Interview with Jon Herrera, Author of Emma and the Minotaur

26 May 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, Emma and the Minotaur?

Young girl versus giant monster for the fate of the planet.

That simple confrontation is at the core of the book, and everything in the story leads toward it. At its heart, Emma and the Minotaur is a simple David and Goliath tale, but the journey there is full of mystery and surprises. This is, after all, book one of the World of Light series, so the inevitable confrontation between Emma and the Minotaur is only the beginning.

As we follow Emma on this first adventure, we discover that the Minotaur is not the only creature from myth come to life into our world. More and more legends are returning. But where are they coming from and why?

While this is happening, the residents of Saint Martin, the city where our story takes place, are disappearing. Some hear strange music in the woods, and then are never seen again. This is where our young hero, Emma Wilkins, comes in. She gets involved in a search for the missing persons and it leads to her discovering the truth behind the mystery.

It’s all linked together. The missing persons, the music in the forest, the creatures of legend returning to our world. The eleven-year-old girl searching the woods. It all comes together in the end, and the solution to the mystery is the starting point of the World of Light series.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I love stories in all their forms. When I was growing up in El Salvador, my grandfather used to tell me traditional folk tales from our culture. Most of them were terrifying, involving monsters or scary creatures, but they were fascinating, and I enjoyed listening to them even if they robbed me of sleep!

That was the beginning, but I fell head over heels with fantasy literature (and science fiction) upon discovering it soon after immigrating to Canada. I was a young boy, just barely a teenager, when it all started with Raymond E. Feist’s Magician. I remember quickly devouring everything the author ever wrote. My tastes in fantasy have probably changed since then, but there is still a place in my heart for Magician.

I think, after that, I read Tolkien and, as is often the case, from that point on there was no looking back.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

There is, of course, The Lord of the Rings. From the science fiction side of things, I love The Sirens of Titan, and really anything Vonnegut. From the less fantastic side of things, there is Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

My current favourites include The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden. I read all three books in about a week. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is just fantastic, and I can’t wait for the sequel this fall.

If I’m allowed to cheat a little and include graphic novels, then anything by Grant Morrison, with a special mention for All-Star Superman.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I would probably want Tamsyn Muir as the first guest just for a general chat about everything. If she is as fun and hilarious as her book, then it would be a great time.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

There are days when it’s hard to string two words together, but then there are also days when the story just flows out of you, and you just sit back and let it almost write itself. There is a wonderful sense of discovery that comes along with this because, often, you don’t know where the story will take you. It feels as though you’re learning what happens next for the very first time. Those days, when that “magic” happens, they make writing worth all the hard work that goes into it. With this story, Emma, in particular, was often very surprising. It was almost like she would do whatever she wanted to despite all my carefully laid plans.

What is a typical day like for you?

The overarching theme of my days is managing mental illness. Because of this, it’s hard to think of what comprises a typical one. It really varies on the mood for the day and the steps required to deal with it.

What scene in Emma and the Minotaur was your favorite to write?

The entire last chapter was a joy to write. It’s when everything finally comes together and we get to see the showdown promised in the title of the book. Emma and the Minotaur is unabashedly firmly-entrenched in the fantasy genre, so it doesn’t shy away from the fantastic, especially in the last chapter. It’s where it stops pulling punches and just goes wild with the fantasy.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

No. But Emma Wilkins, the hero of my book, is the kind of person I would like to be. Brave, caring, selfless, and able to do things even when she is terrified of doing them.

Jon Herrera is the author of the new book Emma and the Minotaur.

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