An Interview with Author T.A. Cruz

Raised in a small California farming town, T.A. Cruz spent his childhood honing an imagination as vast as the wheat fields stretching around him for miles. With 6 years of military service, and passport stamps from around the world, part of him will always be in that little town with a single stoplight and a population of 1500. A lifelong lover of horror, and things that go bump in the night, T.A. Cruz decided it was time to take that passion to the page to shock and terrify others for a change. He is an active member of the International Thriller Writers and is on the hunt for more groups to expand and connect with other authors that share his passion. When not diving face-first into another project, Cruz enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, two dogs, and axolotl. 

  • Where are you from?

I grew up in a small farming town in the pacific northwest, a town quite similar to the fictional town of Fulton. This is the setting for my thriller, Have You Seen Sarah Baker? The town had (it’s grown quite a bit since I left) a population of less than two thousand, a single stoplight, and a graduating class of eighty or so students. This place was extremely fun to revisit, albeit fictionally, while writing Fulton. Everyone knows everyone. The rumors, the gossip. To toss a murder and missing teacher into the mix, it made writing this story a treat.

  • Why do you write?

This is a tough one to answer. Why would I do something that I love while simultaneously hate at times? Maybe it’s because the stories constantly swim in my head and unless I get them on the page. Maybe it’s the thrill of it. To take a reader to a cabin in the remote wilderness watching a teacher fight for her life. To have someone completely engrossed in a story I created from nothing. It’s a drug, and it’s fucking addicting.

  • What do you write about? 

I tend to write what I enjoy or find interesting. As a horror fan, sometimes my writing teeters on the side of dark and twisted. Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, after all, so where’s the fun in reading or watching that? Bring on the blood, the death, the times where you utter “holy shit” out loud! I write stuff that keeps me up at night because I know it’ll keep others up too!

  • Do you have a specific writing style?

Writing is such a wonderful thing, because you take what story is floating around your head and get it on the page in a similar fashion to your favorite author. Not a carbon or comma for comma copy, but if you consistently read a specific author’s work, you will end up emulating them in one way or another. While writing Have You Seen Sarah Baker? I turned to the thriller/horror master himself, Stephen King, and burned through enough of his books to fill a shelf. His prose is some of the best I’ve read and definitely an inspiration to my writing.

  • What are obstacles that come in the way of writing?

Life. Plain and simple. Life will always get in the way of writing. Right now? Promoting the release of Have You Seen Sarah Baker? is eating up all of my free time. One more week until the book launches, and part of me knows this is only the beginning. There aren’t enough hours in the day.  

  • What’s the most memorable thing asked/said by a reader about your work?

I think I’ve received more WTF’s than anything. HA. Luckily enough, it was the response I was hoping for. The moment where everything the reader had in their head is flipped upside down becomes something even darker and more sinister than they imagined. Horror fan remember? Oh, my stories won’t be easy to swallow. You’ve been warned.

  • How long have you been writing?

I started writing my first novel in 2016. It shall forever be a book locked in a drawer, never allowed to see the light of day again. A good first attempt, sure, but I didn’t have to the right tools to put the furniture together, so to speak. It took years of research to finally get to a point where I don’t feel completely incompetent when it comes to writing. The most wonderful part about it is I’m still learning more and more each day. You will never stop learning with this craft.

  •  When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?

When I was halfway through my aforementioned novel, I enjoyed cranking out chapters and sending them out to my small group of readers. Hearing their feedback—whether good or bad—I was hooked! You’re telling me I can get people excited or upset just with my words? Oh, that was when I knew I found something I truly love.

  • What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

Get the words in whenever I can. Whether on a break during the day job or late-night thoughts I have to put in my notes app before bed. When I am all in on a book, I’ll find a way.

  • What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I think I’m a huge stickler for overused words. This quirk comes courtesy of the first editor I worked with on my debut novel. All I remember is just a horde of red highlighted words. It was traumatizing. I think at that point it really stuck out how often I use a certain word or phrase. Repetition. Wow. I learned a lot with that book.

  • How long does it take to write a book?

It depends. My first two books took a matter of months while my newest release, Have You Seen Sarah Baker? came to fruition after years of beta readers and rewrites until it was picked up by Tule Publishing (minus the breaks between writing it, of course). If I’m completely invested in the story, and I can manage to block out the background noise, I’d say a book can take anywhere from two to three months to finish, but that is best case scenario. 

  • Do you have suggestions on how to become a better writer?

Read. You have to read and read a lot if you want to be able to write and write well. You’ll pick up on so much reading things you normally wouldn’t. Prose. Sentence structure. Character development. Reading is just as important, if not more so than writing.

  • What challenges do you come across when writing/creating your story?

The biggest challenge for me lately, especially when I have the story mapped out in my head, is finding the to sit down and get it on paper. Writing can be very time consuming, and since I’ve been putting the majority of my energy into marketing my latest release, writing fell to the wayside.

  • What do you think makes a good story?

A good story is something fulfilling in my opinion. Doesn’t matter if ends on a cliffhanger, or every character you love perishes in some gruesome, climactic battle. As long as the reader can walk away feeling good, like the time they invested into a story was worth it in the end, that’s the finish I strive for with all of my novels.

  • What does your family think of your writing?

I have an amazing family that has gone above and beyond to support my writing endeavors. I’m so grateful for them.  

  • Do you see writing as a career?

I would love to write full time. All I’m waiting for is that one contract that’ll make my dream a reality. You’re telling me I can use words to transport readers into a different world and make a living doing it? SIGN ME UP!

  • Do you have anything specific you’d like to tell the readers?

If you’re picking up one of my books, namely my most recent release, nothing is what you expect. I’m going to do everything on my end to keep you guessing until you’re grasping at straws and skipping ahead in the book to find out. I won’t make it easy for you, but I promise you, the shock and how everything ties together in the end will be worth it!

  • When did you first consider yourself a writer?

There was a point in my first book when I glanced down at the word document and saw I had typed a hundred pages. My first hundred. I knew there was still so much story to tell, and I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I finished it. That was when I knew I found something I truly loved doing. That was when I knew I was a writer.

My thriller, Have You Seen Sarah Baker? releases May 4th with Tule Publishing, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all major retailers with an audiobook coming soon!


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