In celebration of Indie Author Day, I sat down with indie author M. G. Hernandez and asked her some questions about her experiences as an indie author. Join us for the Author Interview Event over at Book Nerds Unite (on Goodreads) to ask M. G. Hernandez any of your still unanswered questions!
And now, on to the interview!
Tell me a bit about yourself.
Hello, my name is M.G. Hernandez. I currently live in Honolulu with my husband and two teenage boys. I was born in the Philippines but moved with my family to Fremont, California when I was 11 years old. I’m fortunate to have been raised in both cultures which affords me to proudly call myself Filipino-American. This identity is interwoven within the plot lines of my books for representation but also because of my immense pride in my community and my heritage. That’s a mouthful for an introduction:) Thank you, Asia, for this interview!
How did you decide to start writing?
I wanted to write ever since my high school English teacher, Mr. Wallach, praised me for my writing. He believed in me enough that he submitted the story I wrote for an assignment to a creative writing contest. Ever since then, I would write short stories that I would save on my computer (but never shared to the public). But life led me to social work, and I never thought of it again. That is, until five years ago when my creativity craved to be unleashed that I could no longer ignore it. Four years later, I published The Night Orchid.
As a child, what was your dream job? As an adult, prior to the point when you first started really writing, what was your dream job? Has it changed since then? Have you always had a passion for social work, which I gather from your GR bio?
As a child, I didn’t want to be anything else but be a millionaire. Hahaha. Then, I wanted to be a journalist, but, as I mentioned before, life led me elsewhere.
As for social work, it was my passion and it still is. I was inspired by my father who was a social worker before he passed away. I think that it was good that I chose to be an author in my later years. My life and work experiences, I believe, made me a better writer. I wouldn’t be able to create dynamic stories and relatable characters without the wisdom I had gained from working, living, loving and making mistakes.
Did you ever see yourself where you are now?
Yes and no. I was deep into my career and didn’t think to do anything else. But I felt, deep in my heart, that there was something else calling for me. It was just a matter of when I was going to answer it. Of course, I’m talking about putting my overactive imagination to good use and putting pen to paper.
What was your inspiration, and what influences your writing?
What inspired you to write the Wakefield Chronicles? How do you learn to write mysteries, and where do you get the ideas for them?
My sister made me do it :) When I had her read the first two chapters, she thought it was too sappy, cheesy and mushy. TNO wasn’t even an idea, yet. The original concept was vastly different. It was a high school romance about death and dying. Julian was named Aidan, and as for Jo, I can’t even remember what I named her. It read like a Nicholas Sparks novel. “Aidan’s” mom was dying of cancer and he met “Jo” at the hospital where she was a volunteer at the oncology floor. She was a musician and sang with her guitar in the lobby to lift the spirits of those undergoing treatment. So, yeah, my sister was not having it. Hahaha. I went back to the drawing board and remembered my love of ghost stories and mysteries. Then I made Jo a snarky version of the original and made it a second chance, friends to enemies to lovers trope and bam, TNO was born. I gave her the first five chapters, and she gave the seal of approval.
As for the mystery genre, I grew up on Nancy Drew Mysteries. I just always loved intrigue, whodunnit and thrillers. Add some romance—recipe for success.
Although I think that technically The Night Orchid and Followers of the Owl could be read as standalones, I definitely think they’re much better as a series. When you started writing TNO, did you plan it to be part of a trilogy, or did it just happen that way?
I had no intention of making it into a series. TNO was going to be a one time deal. It was only to satisfy a bucket list of publishing a book. Then, I was going to continue on with my life, satisfied that I tried it once. But I caught the bug and realized, “hey, I kinda like this. Maybe the story isn’t over…”
You are releasing FOWL this September. How do you feel? Are you excited? Nervous? Something else?
Both. Excited to share it to the world and also worried that they’re going to hate it. It’s the roller coaster that writers feel when they put their product out. It’s going to be subjected to scrutiny. So, fingers crossed.
Is there anything you can tell us about Book 3???
Yes. It’s going to be crazy that I’m worried about writing it. It’s going to be dual timelines, dual POV with a dash of historical fiction. The book will explore Jo and Julian’s shared psychic connection. Kind of like their origin story. We’re going to get to know Julian and we’re going to see him in a different light. Jo’s clairvoyant ability is going to kick up a notch—clairvoyance on steroids. On top of that, Dee is in danger and still dealing with the sins of her father. And Brandon is just cute. Hahaha. I’m not sure what role he has in this story, but I’m sure he’ll tell me once I start writing. :)
As a social worker, I imagine you to be very busy. Maybe this is the case, or maybe it’s not. Nonetheless, I’m sure you’re still rather busy just from life. With that being said, how do you make time for writing? When you get writer’s block, how do you conquer it, especially since you only have one project . . . unless you don’t???
It’s hard. The only time I have is after work when I get home—often when everyone is asleep because that’s when the house is the quietest and conducive for writing. I have the weekend as well.
I deal with writer’s block by taking a break from writing. Period. Which is hard. Creative writing is all-consuming. You’re world building so you don’t want to leave it, lest you lose your inspiration. You’re always chasing inspiration and you’re always in your head. Another way, I deal with writer’s block is I take a break and start reading books from my TBR list, and then somehow I’m revived and inspired.
Another way I deal with writer’s block is I take a break and start reading books from my TBR list, and then somehow I’m revived and inspired.
TNO was a hefty book; FOWL, though, was considerably shorter. (Both of which are perfectly fine!) Was FOWL always shorter, or did you have to cut scenes? If so, how do you decide what to cut and what to keep?
FOWL was definitely meant to be shorter. When I wrote TNO, I didn’t know what I was doing. It was just a labor of love. No outlines. I just wrote scenes that I wanted to read. Believe it or not, TNO was even heftier before I published it. Hence, the bonus deleted scenes I created for TNO fans. But FOWL was me deciding that I was going to produce a “product.” I incorporated what I learned from publishing TNO to FOWL. And I learned that 120k words is considered too long. Technically, 90k is the average unless I’m Sarah J. Maas and I’m writing the epic ACOTAR series. Interestingly enough, FOWL, though considerably shorter, was a much more challenging endeavor than TNO. It definitely kicked my behind.
Now, let’s talk to all those aspiring authors out there. What steps do you recommend they take?
Research. Read up on established authors' journeys. Write an outline. It’ll make life easier. But most importantly, have fun. Don’t write based off of what you think publishers would want to see. Write something that you would love reading and enjoy the process of creating your world.
What is your biggest challenge, and how do you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is yourself. Your self-doubt can cripple you and stop you from taking the plunge. Just write. Keep that nagging thought in your brain, doubting your ability, and place it in the deep recesses of your mind. I went through many forms of this during my writing process and afterwards during the marketing phase. But I had to remind myself to stop being so hard on myself and to celebrate my achievement.
If you could go back and do everything over again, is there anything you’d change? If so, what?
This only applies to TNO: Have a marketing timeline. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change anything else. This has been an awesome journey and wouldn’t change anything for the world.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with me! :)
Thank you, always, for supporting me and us, indie authors!
**This interview was conducted independently via a Google Doc, where I provided M. G. Hernandezwith all the questions beforehand, which she then returned to me with the questions answered. This interview was completed between 13 August 2022 and 14 August 2022.