Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How I Write: Authors on Their Writing Process - T. A. Hernandez

Today's interview is with speculative fiction author T. A. Hernandez

1.      When did you first start writing?
I started writing when I was about 10 or 11 years old, but it wasnt until I was about 15 that I began to take it more seriously and actually started working on improving my craft.

2.      What are your books about? Are you self / traditionally published or hybrid?
I write speculative fiction, and I am self-published. I just released my debut novel, a new adult dystopia titled Secrets of PEACE. I am currently working on the sequel for that, and I have plans for several other novels outside of the Secrets of PEACE series. I also write and illustrate picture books and hope to have my first one ready for publication as early as November or December.

3.      What's your writing process like? Do you outline? Do you write by hand / type / dictate?
I hate first drafts, but I find that they tend to work better for me when I have a detailed plot outline. I used to write all of my first drafts by hand, and I still usually end up with pages and pages of hand-written notes scribbled in notebooks, but I do most of my writing on my laptop now.

4.      What's your editing process?
Revising and editing is my favorite part of the writing process, so I always look forward to getting through that first draft so I can start fixing everything. I dont really have a set process, but I do think its important to start with all the big-picture stuff before working on little things like line-edits and punctuation. I always send the story to beta readersonce after Ive created a second or third draft, and then again once I think Ive gotten the story just how I want it. Getting feedback on your work is critical. Ive been lucky enough to find a fantastic critique partner who seems to really understand my characters, my writing style, and my vision for the story, so I always have her read my work at least once and often use her as a sounding board to figure out whether an idea or a change to the story will work.

5.      Any favorite apps / software / technology for writing?
Im not very technologically savvy, and new programs intimidate me, so I just stick with good old Microsoft Word. I also use the notes feature on my phone a lot, as well as the voice recorder to record all of my random, rambling ideas, which have a tendency to come to me while Im driving.

6.      What did you find most / least useful in learning to write?
I think the most useful advice about learning to write is also the most basic. Read a lot and write a lot. You cant begin to understand what makes a good story until youve read a lot of stories, and then you have to apply what youve learned by actually writing. Practice makes perfect, and thats just as true in writing as it is in everything else. I think a lot of people go into this expecting it to be easy. After all, youre just stringing a bunch of words together. But its so much more than that, and it really does take a lot of time and effort to learn to do it well.

7.      Who or what inspires you? Where / how do you get your book ideas?
I am inspired by so many things. Music is a huge source of inspiration for me, as are good stories in any formmovies, television, books, video games, etc. Sometimes an idea just pops up out of nowhere. I was at a rodeo with my family for the 4th of July and suddenly got an awesome idea for a new picture book. Ideas are everywhere. You just have to know how to look for them.

8.      When in the day do you usually write? For how long?
I write whenever I can find the time, for however long I can. Im a mom, and my kids are still pretty young and need a lot of my attention. Im also a full-time college student, so I just try to squeeze in writing time whenever I can. This usually means I write in short bursts while waiting for class to start or while simultaneously trying to get dinner together for my girls. I also do a lot of my writing late at night after the kids are in bed.

9.      Where do you feel most inspired to write?
Anywhere. Everywhere. Because my life is so hectic, I learned a long time ago that theres no such thing as a magical writing zone where Ill somehow be able to write better than I could anywhere else. Like I said earlier, I just write whenever I can find the time, and that often happens in inconvenient places. Having an environment that is free of other distractions is ideal, but thats pretty rare for me and Ive learned to deal with that, so its no longer really a necessity.

10.  Describe your desk / writing corner / favorite writing spot.
We recently moved into a bigger place and I was finally able to get my own writing desk. I bought an old, beat up wooden desk from the thrift store and fixed it up, and now its sitting under a shelf where I framed a bunch of quotes about writing that inspire and motivate me. Its right in the middle of everything else, so I dont get much peace and quiet, but thats okay. Its perfect and I love it.

11.  Do you listen to music while you write? What kind of music?
I do like to listen to music while I write. I make playlists for whatever project Im working on at the time, and the type of music that is on those playlists varies depending on the book. Most of it is instrumental music and/or movie soundtracks.

12.  Do you ever get writers' block? What are some ways you get around it?
I do get writers block on occasion. Sometimes the solution is as simple as pushing myself through it for a few pages. Sometimes it helps to step away from whatever Ive been working on for a few days or work on a different project for a little while. When Im not in the mood to write, Im usually in the mood to draw instead, and once Ive done that for a little while, the desire and motivation to write always comes back.

13.  Do you now, or did you ever have any day jobs? Did they add to or detract from your writing?
Im a full-time student now, which isnt exactly a job, but it definitely feels like one sometimes. Before I went back to school, I was working full-time as a certified nursing assistant in a long-term care facility for people with behavioral problems. Both school and work have detracted from my writing in the fact that they have taken up so much of my time and energy, but I think theyve also added to my writing in many ways as well. Ive gotten a few story or character ideas from both school and work, and some of the things Ive learned in school have helped me write certain parts of different stories. Im a social work major, so I have a lot of classes that deal with societal problems and how those problems impact individuals, family, and society itself. Thinking about and understanding that has definitely influenced my stories.

14.  How do you make the time to write?
I dont really have a particular method for making time to write. Mostly, I just seize the opportunity when its there. I think the key is to make writing a priority, and for me, thats usually pretty easy since its something Im so passionate about. Sometimes Ill skip out on watching TV in order to write. Sometimes Ill stay up way too late at night trying to get all my ideas out. Writing is generally more important to me than whatever else I might be doing, so I just use whatever spare time I have.

T. A. Hernandez grew up with her nose habitually stuck in a book and her mind constantly wandering to make-believe worlds full of magic and adventure. She began writing stories after reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for the first time at age 10. Thankfully, her writing has improved significantly since then, though she will happily admit that she has much more to learn and is looking forward to a long and exciting journey in her Quest to Tell Better Stories.

She is the proud mother of two girls and a college student working towards her degree in social work. She also enjoys drawing, reading, watching movies, riding her motorcycle, and making happy memories with her family and friends.

Secrets of PEACE

Raised in the authoritarian PEACE Project since infancy, eighteen-year-old Zira has been trained as an assassin under the stern guidance of Chairman Ryku. After she makes a careless mistake on an assignment, the chairman partners her with Jared, the best operative in her unit. Their partnership transforms into friendship as they work together and learn to rely on each other. But when misinformation causes a solo mission to backfire, Zira's deepest loyalties and strongest relationships are tested in a place where even a hint of doubt can be perceived as treason. The life she knows is falling apart, and nothing will ever look the same again.

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