Interview 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. 

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About the Book:

Sixteen-year-old Savannah Evans walks with a slight limp thanks to a gymnastics’ accident that dashed her Olympic dreams, but didn’t stop her from attending an adventure camp in Idaho. At Camp
Arrowhead, she quickly befriends Jade Chang and Rico Cruz, but Conner Swift taunts Savi because of her injury.

When the four are teamed together for an overnight white-water river rafting adventure, Savi refuses to get in the same raft with Conner. Unfortunately, the director will not reassign her.

A fun expedition down the river turns into a nightmare when their raft slams into a huge rock 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 the larger rapids. With Jade pinned between the raft and a rock, and Rico clinging to a lifeline, Savi must cut the raft free.

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 tries to guide the group back to Camp Arrowhead. Limited supplies, injuries, and the constant threat of Vexel—who Savi 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 adversity.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The book Escape Through the Wilderness was birthed out of my passion to teach young emerging leaders principles related to life and leadership.

My unique background and credentials include a season in the U.S. Army where I was the youngest drill sergeant in the Army’s history at age 18 (Pentagon confirmed), a jungle expert (trained in the Panama Canal Zone), and recipient of the Silver Star (the nations third highest award for courage under fire).

Escape Through the Wilderness gave me a distinctive opportunity to write to today’s youth about leadership and teach key principles in the context of a wilderness survival adventure.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Honestly, writing the book was fairly easy for me. My confidence in writing was piqued by the fact that I have experience in survival, the wilderness, white-water rafting, hunting, fishing, hiking, evasion, and navigating the wild. All these are woven into this thrilling survival story.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

In the past, I’ve self-published three books on public speaking. This time I decided to use a publisher for my first novel. I went with Tate Publishing on the recommendation of another author.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

The length of time between submitting the manuscript and distribution was excruciatingly long. I hoped the process would be more streamlined but working with a publisher is very involved and time consuming.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

Currently, I’m in the process of writing the sequel to Escape Through the Wilderness. So far it’s going well and I’m about a third of the way to completion. It is very important to me that it has at least the same level of intensity as the first book and so far it does.

My hope is to have the sequel released by summer 2016.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Candidly, I don’t think I can narrow it to one. I love writer’s sites like, The Writer’s Life, Book Daily, and various News sites. I also spend time on Twitter and Pinterest. 

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

Here’s how another writer described the message from my book:

Masterfully crafted by Gary Rodriguez, Escape Through the Wilderness tells the gripping story of four teenagers whose rafting accident forces them to fight for their survival and defy all odds to come out alive. Taking the book’s premise directly from his own military experiences, Rodriguez constructed the narrative to turn young readers into admirable leaders and explore issues related to faith, abuse and forgiveness.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Our schools are filled with young emerging leaders looking for insight and guidance related to leadership. Learning leadership principles can be boring but it doesn’t have to be. My hope is that Escape Through the Wilderness, its sequel, and other books like this can fan the flame of leadership in today’s youth.

Thanks so much for taking this time to interview me.

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