Friday, September 7, 2018

Interview with T.H. Hernandez, SUPERHERO HIGH

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
SUPERHERO HIGH is about the teenage offspring of the nation’s superheroes. When the government ends their genetically-enhanced asset program, these teens, who’ve been groomed to be government assets from the moment of birth, are suddenly thrown into a world they don’t understand—a world where their future is their own—and they are not equipped to handle it. Add to the mix non-powered siblings, known as zeroes, hormones, and puberty, and things can only get messy.

In a nutshell, it’s a story about finding out who you are in a changing world and that people are more than just the abilities they’re born with or without. But there is a mystery to solve and people to rescue as well.

Do you have a favorite character?
Although three of the characters are named for my children, I think my favorite character is Ren. He’s so adorably lost with the end of the program, and while he means well, he makes one mistake after another.

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
Yes. In my first novel, THE UNION, I knew I needed to have a character die to force certain events. But by the time I finished my first draft, I loved my characters too much to kill one of them off. So, I created a new character for the sole purpose of killing them. Unfortunately, this character took on a major role that changed not only the direction of the novel, but the series as a whole.


Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Yes. I submitted my first novel to Swoon Reads and got really good feedback from the editors which I used to revise it. I sought an agent and submitted to Entangled, taking all the input I received along the way to continue to make it better. But I didn’t know much about the publishing industry back then and thought after I got five rejections, that meant no one would publish it. So I went the indie route.

How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract? Was it for your first novel?
With SUPHERHERO HIGH, I again went the traditional route, but rather than submitting to agents, I met with three editors at the RWA conference and was offered a publishing contract about five months later.

What factors influenced your decision to go with a particular agent or publisher?
The editors I pitched SUPERHERO HIGH to seemed enthusiastic about the idea, but only one gushed about it after she’d read the full manuscript. Someone who loved my book baby almost as much as I did was an easy choice to make.

Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will self-publish? Are you doing both?
I’m doing both. My dystopian series, THE UNION, is still self-published and doing well. There are four books in the series and I’m working on a fifth now. SUPERHERO HIGH is published with a small press, Soul Mate Publishing, and a contemporary romance I co-wrote with Jennifer DiGiovanni is under contract with Entangled Publishing.


What factors influenced your decision to self-publish your book(s)?
Several things, but as I mentioned above, I thought no one would publish it and after spending so much time on it, I at least wanted to put out something for family and friends to read. I didn’t expect it to take off the way it did. After that experience and working with a traditional publisher, I like the control I have with self-publishing. I can choose my cover artist, layout design, release date, pricing, and outlets. Although there are huge advantages to working with a publisher, too.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
For THE UNION series, I used award-winning graphic artist Mark Sgarbossa, whose clients include Ice Cube, The Beastie Boys, the NBA, and more. I gave him my synopsis and a basic feel for the story. He came back with three different design ideas and one was perfection. For the rest of the series, I’ve only given him the synopsis. Everything he does is exactly what I didn’t even know I wanted. With SUPERHERO HIGH, I filled out a questionnaire my publisher sent me and then provided some feedback before we arrived at the final cover. I’m not yet sure what Entangled’s process looks like.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I do not. Not in the traditional sense anyway. I have a group of other published young adult authors that I seek feedback from and vice versa. I also work with a couple of editors who provide different types of feedback on my writing as well as my story. And now I work with my editors at my publishers to flesh out my stories and my writing.

However, I’m an avid reader myself and I have read dozens of books on the craft of writing. I take the lessons learned from those books and apply them to my own writing, which I firmly believes has helped my writing improve greatly. Recently, I started a small close-knit Facebook group to learn from other authors but reading the same craft book at the same type and doing the exercises within, then posting them for feedback.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
I grew up in a large family where chaos was the norm. To this day, silence unnerves me. I either have the news or the radio on at all times. I tend to tune out the news when I’m writing, relegating it to background noise. On the other hand, music inspires me. I will create playlists for the books I write filled with songs that set the mood and tenor of the story I’m writing.

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
I outline. I start with a basic three-act structure. I figure out my inciting incident, each of the disasters to befall my main character, and decide how it’s going to end. From there, I choose a theme and write a list of chapters and what each chapter needs to accomplish to get me from page one to the very end. But as long as I can get to the end, I don’t rigidly stick by that outline. As I write, I often find a different path to explore. The outline still comes in handy, though, for when I run into writer’s block. If I went off in a different direction for three chapters and get stuck, I can go back and read what needs to be accomplished in the next chapter and brainstorm a way to get there.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
When I self-publish, yes. I have a team of two editors I work with. They both offer very different insight and expertise. My publisher hires editors for my traditionally published books.

What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
How much work goes into publishing a book! Writing is only a part of the effort. Sure, it’s the biggest part, but the cover design can make or break your book. Marketing, advertising, networking, and more all factor into a book’s success, and most writers don’t have a background in much beyond the writing part. I took a crash course in book marketing, but that barely scratched the surface. I’ve been learning and fine-tuning my approach to getting my books into the hands of readers for five years.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Yes. And marketing suffers. Writers want to write, but obviously promotion is part of it. No one wants to write a book that nobody reads, so yes, it is a balancing act.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Hire professionals. Nothing will kill your book faster than bad reviews due to sloppy editing. If you’re going to self-publish your books, you need to treat it as a business, which means you must make an investment in your business. Don’t hire the cheapest editors or cover designers. Find good ones. The best way I know to go about this is to research books you like within your genre that are self-published, ones that are well-edited with great covers. Go to the acknowledgements and find out who their cover design and editor are. Reach out to those people. Get at least three quotes before choosing one.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
First and foremost, my family. My kids are all still at home, so we have a lot of family time. My other passion is any kind of art. I paint, do photography, digital art, refurnish old furniture, knit, etc. Basically, if it’s artistic expression and I can do it with my hands, I’m interested.

Some fun facts about you, which do you prefer – dogs or cats? Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or Tea? Talk or Text? Day or Night?
I can’t choose between dogs and cats anymore than I can pick a favorite child. Both offer something beautiful to enrich my life. The rest are easy: chocolate, coffee, text, and day.

What’s next for you?
My next release will likely be PROM-WRECKED from Entangled. Jen and I are working on another young adult contemporary and I’m writing the fifth book in THE UNION series as well as outlining the next book in SUPERHERO HIGH. 

Superhero High
T.H. Hernandez
Published by: Soul Mate Publishing
Publication date: July 5th 2018
Genres: Adventure, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Sixteen-year-old Annarenee Stevens is the sole member of her family without a super power. The only time she feels powerful is in the pool. With her sights set on swimming for U.C. Berkeley, she’s ready to win it all at the State championship and secure her future.
When the government unexpectedly ends the secret Genetically Enhanced Asset (GEA) program, Annarenee is uprooted from Dayton, the only home she’s ever known, and relocated to San Diego with all of the other GEA families. Queen of her public school, Annarenee is just another zero at Superhero High, a school without any sports teams.
With the end of the program, her hero older brother now needs a college education, too, meaning the only way Annarenee is getting into Berkeley is on a scholarship. Her dream is slipping through her fingers, no matter how tightly she clings to it. To make matters worse, super hot superhero, Ren Gonzalez, is paying too much attention to her. The kind of attention that has Ren’s ex-girlfriend intent on making Annarenee’s life even more miserable.
But when heroes begin disappearing, zeros and heroes will be forced to team up in order to solve the mystery. If they don’t kill each other first.

Author Bio:
T.H. Hernandez is the author of young adult books. The Union, a futuristic dystopian adventure, was a finalist in the 2015 San Diego book awards in the Young Adult Fiction category.
She loves pumpkin spice lattes, Game of Thrones, Comic-Con, Star Wars, Doctor Who marathons, Bad Lip Reading videos, and all things young adult, especially the three young adults who share her home.
When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside her head, T.H. Hernandez lives in usually sunny San Diego, California with her husband and three children, a couple of cats, and a dog who thinks he’s a cat, affectionately referred to as “the puppycat.”
You can find her online at http://thhernandez.com

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