Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Author Interview: Rodney Hennigan

by Sylvia Ney

Rodney Hennigan is the author of My Father’s Gift. You can find him on facebook or at

1. How did you develop an interest in writing? One day, not so long ago, I had gotten into an awful bind with one of my sons (David) while in the midst of a two week long hunting trip. We were far from home and deep within the Atchafalaya wilderness staying in my old Airstream travel trailer. My mouth had gotten me into the trouble, as it usually does and he was extremely upset with me. So much so, he informed me he would never go into the outdoors ever again. My heart was broken and splitting in two. I had run out of words and exhausted every means of persuasion I could think of to change his mind from leaving, all to no avail. The only thing left to do was to enter into a silent prayer to beg for help. While I was praying and just before leaving to return home, a stranger arrived on the scene and I became a spectator as I witnessed the prayer being answered before my eyes in an undeniable way. The end result is this: David remained in the woods the second week and literally saved my life three days later. After all of these events occurred I felt called to begin writing to preserve the memories of the great adventures I’ve been caught in and perhaps share the wonderful spiritual journey I discovered in God’s amazing outdoor world for my seven sons. Other people, the living-proof-reading characters which had participated in the true stories, after reading the written words to check for inaccuracy, found none and loved it. They strongly encouraged me to continue writing and share it with you, the public at large. I’ve always remained sensitive to what motivated me to begin writing in the first place, so I had to do it, although I really didn’t want to at the time. And in spite of myself, all of this has led me to be where I am today, a published author.

2. Is this a hobby or do you plan to make a career out of it? Remember, I had never intended to nor had the desire to write before being privileged to witness the prayer being answered with David. I began writing to fulfill a heartfelt personal commitment to do so. The original writings were intended for the sole use of my seven sons, not a career changer or a hobby. I was then and still am currently working on my railroad career and am looking forward to retirement in the near future with the hope I can spend more time in the outdoors with family and friends. However, now that I’ve said that, I am pleasantly surprised to find myself filled with the overflowing love and abundant joy freely given by the readers of My Father’s Gift. I simply must continue to write for them and am driven to do more. He and they have changed me in many good ways. I would now be lost without either and left feeling empty. I once thought I was a happy man, now I realize I was mistaken. I was merely content. I am happy now. I hope to remain in a deep debt of gratitude to the precious readers I have come to know and love for a long time. Only God knows and time will tell what is to come of it.

3. What authors do you admire? I am an avid reader and admire so many authors of different genres. I would need to see a list to check each off to be fair. However, if forced to do so, I would like to mention a couple which immediately spring to mind, Samuel Clemons (Mark Twain) and Patrick McManus. These two authors managed to capture a restless youngster’s imagination (me) willing to give reading for entertainment a chance. These guys practically tied me up and placed me in the midst of the most amazing journeys filled with many exciting adventures. They also left me with an insatiable craving to read more. I find it very humbling and ironic to be often compared to the two great writers today. Especially after Patrick advises folks to never attempt writing of true life humor, claiming it can’t be done except in very rare cases.

4. What do you do when you have writer’s block? My writing is non-fiction. The result is I have not encountered writer’s block to date.

5. Did you submit anything before self-publishing your first book? Yes, I did. But please recall I began writing to fulfill an obligation. After I started, I was then encouraged by others to share with the public. It was during this time when I began to suffer from what I call “the doubting Thomas effect.” I lacked confidence and had to test my high school writing skills. I also questioned if readers would be receptive to my writing talent or lack thereof. This is how I did it; I began the experiment to seek the answers by sending several different stories to newspapers and magazines. I couldn’t believe the results. None were rejected and all were printed in their entirety, the misplaced commas and all! Of course the final conclusion forced me to continue with the writing of the book.

6. What about contests? Being motivated by a personal obligation caused me to view entering contests as a wasted effort with much to lose and nothing to gain, similar to the same regards I had developed toward going the ‘traditional route.’ Several reasons were involved. Number one was that I was determined to fulfill my obligation regardless of what a single reader or a panel of judges decided, so it was unnecessary. Another was associated costs. Funds were scarce and every available cent was dedicated to publishing costs. It was my hope to give the reading public the right to be the judge. I knew they would be quick to reach a decision as far as to if the book was a worthy read or not and they were. I also knew they would be merciful and quick to knock me in the head if it wasn’t and they didn’t. As a working husband and as an avid reader with seven hungry boys to feed, I had lived with the knowledge hard earned money and precious reading time is something one did not want to waste on an inferior book. The readers decided they had wasted neither and soon began promoting the book to others, sales took off. So now perhaps you can understand how I rejected the idea of going the traditional route and refrained from entering any contests, until an unexpected request was made by one of my cherished readers after publication, one who also happens to be a respected librarian. She strongly encouraged me to enter My Father’s Gift into its first contest. And you would know it was one of the toughest in the land, at that. What you may not know is this (I didn’t at the time), but the state of Louisiana hosts the world’s second largest of desirable venues for authors to attend in Baton Rouge on the capitol grounds. What the librarian wanted me do was this; she wanted me to enter My Father’s Gift into stiff competition against many other talented authors hoping to win one of four coveted invitations to attend the prestigious event. I was shocked, but by this time I had learned to listen to the readers and chose to follow her advice. I responded to her wishes and sent the book in to the state capitol to be picked apart and judged by a panel of literary experts selected by the Louisiana Center for the Book. The festival is open to the traditional publishing world’s authors by invitation only and over two hundred were invited to attend the 2011 event. How they are deemed worthy to be invited I do not know, but self-published authors or non-traditionally published authors such as me were required to submit their work to be judged. I thought of the process as kind of like trying to win a super bowl ticket the day before the game, the odds were enormous and the deck was stacked against success. Books considered inspirational were discouraged and not allowed to be entered into the contest ( and look under criteria for confirmation). But I am happy to report to those who don’t already know, My Father’s Gift passed the test. It was selected as a featured book for the 2011 Louisiana Book Festival and I was invited as a featured author and as an honored guest. I was also asked to be a panelist. I would have never done this without one cherished reader’s prompting. The resulting humility is great and I have been blessed for it. Thank you Debbie.

7. Are you a member of a critique group? No, I am not a member of a critique group. I really don’t feel qualified to be so, but will sometimes do for another if asked and only then if time permits. But I am a member of a great group of writers, The Lake Charles Bayou Writers Group. They are eager to help aspiring writers. They have helped me tremendously and are very good at what they do. I strongly suggest either contacting this group or perhaps a similar organization closer to your home.

8. Have you ever attended a writer’s conference? I have attended one writer’s conference. It was hosted by the members of the Lake Charles Bayou Writer’s Group mentioned above and it was an excellent event. I learned a lot from this single attendance. Most of which continues to serve me well to this day. If one receives an opportunity to go to this annual conference or perhaps another, I suggest they grab on to it. Better yet, go visit the group or join.

9. Would you share your first paragraph with us? “GOD, PLEASE, WE NEED YOUR HELP! IF NOT FOR ME, PLEASE HELP THE BOYS! PLEASE! WE ALL NEED YOU, NOW!”

10. What is your most anticipated upcoming release? There are actually two new releases I am working on which fills me with high anticipation. The first is a children’s book I hope to have ready by this Christmas. The second will be the sequel to My Father’s Gift. The readers are really starting to insist upon it and I must get to work for them. In the meantime, if anyone would like to keep track of the progress of the above mentioned books they may visit My Father’s Gift on facebook or go to to order a copy. Also, for those who have one of the new electronic readers I’ve been hearing about, Mr. Larry Wise of Wise Publishing is now in the process of making it available on Amazon and it should be available, literally, any minute now. If one does not desire to make a purchase, but would simply like to read the book, please check with your local library. Many in Louisiana already have it on their shelves and an effort is underway to make contact with the ones who do not. If you inquire and they don’t have it please ask them to contact me using the above listed information. It is my wish to serve you and your community. Contact information is also printed on the inside cover of the books.

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