Q&A: Bruce Hennigan
Jonathan Steel is a man who remember nothing of his past and yet it keeps coming back... and it keeps trying to kill him. The Twelfth Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon is Bruce Hennigan's second installment in the Jonathan Steel series.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR BOOK THE TWELFTH DEMON?
Years ago, after becoming an apologist (one who defends the Christian faith) I was inspired to write a book that featured some of the incredible evidence I had seen for the reality of our Creator God. One of my favorite authors was Michael Crichton. Crichton would take historical, philosophical, or scientific fact and build a fast paced, thrilling story around those facts. The reader would be entertained by the story while learning something in the process. I asked myself, “What if I could write a similar style of story but use the facts that support the Christian worldview as the central core.”
After much prayer and research, I created the character of Jonathan Steel. As my editor once told me, Steel is a Christian version of Jason Bourne. Devoid of his memory and having abilities that could only belong to either an assassin or a mercenary, Steel found himself confronted with the evil presence of “the 13th demon”. His only memory was of the moment, as a teenager, he became a follower of Christ. This conflict between his Christian side and his dangerous side drives his quest for answers to who he is. After the “13th demon” brings an end to the life of someone close to him, Steel vows to track down the creature and send it packing to hell. In the process (detailed in my first book, The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye) Steel learns there is a Dark Council of demons, twelve in all. After writing the first book, I realized I could create a series of books telling Steel’s story of his quest for his memory and utilizing those stories to explore current “myths” and misconceptions about Christianity about our world.
In The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon I decided to explore one of my favorite myths, the vampire. I chose to research the development of the vampire legacy and developed a scientifically sound reason for the powers and abilities of vampires. The inspiration for the book came from my desire to explore the “power in the blood” of Christ. This power to bring redemption to anyone who seeks forgiveness is the exact opposite of the power of a “vampire’s” blood to turn someone into the walking dead. For, without the redemption of Christ, we ARE the “walking dead”. Using the vampire myth as the backdrop, I was inspired to show the real “power in the blood” to bring truth life to the “undead”, a life that stretches into eternity.
ALTHOUGH YOUR BOOK IS FICTION - WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SOME ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK THAT CAME FROM REAL LIFE?
The inspiration for Count Dracula as conceived by Bram Stoker was Vlad, the Impaler. I wanted to understand how this heinous ruler developed his horrific practice of impaling his citizens on the stake. In exploring the history of Vlad, I uncovered a thread that ran through history all the way back to 500 B. C. to a king known as Zamolxis. The practice of impaling began in this era in the Dacian or Thracian empire and continued on into the 1400‘s. In fact, I discovered that crucifixion was derived from this practice! I was able to use this element as a backdrop for the history of “the 12th demon”. Eventually, the current mythology of vampires arose from Vlad’s use of impaling.
The character of Jonathan Steel suffers from amnesia. I slowly fill in his backstory as he has flashbacks. During these flashbacks, Steel recalls key events of his life. In The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon, I use his current flashback to relate to a true story told by Ravi Zacharias regarding a friend who was held in a prison camp in Cambodia. I won’t go into details because I do not want to spoil the story for my readers. But, the story is very powerful and I mention the source in the back of the book for those who want to go and read Ravi’s excellent account of the real story that inspired the flashback.
The final element I would mention is the “unpardonable sin”. As an apologist, I have many colleagues with whom I discuss some of the “tough” issues in the scriptures. We have had lengthy discussions of the “unpardonable sin”. What is it? How can one know if they have committed such a sin? Is there really a point of no return for God’s forgiveness? The main apologetic issue for the book, therefore, is the nature of forgiveness.
WHEN MAKING UP STORIES, HOW MUCH DO YOU DRAW ON YOUR OWN LIFE EXPERIENCES AND PEOPLE YOU KNOW, VERSUS DRAWING ON RESEARCH ABOUT COMPLETE STRANGERS?
If you talk to most fiction writers, you will discover that we are all people watchers. My characters are usually composites of real people. Some of these real people are relatives or friends. Some are total strangers I have seen out in the real world. Usually, I try to write the story of someone I see. Why are they dressed like that? What’s up with their body language? What did they just say to the person next to them? Where did they come from?
When using historical based material, I do research on the individuals on which I base my characters. For The 12th Demon I researched Zamolxis and Vlad Dracul trying to understand their personalities and their motivations. For Rudolph Wulf, the major antagonist of my story (and the man in league with the 12th demon) I drew upon stories of those high in the Communist regime of Romania who suffered for their crimes at the fall of Romanian’s government back in the 1980’s.
My own personal story provides me with a very rich array of real people. I grew up on a farm in a rural community. My parents lived through the Depression and World War II. As a child, I would hide in the hallway of my aunt’s house when my parents would get together with their siblings. While they were shucking corn or shelling peas from their garden, they would tell wondrous and fantastic stories about their childhood on a sharecropping farm or their struggles to survive during the Depression or the horrors of World War II. I come from a strong heritage of storytelling and it runs deep in my veins.
Once I entered the field of medicine and moved to an urban setting, I encountered a totally different demographic of people. Having such a wide array of experience with many kings of individuals has given me a lush canvas of characters I can draw from. Real life is far more interesting than fiction at times!
IN YOUR NEW NOVEL, WHO IS THE CHARACTER IN THIS STORY WHO SURPRISED YOU MOST?
I created an assassin from my main character’s past. Originally, “Raven” was to represent the kind of “mercenary” or “assassin” life style that Jonathan Steel had forgotten thanks to his amnesia. But, as I developed the character of Raven, I began to see in her a sense of regret and sorrow over the assassin lifestyle she had chosen. As I explored her past in preparation for revealing more of Jonathan Steel’s past, I asked myself the question, “How far can a person go before they pass beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness?"
Often, when I speak on apologetic issues or I speak about my experience with depression, people tell me “there is no way God can every forgive me for what I have done.” The sense that there is a point at which we pass beyond God’s capacity to forgive is easy to imagine. But, in fact, God’s capacity forgive is infinite. That meant I had to find someway to either condemn Raven for her actions or provide her with the plot development that she could find redemption.
What surprised me most was how God moved me to end Raven’s story. I think the reader will be surprised.
WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel is a potential 13 book series. The first book, The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye was released in October, 2011 and is currently available. The third book, The 11th Demon: Ark of the Demon Rose will be released in October, 2013 and hopefully each book in the series will be released on subsequent Octobers.
I am also the co-author of Conquering Depression: A 30 Day Plan for Finding Happiness by B&H Publishing. I am currently involved in producing an update to that book and developing a potential book series. My co-author and I are shooting for a summer 2014 release for the updated book. I am very active in speaking engagements on depression and its relationship to today’s culture.
I am very active in the field of Christian apologetics. I am part of a regional group of apologists in Louisiana and I speak at many venues on apologetics and its intersection with literature.
I am also involved in our local church children’s ministry and I work with drama, producing, directing, acting, and adapting scripts for our “Kidstuf” production. I led a drama ministry at my local church for 15 years and I am very active in our annual state creative arts festival, speaking on many topics related to church based drama.
I am also developing a novelization of my play, The Homecoming Tree based on my parents’ experiences running a boarding house during World War II and I hope to find a home for the book soon.
I am working with one of my friends, Jimmy Fitzgerald, a local filmmaker, on a screenplay for a movie about a homeless man and his friendship with a rich, spoiled kid. Entitled Ransom, we hope to find financing and a home for the movie.
I am also compiling a book of real life based stories on brokenness and healing called The Mural.
As you can see, I have a number of projects in various stages of development and I hope to keep my agent busy!