Let's welcome T. A. Hernandez! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve always loved a good story, whether it comes from a book, movie, television show, video game, or anything else you can think of. I dabbled in writing stories a little bit as a kid, but when I was fourteen, my family moved from southern California to a rural town in Idaho, and writing became a sort of escape for me. I began to take it more seriously and actively looking for ways to improve. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always something I was passionate about—something that eventually became a part of me. I still have a lot to learn, but I think that’s the great part about writing. You’re always learning something, always growing, and that’s exciting. Aside from being a writer, I’m also a mother, an artist, and a college student majoring in social work.
You sound busy. Will you share a short excerpt from your novel with us?
Zira pretended not to notice the way Jared’s hands shook so much he couldn’t even get the key into the ignition. He dropped it on the floor and slammed his hand against the steering wheel, cursing. Zira focused on the branches of a tree outside, but she could see him in her peripherals, hunched over with his head bowed as he rubbed his hands over his coarse, black hair.
“I’m sorry,” Zira said. “About your team and…what he did to you.”
“I don’t need your pity,” Jared growled.
“I know. I don’t pity you.”
He sighed and sat up. “Yeah, well, it’s over now.”
“Are you relieved? That they’re dead?”
Jared met her gaze, and Zira was caught off guard by how much pain she saw in his eyes. She hadn’t noticed it before, or maybe he’d just done a good job of hiding it until now. “I wouldn’t say that I’m relieved. But I do feel better somehow—safer—knowing they’re gone.” He took Zira’s hand, an unexpected gesture that made her flinch. “Thank you.”
“I’ve been dreading this since we first saw Li in that diner. It was easier knowing I wasn’t going into it alone.”
“Anyone could have done that.”
“Maybe. But it was you who put me at ease all week and gave me something else to think about.”
Jared shook his head and gave her a small smile. “It’s just a ‘thank you,’ Zira. You don’t need to get defensive about it.”
“All right,” she muttered. “You’re welcome.”
What brought about the idea for this book?
The idea for Secrets of PEACE came from a few different places, and it’s hard for me to identify any one thing or even a series of things that gave me the idea. The characters came first, or at least the main protagonist did. I had been through some difficult personal issues in the two years before I started writing the book, and I think I just wanted to write a character who was strong and resilient in spite of having the odds stacked against her. I had also just finished playing the first Assassin’s Creed game, and I was intrigued by the idea of murder being used as a tool for peace. That idea formed the foundation for the plot, and the story evolved from there. It changed a lot along the way, and it took five years to really get it right, but I’m satisfied with the way it turned out.
Tell us a little bit about your main characters
Secrets of PEACE has two protagonists, both of whom are assassins working for the authoritarian government in a future America. Zira is the primary protagonist. At eighteen years old, she’s inexperienced and a bit reckless, but hardworking and determined to prove herself. She doesn’t trust people easily, and her abrasive personality can be a fun challenge to write. Jared is the other protagonist of the series. He’s a couple years older than Zira, fiercely dedicated to his job, and the best assassin in their unit. He’s skilled and tough, but he definitely has a softer side that he isn’t afraid to show to the people he trusts. Chairman Ryku is another major character in the story and serves as a mentor to both Zira and Jared.
They sound like interesting characters. What was your favorite scene to write?
It’s so hard to pick just one, but I’m going to have to choose the scene at the end of the first act of the story in chapter 11. It’s an intense scene, and things take a definite turn for the worst for Zira. But that’s really what starts her personal journey of self-discovery and self-determination, which continues throughout the rest of the series. The scene also introduces a character who has become one of my favorites to write (and seems to be a favorite among readers as well), so that’s exciting.
Currently, what are you working on?
There are three planned books in the Secrets of PEACE series. The second one, Renegades of PEACE, came out in July 2017, and I’m currently working on the third book, Survivors of PEACE. It was kind of a surprise novel. I had originally planned to end the series with Renegades, but then somewhere during the revision process, the characters began insisting that there was more of the story to tell. Ever their obedient servant, I of course gave in to their demands.
What has been the best compliment you have received?
Anytime someone compliments me on my characters, I’m beyond thrilled. It’s great to see when they come to life for readers the way they do for me. I had one reader in particular who mentioned the complex character relationships and relatable human emotions as a highlight of the book, and that was probably the best compliment I’ve ever received about anything I’ve written.
That's great. It's always nice to know people enjoy something you put your heart and soul into. Do you have people read your drafts before you publish? How do you select beta readers?
Oh yes, I definitely have people read my drafts before I publish. Several times. It’s a key part of my writing process, and I wouldn’t be half the writer I am today without the feedback I’ve received from beta readers and critique partners along the way. I have two betas who read for me regularly and whose input I value and respect tremendously. One is my critique partner and fellow indie author, EJ Fisch, who writes amazing science fiction novels with complex characters and fast-paced plots. The other is my best friend, who reads way more than anyone else I know and is great at spotting big-picture issues like poor characterization, pacing, and plot holes. Aside from that, I usually try to do beta reading swaps with other writers. I find most of them through Goodreads and social media. I prefer to use people who write in the same genre I do, or as close to it as possible.
Who designed the artwork for your cover? Or did you design it yourself?
Being an artist as well as an independent author definitely has its advantages. I designed the covers for all of my books myself. It’s fun, and sometimes it serves as a nice motivation to keep me going when I’m halfway through the writing process and feel stuck. I can whip up a cover and remind myself that someday, I’ll be holding that book in my hands, and all the crap I had to go through to get the dang thing finished will have been worth it.
How do you handle criticism when it comes to your writing?
This has probably been said time and time again, but it’s important, so I’ll say it anyways. You can’t take criticism personally. Sometimes that’s hard, especially when someone criticizes something you were really proud of or thought was nearly perfect. And if you need to take a minute to scream into a pillow or drown your sorrows in a chocolate milkshake, that’s fine. But don’t wallow. It’s not about you. It’s about making the story the best you can possibly make it. At some point, you just have to pick yourself up, take a step back, and try to look at the story objectively so you can fix what’s wrong with it. Not all criticism you receive will be helpful, but if you can put your own personal feelings aside, you’ll be able to sort out the useful stuff from the nonsense and do what works best for your story.
Great Advice, any last words?
Thanks so much for the interview! I always love talking about writing with readers and fellow authors, so if you ever want to reach out, please don’t hesitate to contact me through my website or social media.
Find out more about the Secrets of Peace Series. Happy Reading!!
Secrets of PEACE: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01J24PNUQ
Renegades of PEACE: https://www.amazon.com/Renegades-PEACE-Secrets-Book-ebook/dp/B073W3ZPP1/