Growing up, Hennessee Andrews loved to learn and especially read as much as she could get her little hands on. It wasn’t until much later in life that she found a passion and love for writing. She currently resides in Southwestern Missouri but calls Oklahoma home. It’s where she and her family are from. Her mother has been an inspiration and the first to set her straight when she wanted to give up. She finally found a personal passion and it only took thirty-seven years, but she’s happiest when writing.
Q: The Rough in the Saddle books have a quality of realism to them in terms of setting and character. What makes you gravitate toward realistic stories instead of more fantastic or supernatural ones?
A: I am a slave to my characters. I love paranormal, sci-fi, and supernatural, but those characters have yet to visit me. As the saying goes, “Write what you know.” That currently seems to win.
Q: The books have a Western, cinematic quality to them. Were any films influential on the series?
A: I’m not sure how to answer. I watched Brokeback Mountain a couple of years ago and was intrigued by the story. In some way, I believe this was my subconscious way of finding a happy ending for the lovers in that story. The tale brings to light what so many have been through and the stigma they face. When the movie failed to deliver an HEA, I was crushed and saddened.
Q: What inspired the idea of the all-gay rodeo in Warren’s Story?
A: I had wanted to write about gay cowboys for a while, but lacked a good story line. When the Love Has No Boundaries Event came up last spring, I decided to check it out. After scrolling through countless story prompts and pictures from readers, I finally stopped on one that immediately grabbed me. A reader in Australia wanted to read about cowboys who had grown up together and were gay. She also stated in the prompt that when they were caught in the rodeo, the truth of their relationship caused them to run away, and join a gay rodeo. Her last request was a story without a lot of angst. A story developed right away based off her picture, and the free read, “Rough in the Saddle,” was born. Readers asked about my secondary characters so much that I dove in and wrote the second, Zander’s Story, the beginning of the XYZ Ranch, and his plan to create a gay rodeo team. The story of the struggle continues through each book, and has yet to be fully told. Many states have “gay rodeos” and associations, but my main hero is more interested in taking the rodeo world by storm, and making them take notice.
Q: There is an interesting scene in Warren’s Story that describes the sterilization of the cattle, which adds a unique documentary feel to the proceedings. Do you have personal experience with ranches and farm life, or did this come about from research?
A: Yes, my husband and I farm in Southwest Missouri. We raise cattle and the bloodless castration system is what we use. When we work cattle (vaccinate, cut, and worm), I get to hold the tails of the bull calves while my husband takes care of business, so to speak. When the tail is bound up, the calf is less likely to kick, which is a great help to the person castrating them.
Q: What draws you to ManLove stories?
A: What I enjoy most about ManLove stories is the celebration of love, and yes, most definitely the sex. I grew up in a rural Oklahoma town where on Sundays people went to church to hear the word. We’re talking, Southern Baptist, Free Will Baptist, “sing the hymns and repent for your sins” type of place. I grew up sheltered in the way that I knew nothing about the outside world. I was first introduced to the notion that same sex partners could love each other when I was ten, and believe me, I was shocked. Growing up poor, I was well aware of stigma, judgment, status, and I didn’t like it. As I grew, my own life experiences propelled my beliefs. Why isn’t it okay for two men to love each other? Life is hard enough as it is. If we find love, isn’t that the most important goal we should strive for?
Q: What’s the most romantic scene you’ve written?
A: Probably the most romantic scene in the series is in Everett’s Story. Kyle plans to camp out with Everett, and goes to a lot of trouble to show Everett how much he means to him. The campsite is complete with a tent and a fire, under a blanket of stars by the river where they shared their first kiss.
Q: What do you think is the most important quality needed for a solid relationship?
A: Trust. Without trust, love cannot flourish.
Q: What role, if any, do you think fiction can play in affecting social change? In particular, ManLove?
A: Fiction, in the ManLove genre, I believe is helping break down the walls of social stigma all the time. Five years ago, I saw no problem with homosexuals one way or another. I have always felt that people have a right to love whom they choose. I hadn’t read any ManLove books, nor was I any kind of crusader for the cause. But, once I read my first and began to fall in love with the stories, the characters, and their journeys, the more I enjoyed the genre, and the stronger I felt about my beliefs. Five years ago, I would have ignored damaging, social banter, but now, I stop and hold my tongue while I choose my words carefully. We’re talking social equality, and that means for all. The increase in readership of books that celebrate the love between men is just another brick from the wall of social stigma against same-sex couples.
Q: What do you find most challenging about being a ManLove author, and what do you find most rewarding?
A: Whoa, good question. For me, the toughest part of ManLove is creating a story that everyone will enjoy. Just as readers enjoy certain genres of books, so, too, do readers of ManLove. In my tales, the men are both very strong and alpha. I’m not overly touchy, feely in my tales where two men are concerned. I like them tough and virile. Others may want and enjoy the softer side. Just as I expect my husband to be strong and take care of the farm, not giving in and crying the blues, I, too, expect my male characters to toughen up and take control.