Gary Rodriguez is president of LeaderMetrix Inc., a consulting company that specializes in senior-level executive coaching, organizational development and conflict resolution. He is the author of the new adventure novel Escape through the Wilderness scheduled for release in June 2014.
His first book Purpose-Centered Public Speaking was an instant hit and recently republished by Tate Publishing.
His extensive resume includes eighteen years as an executive in the radio business where he spent several years as one of the original managers of Infinity Broadcasting. He was twice nominated as medium market manager of the year by the Bobby Poe report, a national media publication.
For over thirty-five years, Gary has spoken in public both nationally and internationally. Gary’s resume includes a season in the U.S. Army where he was highly decorated as the youngest Drill Instructor in the Army’s history at age 18 years. He was also awarded the Silver Star (the nation’s third highest award for valor) while serving in Viet Nam.
Can you tell us what your book is about?
Let me begin by telling you that the Idaho wilderness is the setting for the book. Here’s a brief overview of the story.
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 a summer adventure camp. 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.
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 and their adult guide disappears down the river.
Without their guide and desperately trying to steer an out-of-control raft, they pass the “Last Chance” marker and enter miles of furious rapids.
When the four drag themselves out of the river, they’re bruised, beaten, lost, and twenty-five miles from camp. Because of late-night campfire tales of Vexel, a vicious animal that roams the nearby woods, Savi and the others are terrified.
Savi becomes the unlikely leader who is forced by unexpected circumstances to try to guide the group back to Camp Arrowhead. Limited supplies, injuries, and the constant threat of Vexel—who everyone fears 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 all sorts of obstacles and adversity.
Why did you write your book?
Escape Through The Wilderness is an analogy about life. Often, in today’s world, young people are faced with unexpected difficulties and forced to overcome fierce opposition. The book was written to show readers ways they can face and overcome difficulties with a measure of faith and a little help from their friends.
In our culture, we are quick to recognize and celebrate individual achievements. However, there are some obstacles in life that require the help of others to overcome.
The adventure chronicles four teens coming to terms with their own struggles in the midst of stiff opposition and complicated circumstances. Learning to overcome adversity is a part of everyday life. My goal is to highlight the value and benefits of strong faith and real friendships.
There are four main characters and one supporting character in the story. Savi Evans is a sixteen-year old from Oxford, Mississippi and the lead character. She’s an extraordinary person who positively impacts the lives of those around her. Rico Cruz is seventeen and lives in San Antonio, Texas. He’s the handsome tender-warrior type and a strong leader in his own right. Jade Chang is also seventeen and resides in San Francisco, California. She feels out of her comfort zone because this is her first time stepping into a wilderness setting. Conner Swift lives in Chicago, Illinois and is seventeen as well. He lives in the shadow of a successful father and has something to prove. They each have their own reasons for attending the camp. Lastly, there’s Luke. I can’t talk much about him without giving away the story. But readers will most certainly grow to love and appreciate him.
Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?
You are asking 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.
Honestly, developing the ending was difficult for me. I got stuck for a while. So 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 northeastern Idaho. Can you tell us why you chose this setting in particular?
I chose a setting in the United States that was centrally located and yet very remote. The wilderness terrain needed to be challenging, and the river used in the whitewater rafting trip had to be dangerous. It also had to be an isolated locale without cell service to make communication with the outside world next to impossible.
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 sometimes a wise and healthy choice. 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 days or even a couple 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 do you like the most about being an author?
One of the most gratifying things about writing is creating a story that others find exciting and inspirational. When I finished writing Escape Through The Wilderness and reread the manuscript, I was amazed that the story came out of me. I believe I was given this inspiring story as a gift. If I had chosen not to write and share it, the story would have died inside me and never been told. But I thank God that didn’t happen. In fact, the opposite is true. The gift he gave to me is now my gift to the world. I hope the story entertains and encourages all who read it.