When Tony Hernandez isn't travelling, going about his day job or learning to speak another language, he likes to write. He particularly has a fascination with the darkness in mankind, and likes to view things from a different perspective, which drove him to write The Devil's Blessing, a story set in WWII. As our author of the day, Hernandez talks Shakespeare, the research that went into his book and much more.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Devil's Blessing is about
The Devil's Blessing is set in the dying days of the European Theater of WWII on the Eastern Front. It's a story about survival and what lengths people will go to.
What inspired you to write about the Red Army and the German Reich?
Like all my books, it starts with a "what if" question. I wanted to find a story about what happened if you were a Nazi who wanted to be captured by Allied forces in the west over the Soviets in the east. There wasn't a story I could find so I wrote it.
Otto Kunkel is forced to fight a war that he didn't want. Tell us more about this character - what makes him tick?
Not your average hero -- not sure he even is one -- what drives him is his cowardliness and desire to survive and the fact that it tears him apart that he's so scared. He is not a brave man but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to be one either.
Where does your fascination with the darkness in mankind come from?
I grew up pretty poor and saw firsthand the cruelty that men can commit to one another. The anxiety and fear from barbarism was something I grew up with. You sometimes wake up in a reality that you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy but that doesn't stop it from being your reality.
You don't shy away from describing the violence of WWII in graphic detail. Why did you take this approach?
There is that scene in the cellar that everyone talks about that's pretty graphic although I didn't do it for the sake of shock as some might think. The story was driven by the story itself, nothing else. And like you said, I didn't shy because writing is one of the few art forms that allows one to be as completely raw as possible with the audience.
Having said that, I love Shakespeare and one of my favorite scenes in Macbeth is when Lady Macbeth tries to strengthen her husband's resolve to kill the king. She tells her husband:
"I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me.
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this."
That cold cruelty drops my jaw every time I experience it and definitely inspired that scene.
Besides writing, what other cool skills do you have?
I'm an autodidact and love to learn. This writing thing is something I believe I'm pretty good at and it was all self taught. Insofar I have also taught myself to speak a total of four languages, English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and French.
I love to travel. My bio pic is of myself on the beaches of Normandy.
How much research did this book require from you?
A bit, actually. As the guys make their way through the collapsing Third Reich, the troop activity is based all on real events. As are the two massacres that I allude to in the book, way worse than anything I could make up.
What was the most interesting aspect of your research?
How much I wanted to leave it! Not because I wasn't having fun or enjoying doing it but because those last three months of the war became ingrained into me. As it becomes a part of you all you want to do is run from it. Such horror.
But on the flip, it was a fantastic exercise in research and I definitely want to work my historian muscle some more.
Does this book have an underlying message? What do you hope readers will take away from it?
The message is up to the reader to decide but I think that some themes are redemption and the ability to find good even when surrounded by the worst evil.
Tell us more about the title. Why "The Devil's Blessing?"
While writing my book, a dark act is committed and the narrator makes the comment. Sounded cool so I thought, hey, why not?
Tell us more about your writing habits - where, when and how do you write?
Everywhere and anywhere I can. With technology like Scrivener you can now write on your phone and it will all sync up with your other computer devices. No more excuses. If I can stop listening to that stupid critical voice in my head I try to write 100 words or a 1,000. Doesn't matter. The only wasted words are those that you don't write.
I have a normal job like everyone else so I try to sleep early to wake up early to get my words in and then do some more after five. I am committed to this art and have seen the fruits of the work pay off.
What are you working on right now?
Just finished a book that's technically science fiction called "The Past Happens Tomorrow", tentatively set for a September 2017 release. I say science fiction, because even though it has all the trappings of a police procedural, it involves time travel. This one is really gonna screw with people's brains!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tonyhernandezauthor
My Twitter ishttps://twitter.com/hernandeztony
My Instagram ishttps://www.instagram.com/antoniohernandez/
Don't worry, I don't post pictures of my food.