T.R. Tells, author of the Paragons of Justice series, shares her inspiration and creative process behind her work.
In the summer of 2019, a strange bright light engulfs the city of Chicago. The phenomenon leads to widespread accidents and blackouts. On that same night, a cop stops Hira and her boyfriend. Hira, left traumatized, has gained the ability to see umbra shades, manifestations of people’s negativity. Now she has the choice to either fight for justice or let the destruction continue.
Her Dark Sins, the first book in the Paragons of Justice series, reminds me of books like Legendborn by Tracy Deon and The Black Veins by Ashia Monet. Stories with paranormal or fantastical elements but, unlike many mainstream and indie paranormal books, not without real life issues and intersectionality. Her Dark Sins unravels a compelling story without glossing over racial dynamics, privilege, police brutality, and complicity.
T.R. Tells currently lives in upstate New York. She’s earned a Bachelors in Fiction and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. During her free time (when not writing, of course), she browses through Funimation, Netflix, and her other streaming subscriptions. I’ve had the pleasure of reaching out and interviewing T.R. Tells. Here, she talks about the themes in Her Dark Sins, her favorite media, and what she’s working on next.
The Geekiary: Thanks for taking the time to be here! Her Dark Sins is an empowering narrative about justice and fighting against the system. I was hooked throughout my first read. It’s a story about fighting demons (literal and figurative) for ourselves and for our communities and loved ones. I’m curious to know how this book came to be. What’s your creative process?
T.R. Tells: Well, Brahidaliz, the world is my primary inspiration and my own emotions on how society tends to treat people (whether that is race, sexuality, mentality, or physical attributes). It angers me that people can be so filled with hate toward people that bleed the same as they do. What could possibly compel a person to treat people so badly? What if the reason for their lewd behavior is a demon leeching off of them and making them say these things? Thriving off humanity’s negativity and trauma.
Now, what if those hatred demons manifested into reality–What would we do? That’s what Hira sets out to do. Her weapon, “a chain whip,” symbolizes the opposite of what we all think of whips: Fear and order. Hira Night wants to do the opposite. She stands for freedom and justice and uses them to destroy the demons of negativity and trauma with her ability to create weapons based on her emotions, to fight against these maleficent fiends.
TG: The concept of the umbra shades manifesting from negativity fascinates me. I admire how you use it to explore mental health, trauma, and PTSD. Hira tries to balance this with her everyday life. For me, your Paragons of Justice series is among the few works (indie or traditionally published) that execute this well. Has this idea always been there for you at the beginning, or have there been changes along the way (i.e. drafts)?
T: Thanks! I get that part a lot and I’m glad that I have a bit of uniqueness to my works. Frankly, this has always been ME. I am very strongly about how people are treated. I am a proud LGBTQIA+ person, being Demisexual myself, and supporter. My stories always tackle ‘dark’ and ‘realistic’ themes that portray the world around us and maybe, just maybe, how we can change it, or at the very least, see that words hurt. Throughout many drafts, notebooks, scrawlings here and there, I’ve dabbled in topics before it became Her Dark Sins. I’ve taken some concepts and names from those drafts, but like John Legend says, it’s ‘All of Me’.
TG: What are your favorite movies, TV shows, books, etc.? Anything that inspired Her Dark Sins?
T: I’m probably going to go overboard with this one (lol) but I have TONS of TV shows and books, anime, that are my favorite. Forgive me for the implode of favorites:
She-ra and the Princesses of Power, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, Shadow and Bone, The Witcher, Bridgerton, Project Power, Hunter X Hunter, Moxie, Hollywood, The Umbrella Academy, Deathnote, Outlander, Bleach, BoJack Horseman, Castlevania, Big Mouth, Avatar The Last Airbender, Sex Education, Attack on Titan, My Hero Academia, Lucifer, Fruits Basket, Cowboy Bebop, Your Name, Luca, Soul
I’m pretty sure I forgot something, but now on to books–many of which are indie authors!
Red by Sabrina Voerman, The Forest Witch by Britt Laux, Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley, Protecting Tova by Havana Wilder, Hunters For Hire by Jonathan Yanez, Clara and Claire by Lindsey Richardson, A Blade So Black by L.L. Mckinney, Augur of Shadows by Jacob Rundle, Korrigan by Rebecca Kenney, The Lightning Rod by C.S. Ratliff, Surge by Donna Elliott, Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
And these are only the few that I remembered! There’s so, so, so much more that I enjoy watching and sitting back to watch. Out of all these shows, anime has been my inspiration for Her Dark Sins. Specifically, My Hero Academia and the main character Izuku Midoriya (Deku). His fights against villains have inspired pivotal moments and scenes that inspired Her Dark Sins. There’s a particular scene with Deku vs. Overhaul that inspired the conclusion fight with the antagonist.
TG: What advice would you give to writers (especially underrepresented and overlooked authors), regardless of their publishing path, working on getting their stories out there?
T: Never Give Up and keep writing, even when it seems hard. Even when you can’t get so much as 25 words in, by the end of the year, you’ll have a book. Don’t listen to those naysayers who say, ‘you’ll never be an author’, ‘fan-fiction doesn’t count’ or ‘that isn’t a real job’. Let me tell you: You are a writer. And to those who are published and getting those nasty ‘this is trash’ comments and one stars. I have something to tell you that has stuck with me: Those people just aren’t your target audience. Your readers are out there and they are waiting for you to write THAT story. You never know what someone is going through because THAT story can save them in a dire situation when they’re about to give up on life or have had a hard day, or need someone who understands them. Your words, your voice, have meaning — Never forget that.
TG: Other than Paragons of Justice and your other novels/series, are you working or planning anything else?
T: I am actually! It’s an entirely different ‘audience’ with similar messages and themes that you see from my other series. A Queer Middle-Grade portal fantasy that is loosely based on Dante’s Inferno (for kids). I can’t say too much just yet, but hopefully, you can see the work this year as BOOK ONE is already done and working on Book Two as we speak. So stay tuned, you can always find out more on my author site and social media.
And thank you, Brahidaliz, for reaching out to me and having me here. It was a shock, and I am truly thankful that you’ve read and interviewed many indie creators, like myself.
Continue, everyone, to fight for justice. Freedom. And continue to slay the demons of negativity–Don’t let your voice be silenced.
You can find more about Black creators and their works on The Geekiary here.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. They’re a submissions editor for Uncanny Magazine. Their various areas of interest include intersectionality in apocalyptic and disaster films, Artificial Intelligence, writing for animation, YA SFF, and LGBTQ+ representation in children’s media.
Location: DC Metro area
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