ive chosen for now, Westbow Press. His advice was to take control of the publishing process for myself as the traditional publishers just dont seem to know how to market CSF. Be an entrepreneur, he said. Go it alone and make it work!

Lets face it, our kind of fiction gets stuck right next to Amish Romances in the Christian fiction section. As a man, I wouldnt darken that shelf with my presence looking for a good, scary book with redemptive values. Id go back over to the horror section. But, our books are labeled Christian fiction and would never be placed where they should be placed in the book store, that is, right next to Stephen Kings works.

Its even more frustrating in the ebook marketplace. Who is going to browse through Christian fiction to find a Christian worldview based book of horror or science fiction or fantasy? CSF is this animal that the readers crave to ingest and yet the online and brick and mortar bookstores dont know how to handle these books. We get lost in the shuffle and so the traditional publishers get burned and even the good ones willing to take a chance on an entire imprint of CSF like Charisma have to make tough business decisions and stop taking on new books and new authors in that genre. It is frustrating as you are all too aware of.

That being said, as I mentioned above, being in the driving seat I can write the book I truly envision without word constraints or reading levels. Westbow is a self publishing entity but they are very robust in imposing some limits on language and content. That being said, I was able to get away with a lot more in my current book that the first two books. One of my characters has an intimate encounter in The 11th Demon and while I did not describe it graphically, I know that previous publishers would not have allowed me to have such a scene no matter how sterile I could make it.

GM: I understand that this is meant to be a 13-book series. I think the last time we spoke, you had it planned up to Book 5. Where are you at now? Any hints at what's to come?

BH: Under my old contract, I had already written the first four books. But, now that I am no longer limited to 75,000 words per book, I can go back and add in content I had to remove. In The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos, I brought back a character I took out of the first book and I was able to bring back some flashbacks cut from the first two books. 

GM: Neat!

BH: In fact, this third book is a good settling in type story. The reader gets to know so much more about my characters as I write each scene from a first person point of view from the POV of each of the six major characters.

That being said, I am re-editing the fourth book, The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone back to its original length, almost twice the word limit of the first two books. In so doing, I am able to build the story to a climax that will spin off into a science fiction themed series called The Node of God. Trust me, very few publishers would touch that so Im going it on my own! The first book in that series is titled, The Node of God: Darksyn Rising.

GM: So Jonathan Steel is getting a spinoff series?! I had no idea!

BH: The 10th Demon is about UFOs, extraterrestrials, and one of the coolest monsters Ive ever created. In fact, after a pivotal scene in which Steel has to face off against this creature in a totally dark cave hundreds of feet underground, I had trouble sleeping! I love it!

The fifth book, The 9th Demon: A Wicked Numinosity is partially completed and I am glad I didnt go ahead and finish it while under contract. Im bringing back a major character from the first three books that is, shall we say, presumed dead and the story will culminate at Stonehenge. Lots of paganism, Wicca, alternate reality just to whet the readers whistle.

The sixth book, The 8th Demon: Night of the Skinwalkers is partially completed and takes Steel and company into a totally different direction exploring the creatures and monsters of our own North American Indian heritage.

Someone asked me about zombies and, yes, the seventh book will feature a zombie like creature and explores voodoo in the deep South. In fact, every book in the entire 13 book series is outlined and ready for me to settle in and write. Of course, story elements will change as I complete the individual books but my over arching story is canon. I have already written the third to last book as it reveals ALL of Steels lost memories and sets up the final two books.

So, you see, Greg, I have lots of stories left in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel. The first four books will complete an over arching story that will set the stage for what I call Phase 2, the next four books in which we learn some very disturbing history of our main character, Jonathan Steel. The reader will NOT like where these books are going, I guarantee it! But, if they hang with me through the last books in the series, I will bring it all around to a satisfying conclusion.

Once this series is done, I am already planning Steels next adventures as a private investigator. Think of Night Stalker meets Fringe! So, no rest for the weary. 

GM: Wow, this is all really exciting. I had no idea how extensive you had this series planned.

BH: This is why I need anyone interested in these types of stories to please, please, buy OUR books! Show the industry that we have a following. Lets shock them into reality. Unleash the monsters! Yeah!

GM: Hey, I'm all for more monster fiction :) Speaking of which: Lots of supernatural shows on TV these days! It seems that there's an explosion of horror genre television. Even the mainstream audiences are being pulled into, what is generally described as, a niche market. What do you think the draw is to the horror genre? Why can't we turn away?

BH: Greg, I am an apologist, or one who defends the truthfulness of the Christian faith, and Ive been asked this type of question many, many times. Why are we so obsessed with the immortal evil monsters? Why is it that we refuse to believe in God, but we glut ourselves on zombies and vampires and werewolves?

It boils down to a simple need. We crave a connection with the divine, with the eternal. Our God shaped vacuum is there because as Paul wrote in Romans, we are without excuse for refusing to believe in God. The evidence of His existence is overwhelming. When we look at the creation we see Gods fingerprint everywhere. And yet, in our current self centered, me absorbed, hedonistic, narcissistic society we refuse to submit ourselves to the authority of a Creator. We have chosen to be our own gods. Again, Paul predicted this in Romans

And yet, we crave the eternal. Since we have abandoned the truth of the Scriptures and God, we must find something to fill that void. Enter the vampire; the zombie; the dark creatures of the night that eclipse the good in our souls. We find them repulsive and yet alluring. And, we try to recreate them in a lighter image Twilight for instance. No wonder stories about these lite” version forms of the evil creatures fail. They can never exist in the light. We cant drag them out of the shadows without revealing their true nature. And, when we look into the face of pure evil, it serves to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt there is pure good and that comes only from God. His existence is inescapable and these lesser forms of immortality are faint echoes of the reality of Gods existence.

And thus, we are caught suspended between darkness and light refusing to accept the goodness of God and willing to embrace the darkness of the shadowy creatures of our imaginations; our vain thoughts; our arcane inner self. Sorry, I wax profound or profane, depending on how you look at it.

I think this is why CSF is SO important right now. We can write about these creatures in the context of redemption; silhouetted against the light of God. We can bring a glimmer of hope to the endless desperation around us. Press on, I say. We MUST continue to write about the dark creatures of our souls only so we can point our readers to the light of the Savior!

GM: Good insights. You and I are on the same level when it comes to our love of monsters. Seen any good monster movies lately--whether they be newer ones or older ones?

BH: The last 12 months have seen some interesting movies. I enjoyed Pacific Rim better than I had anticipated. I managed to get through RIPD and it wasnt too terribly bad. Of course, we have the main stream Hobbit and its monsters and Im looking forward to Smaug. Thor had a few monstrous creatures. World War Z was better than Id hoped but the zombies were merely fast moving, mind herd zombies.

But, Id say my favorite guilty pleasure so far is Sleepy Hollow.

GM: Me, too! I find myself unable to turn away, ha ha. 

BH: I love the demonic creatures, Sulu with his head on backwards and the Headless Horseman yeah! What a strange show but I cant miss an episode! The new Dracula is still up in the air for me. I like that it brings back the true evil nature of vampires and the luscious set pieces are great backdrop. Im just not sure where the story, so bizarre, is heading. I am looking forward to Helix, the new Syfy show set in Antarctica. Shades of The Thing, I hope.

And, I am a Whovian obsessed with Doctor Who. I and my daughter dressed up as characters for the 50th anniversary movie in our area. Doctor Who has some interesting monsters. The creature from Hide, the haunted house story was promising but ultimately turned out to be (spoilers, sweetie!) a spurned lover. A return to the Ice Warriors showed promise. And, of course, there are always the Daleks! Exterminate! Im looking forward to the return of the Silence, the Cybermen, and my favorite Who monster, the weeping angels in the Christmas special. Geronimo!

GM: Time to sell some books. Where can folks pick up the new Jonathan Steel adventure?

BH: You can check out my own website, and order the books at a discount. Ill ship them. Or, you can find all three books, including the newest, The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and its available as an ebook through both vendors. You can get your local bookstore to order it.

Thanks for having me on your site, Greg. Its been a pleasure.

GM: It was great to have you back, Bruce, and super informative. I can't wait to read The 11th Demon and I'm pleasantly surprised and very intrigued about the plans you have for this series. Your passion is certainly an inspiration to me in my own writing, sir :)

That's it for this one, folks. Check out Bruce's books. The man writes from the heart and a real love for his subject matter. As for me, it's back to my cave and more writing, writing, writing!

'Til next time!