Author Interview: J.T. Tenera

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with J.T. Tenera, author of Erift's Journeys: Secrets of The Sealed Forest.

FQ: Can you talk a bit about the inspiration behind the story of Erift’s Journeys: Secrets of the Sealed Forest?

TENERA: At its core, Erift’s Journeys is the Hero’s Journey but with a video game and anime shell. Games such as Final Fantasy have such an amazing cast of characters. They begin with rather simple plots that expand into something much greater and I wanted to show that same sort of style without writing a LitRPG novel. I wanted to tell a story that featured an epic plot with characters that grow throughout the journey. It’s an adventure for the sake of having a great adventure.

FQ: The main characters, Joseph and Eric, share a special bond. Are there people in your real life that you modeled these characters after?

TENERA: Joseph and Eric were actually based on me and another friend I had growing up. We shared a love for video games and always wished those sorts of adventures could be real. We even attempted to think of a way to build our own airship, which of course, never happened. Many other characters were inspired by people I knew as well, many of which will be seen later in the series.

FQ: The progression of this book has spanned many years and undergone many revisions and editing. Can you explain this timeline and the events surrounding it?

TENERA: Erift’s Journeys began as a school project in 8th grade, simply titled The Strange Journey. I got 110% on the project and was told I was very creative. By 2004, the first incarnation of Erift’s Journeys was published, where it sat until 2016, where it was heavily revised and updated. However, it was my first 2-Star review mentioning a lack of editing and structure that made me start taking things seriously. So in 2020, the book was revised again, sent through multiple editors and proofreading. I wanted it to be the best it could be once I started a serious marketing journey.

FQ: Will there be a second book in the Erift’s Journeys series, and if so, what can you share about it?

TENERA: There will be a second book for sure. In fact, there are currently five books planned for Erift’s Journeys. The second book, The Dark Messengers, takes place a year later and is set to release late 2022. The plot takes a more serious turn, more characters are introduced, and the arcs of Joseph and his friends are further developed. Ryan and Professor Thessit are especially central to the plot in the second book.

FQ: Professor Benjamin Thessit is a rather interesting character. How did you develop his character and all his idiosyncrasies?

TENERA: The older mentor is a common trope in many video games and anime. They often start the hero’s journey by telling them a prophecy, offering equipment, or training them. I wanted Professor Ben to fit that role, but to be MUCH more involved in Joseph’s progress. The character and his behavior was heavily inspired by Robin Williams, who also had a passion for video games.

FQ: You have expressed that you never wanted to become an author, but rather wanted to produce video games. What altered your life path?

Author JT Tenera

TENERA: I played a lot of video games as a kid and thought it would be amazing to make them when I got older. However, making a video game isn’t what my young self thought it would be. There’s a lot more to it than simply having a good idea, which is why I shifted to writing. I read a lot of books and it seemed like a great way to tell an epic story without needing to learn coding, 3D design and many other things required to make a game. In a way, video games and books are very similar, as they can both tell an amazing story, but require a lot of work to get to that point.

FQ: What are your plans for authoring more books in the future?

TENERA: Erift’s Journeys will be my main focus in the near future. I want to wrap up the series before I move on to other projects. One of those future projects will be an adult horror novel titled Within An Echo and will be a cross between paranormal and psychological horror.

FQ: You have shared that some of your inspiration behind Erift’s Journeys: Secrets of the Sealed Forest was based on video games. Was there a particular game you drew your inspiration from, or was it a conglomeration of several games?

TENERA: The biggest games to inspire Erift’s Journeys were Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda. Both have a tendency to feature a main character that gets pulled into an adventure or objective that is WAY over their head at first. They struggle at first and often fail throughout their journey. However, they learn and grow each time and either gets stronger by obtaining new skills or meeting new friends to help them. I wanted Erift’s Journeys to reflect that same feeling of watching a hero grow throughout their journey, while at the same time allowing the reader to see the growth of other characters within as the series progresses.

FQ: The character of the robed, hooded girl is a bit of a mystery. Will she make an appearance in any subsequent Erift’s Journeys books?

TENERA: The hooded girl is a VERY important character to the series and reappears in book two. While she communicates to Joseph mostly through his dreams, that barrier is eventually traversed later in the series so she can not only assist in the main plot, but to also overcome her own arc. Spoiler, but she has a tiny pet dragon named Evvy that will travel with her.

FQ: The final epic battle takes place in the Sealed Forest, which is depicted as a magical, powerful land with many barriers for the friends to traverse. Does this setting resemble anything from a game you have played, or was it purely developed from your imagination?

TENERA: The Sealed Forest is a location that will be visited many times in the series and will always show a difference face. Its biggest inspirations were “The Moore Forest” seen in Final Fantasy 5 and “The Lost Woods” seen within the Legend of Zelda series. These locations change appearance not only across their respective series, but also within the same game. Both places also offer the hero and their friend’s powerful items, or hold an ancient power that is sealed away.

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