Thursday, March 5, 2015

Talking Books with Gary Rodriguez, author of 'Escape Through the Wilderness'

My name is Gary Rodriguez, and I live in California. I'm the president of LeaderMetrix Inc., a consulting company that specializes in senior-level executive coaching, organizational development, and conflict resolution.
Previously, I worked for eighteen years in the radio business as an executive where I spent several years as one of the original managers of Infinity Broadcasting.

Following a successful radio career I became the president of a non-profit organization for a season. 

As a young man, I spent a tour of duty in the U.S. Army where I was recognized as the youngest Drill Instructor in the Army's history at age 18 years. I was also awarded the Silver Star (the nation's third highest award for valor) while serving in a combat zone.

Over the past few years, I've written three non-fiction books and then I decided to write a novel.

My first book, Purpose-Centered Public Speaking, was published in 2009 and was re-published this summer (2014). Then I wrote a companion workbook designed to help people implement the principles taught in my first book. Next, I wrote Overcoming The Fear Of Public Speaking. And this past year, I wrote my first novel, Escape Through The Wilderness.  

For More Information
Can you tell us what your book is about?

Escape Through the Wilderness is an action-packed survival adventure filled with suspense and intensity.

Sixteen-year-old Savannah Evans walks with a slight limp thanks to a gymnastics' accident that dashed her Olympic dreams, but that doesn't stop her from attending an adventure camp in Idaho for the summer.

At Camp Arrowhead, she quickly befriends Jade Chang and Rico Cruz, but Conner Swift acts like a bully and taunts her because of her injury. When the four are teamed together for an overnight white-water rafting adventure, what was supposed to be a fun expedition, turns into a nightmare when there's a serious incident on the river.

When the four finally drag themselves out of the water, they're bruised, beaten, lost, and stranded twenty-five miles from the camp. Adding to their concern is the threat of Vexel who they heard about during the Fright Night tales on the first night of camp. Vexel is a vicious animal that’s on the prowl in the nearby woods.

Although Savi is the youngest in the group, she becomes the unlikely leader and tries to guide the others back to Camp Arrowhead, but limited supplies, injuries, and ongoing concerns about Vexel, who she and the others fear is stalking them, complicate the harrowing return trip.

Readers will enjoy dramatic survival scenes and the group working together, solving problems, and learning to overcome adversity.

Why did you write your book?

Escape Through the Wilderness is a survival story written to teach valuable principles about life, leadership, and perseverance. My goal was to entertain readers as well as inspire them. Inevitably all of us will face a variety of trials and obstacles as we journey through life.

The book is meant to encourage young readers and the young-at-heart to witness teens figuring out how to overcome difficulties they face with a measure of faith, a lot of perseverance, and a little help from their friends.

At times, it’s necessary to solicit the help of others and to learn to work as a team to accomplish goals. In this case, the goal is survival. The story highlights individual achievement as well as upholding the importance and value of interdependence.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

All the characters in this novel were birthed out of my imagination. In my opinion, creating and developing characters is one of the most gratifying aspects in writing novels. It opens the door to unencumbered creativity and allows an author to form an individual to suit a specific role and place in the story. Yet, to say my characters were “totally” from my imagination seems a bit disingenuous. Allow me to explain. True, I invented the characters in my head, but my collective knowledge of people and relationships influenced not only their creation and development but also their temperament and communication style. 

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

What an interesting question. I'd have to answer it by saying, yes and yes.  When I planned out the story, I started the process by beginning at the end. I asked myself what I wanted my readers to experience and learn from the book.  However, I also held my plan loosely which allowed for spontaneous inspiration and ongoing creativity. 

I believe it's important to have a plan but to allow room for the plot and characters to develop as they come to life.

Developing the ending was difficult for me. My initial idea didn’t work as the novel progressed. I was stuck with how to end the story for a while. At one point, I decided to get on my knees and pray for inspiration. I believe my prayer was answered.  I hope your readers agree with me once they've read the book.

Your book is set in Idaho.  Can you tell us why you chose this place in particular?

I chose a setting in Idaho because it was centrally located but very remote.  The wilderness terrain in this story needed to be challenging to traverse, and the river used for the whitewater-rafting trip had to be dangerous to navigate.  Another consideration was the area had to be a very isolated locale. I wanted to ensure there was no cell phone service so communication with the outside world would be next to impossible. The wilderness setting also served as a habitat for a variety of wild animals that were a vital part of the storyline.

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Here is a glimpse of what’s on page 69:

Suddenly, they heard a loud rustling of bushes and branches snapping downriver not far from where they had set up their makeshift camp.

“What was that?” Savi whispered anxiously. “It couldn’t be Vexel, could it?”

“Quiet.” Rico rebuked her with a hush. He raised the tip of his nearly finished spear.

Again, they heard more noise in the woods. This time they knew it was getting closer.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

Writer's block has never been a problem for me. That's not to say that I don't have lulls in creativity or motivation. Of course, I do. But when that happens, I don't consider it a "block" and I don't try to power through it.  Instead, I take it as a sign that I need a break from writing. 

Taking a short time away is always a wise and healthy choice for me.  I don't panic if I lose my motivation or inspiration to write for a time. 

Runners don't always run.  Sometimes their body needs time to rest and recover.  In the same way, putting too much pressure on yourself to always write can stifle both your creativity and your inspiration. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to chill out and focus on other activities. A short break will often revive you and rekindle your passion and desire to write once again. 

After I give myself a break (it may be a couple of days or even a couple of weeks) I sit down again and read what I've written previously.  That gets me right back into the flow of my work and often I find a new sense of inspiration to write.  Some days I have to work a little harder at writing than other days.  But I think that's a part of the normal ebb and flow of a writer's life.  Sometimes runners feel like they can run forever.  But on other days they feel like it is more of an effort. The same is true of writing.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Writing is a gift and a privilege. Steward your gift well!

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