Just in time for this ghoulish part of the year, Christian Horror author and apologetics speaker Bruce Hennigan releases his new book The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon from Realms Fiction today! Bruce has been a real supporter of my Coming Evil books, so it was a thrill and honor for me to get to read his latest. The 12th Demon continues the supernatural supsense of Bruce's debut book The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye, where man-of-action Jonathan Steel battles the forces of the occult. Bruce was kind enough to return for another great interview. Now, without further ado...
GM: Bruce, first off, welcome back to the blog! It’s been a year since we chatted about your debut release The 13th Demon. What’s been going on for this past year?
BH: Thanks for having me back, Greg. The past year has been pretty exciting. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at several venues on Christian Speculative Fiction and Christian apologetics in addition to promoting The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye. My first book has gotten pretty good reviews and I’ve been just as busy writing the third and fourth book in the series. I’ve also been working on an update to my non-fiction work, a book on depression. And, I’ve been busy with writing dramas and working with a local filmmaker to produce one of my movie scripts. A lot is going on and sometimes I meet myself coming and going.
GM: The new book is out! The 12th Demon picks up where the last book left off. Tell us about the book. What can the fans of The 13th Demon expect in the sequel?
BH: More monsters. More horror. More blood. And, more redemption. The story picks up literally a couple of weeks after The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye. My main character, Jonathan Steel must find a way to help the teenager, Joshua Knight. Cephas Lawrence, the older “mentor” to Steel is Josh’s uncle and the story picks up with a meeting between Steel and Josh’s attorney to determine the guardianship of the boy. But, before the meeting can get underway, an assassin from Steel’s past shows up and shoots up the restaurant where they are having lunch.
Steel’s past comes roaring back into the fray and his amnesia proves to be more frustrating than ever as he has to face this assassin from his past. She proves to be not only a bitter enemy, but a former love interest! Then, out of the woodwork, Rudolph Wulf emerges from Eastern Europe to claim the territory of the 13th demon. He clashes immediately with Vivian Darbonne Ketrick who also claims the territory of the 13th demon. Wulf is in league with the 12th demon and has developed a special blood that gives his followers “vampire majick”.
When Josh’s girlfriend joins a vampire clan, he goes back to his old ways in order to “save” her and ends up in the clutches of Rudolph Wulf. Steel not only has to find Josh and face off against another demon, but he also has to fend off Vivian and the assassin, Raven. The story builds to a climax in the caverns beneath Mount Kogain where a cadre of monstrous beings waits to become a vampire army under the direction of Rudolph Wulf.
Greg, one of my goals in my books is to introduce the reader to key issues that impact the life of a Christian. I deal with the idea of forgiveness and the “unpardonable sin”. Can you do something so heinous, so horrible that you go beyond God’s ability to forgive? Good question and I hope I’ve answered it in the story.
GM: Halloween is blessedly upon us once again, and your book has its fair share of some gnarly monsters! I had a great time imagining some of the nasties you’ve described in this book. What struck me as really neat, though, was not only do you have the sort of exaggerated “Hollywood vampire” in here, but you also delve into the very real vampire subculture. Do you moonlight as a vampire or was there some research involved?
BH: I keep my coffin in the pool house. I like the sound of running water.
I have been fascinated with vampires my entire life. I’ve talked about this in my blog, but growing up in the country with a brother who is a taxidermist I was surrounded by the macabre. His “shop” was filled with beady eyed, fanged monsters that glared down at you from the walls when you walked in. And, the floor was covered with raw flesh, bulging eyes, skulls, skeletons and the like. It was far too easy for me to imagine werewolves and vampires lurked in the dark shadowy woods around my house.
BH: For the book, I did a lot of research into the myth behind the vampire, specifically Vlad, the Impaler. Why was he called the Impaler? Where did that practice of impaling come from? How was it related to vampires? And, where did the vampire myth originate? Lots of good questions. I tried to weave a historical narrative into the book that traces the practice of impaling from its origins right up through its influence on the development of crucifixion and then its use by Vlad, the man upon whom Count Dracula was based. Greg, I thought the fictional accounts of vampires were pretty ghoulish. But, history is far more disturbing. It is amazing what we do to our own fellow humans! I really had to filter a lot of the disturbing practices or the reader would really be horrified. The reality was horrific enough as I wrote it.
GM: I know in writing sequels for me, it’s sometimes difficult at first, putting myself back in the world of my characters. Did you have trouble picking up the threads again to continue the Jonathan Steel Chronicles or did it come right to you?
BH: Greg, my problem is not picking up the threads, but holding back on the big “reveals”. I want to tell Steel’s story right now. But, it is better to entice the reader with bits and pieces of his story.
J. J. Abrams, who created Lost and directed the new Star Trek movies, refers to his “mystery box”. I heard him give a talk to TED about a box his grandfather purchased for him at a magic store. The box was a “mystery box” in that it contained a random assortment of magic tricks and on the outside there was a huge question mark. Abrams never opened the box and he keeps it in plain view at all times to remind him that the best stories are in pursuit of what is IN the “mystery box”. I know what is in Steel’s “mystery box” and it is very easy to pick up the threads again and move forward with the story.
GM: In The 12th Demon, we learn a little more about Jonathan Steel’s past. Is it your plan to reveal a little bit about his mysterious origins through every novel, or only when appropriate.
BH: When I began The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel I knew from the start I would tell his story. Since he has amnesia, I had to sit down and construct his backstory from start to finish. Then, I took that backstory and divided it up into segments of “reveal” for the reader. Each “reveal” will be at the heart of the story of a book in the series. As we move through the books, more of Steel’s past will be revealed filling in not only his story, but the story of the twelve demons as well. For, both stories are intricately intertwined!
GM: In our last interview, you mentioned that you had the end of the series written in advance, so that you knew where everything was leading up. Has that planned stayed in place, or do you find yourself revising the ending as you discover new things during the writing process?
BH: I know what is in Steel’s “mystery box”. There are hints along the way; tiny clues as to what is really going on with this man and his “amnesia”. And, as the stories progress, I will give more and more clues. As you mentioned, I’ve already written the last THREE books in the series to make sure I know where I am headed with the story. Hopefully, Greg, my readers will keep buying the books and I can tell all 13 stories!
GM: No doubt! I want to read them all and see how this storyline concludes!
BH: In the planning phases for the series, I have placed very gross markers along the way. As I am writing the stories, those markers come into focus, so to speak. The changes I make along the way are more on the order of fine tuning than huge plot changes. Sometimes, as the story progresses, I feel the need to move one of those markers to an earlier or later point in the overall story. I just finished the final draft of the fourth book, The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone and decided to move a major character development from later into the series to the fourth book. It was very painful but in the context of the immediate story it made so much more sense to do this NOW! So, I took a risk and I did it. It will sends some ripples down the line into the future books, but I think the changes will make for a better overall story arc.
GM: What’s next for Jonathan Steel? What terrors might he face in The 11th Demon?
BH: The 11th Demon will be a bit of a departure from the feel of the first two books. From a technical point of view, I’ve written the book in first person point of view from the point of view of each of the main characters. I did this on purpose so I could get to know them better. I get inside the head of Steel, Josh, Cephas, Vivian, and Theo. It was a blast playing around with how they think and how they talk. And, the story is a bit more intimate; not as epic but every bit as powerful. You’ll learn a lot about Vivian’s past and why she became the witchy thing that she is. You learn about Cephas’ dark secret and why he pursues evil as he does. And, there is a flashback to the very beginning of time and space itself from the point of view of the 11th demon. Oh, and we get to meet another group of evil beings that kind of put the Dark Council in the shadow; a rival group to the Council vying for the attention of their dark Master! I’m hoping The 11th Demon: Ark of the Demon Rose is out next October!
GM: What other projects are you working on these days? I know you have a career in non-fiction as well.
BH: I have been approached by one of my publishers to update my book, Conquering Depression. I’m hard at work with my co-author, Mark Sutton, on bringing this book to the publisher as soon as possible. The book originally came out in February 2001 and the world has changed so much since then. I was at a conference recently and most of the participants were below the age of 35. I was shocked how many of them claimed they were depressed! Of course, most of them were Christian “artists” and you and I both know how artists can get pretty emotional. After all, it is our skewed view of the world as it should be that often “depresses” us. And, that is why we create; why we write or paint or draw to try and redefine this broken world in view of our connection with the Imago Dei, the image of God. The brokenness presses on us and when we cannot fix this world, that friction; that fission is what drives our emotions often downward instead of upward.
Sorry, I waxed poetic, there. But, this book I believe will be so important. Even after 11 years, we still get emails almost every week that the book “saved my life”. How do you even begin to articulate a response to that? I just thank God that He used my huge failure for His Glory and to help others.
I am also pursuing some other genres of fiction with my agent, specifically historical fiction and a couple of detective stories. I am continuing to work on drama. I’ve been writing church based drama since 1989 and I’m still active at the state level in the creative arts in a church setting. I speak at our state drama festival every year. This year, I’m working with children’s dramatic pieces.
I continue to work with Christian apologetics and I speak every chance I get in an effort to equip Christians with the tools they need to defend the Christian faith in this godless age. When you consider that some studies show that up to 75% of teenagers will lose their faith by the time the complete college, it shows how poorly our churches are preparing them to face their inevitable intellectual slaughter.
GM: Thanks for taking the time to stop and talk up the new book, Bruce. Any parting words?
BH: Greg, you and I both know how hard it is to get the word out about the kind of books we write. Christian speculative fiction is the fastest growing sub-genre right now but the books stores, and frankly, the publishers don’t know how to market these books. They don’t know what to do with them. And yet, there is a huge demand for these kinds of books. I would like for your readers, and mine, to get the word out. Buy our books and give them as gifts. Ask libraries and church book stores to carry them. Champion Christian speculative fiction before we are a dying breed. So, go out and buy both of Greg’s books and pick up my new book, The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon.
Greg, thanks again for having me on the blog. I can’t wait to read YOUR next book!
GM: Indeed! Some big news on that is just around the corner!