Interview: Author Juan Carlos Hernandez

Lost and Found on the Camino de Santiago is a novel about a heartbroken young writer from Chicago who finds himself traveling down the millennia-old pilgrimage route in Spain. En route, he meets and falls in love with a young Brazilian woman from San Francisco. (Read a sample from the first chapter of this book here).

This is the first novel by Juan Carlos Hernandez, a writer, journalist and Chicago-area educator who has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the printing costs of independently publishing his upcoming work. Lost and Found is both a love story and travel narrative rolled into one easily portable package. Hernandez says that there is enough background on the famous pilgrimage route in the book to help give readers an appreciation for the places the characters are journeying through.

The book is full of historical information on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, which began during the Middle Ages in Spain as devotees began to travel to a shrine in Galicia. It is there where, according to legend, Saint James the apostle of Jesus was buried. Over time the Camino began to be slowly forgotten until the priest Elias Valina Sampedro worked to revive the Camino in the 1960s and 70s. Thanks to his work, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims per year flock to the Camino once again. Hernandez made the pilgrimage while studying abroad in Europe. He became friends with two strangers in Madrid and found himself on the path that changed his life and inspired him to write his novel.

Hernandez said that for him, traveling is a way to “open your eyes and your heart to a different place and another part of yourself.” He hopes that his novel will inspire readers to take their own life altering journeys. While traveling with little more than what he could carry on his back, he learned that “you don’t really need a whole lot in this world to be happy.”

“You don’t miss having a ton of clothes, or a TV or your smart phone,” he said. “I never missed those things while I was on the Camino…You learn that love and connection with human beings, with God and yourself are the most important things in this life.”

“When we support each other, we’re really supporting ourselves,” he said. “That’s what I feel when I give other writers support or other people that are going on the Camino. It’s just this constant cycle of giving and receiving that I hope people feel when they read the book.”

Writing this novel has been its own journey and the author has had help from many people along the way, including the poet, novelist, and essayist Ana Castillo. Hernandez had the opportunity to work with her on her ranch after submitting his manuscript for an open call. His family and friends have also come together to help him raise support through his Kickstarter campaign, which he hopes will help him be able to hire professional editors and designers to publish his book.

Meeting his campaign goal would also allow him to continue writing. Hernandez has other projects in mind including the story of his cousin who was killed in the drug war, which he hopes will counter the glamorous portrayals of cartel violence such as in the telenovela La Reina del Sur. In the meantime, he is working hard to share his first novel with the world.

The Camino doesn’t belong to just one person, and Hernandez said that he feels the same way about his novel Lost and Found on the Camino de Santiago. For Hernandez, the novel belongs to everyone who has helped him along the way. He will show this appreciation by including the names of everyone who contributes $35 or more to the Kickstarter campaign and also offering a plethora of other thank-you perks and prizes to those who pledge funds for his project.

Learn more about this project and contribute to Hernandez’s Kickstarter campaign by November 16 here!