Thank you so much for having me on your blog today! I’m really excited to be here and to be celebrating the release of my third novel, Whereafter (Afterlife #3)!
What inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always written, ever since I was a child, but I never thought about doing it professionally until 2001. I came home from a bad day at work with a story idea running in my head. I sat down at the computer and started typing and didn’t stop. Pretty soon I had the solid beginnings of a novel and decided maybe I should do something with it. However, after four years, I hadn’t made a lot of progress towards completing the novel, so I decided to join a local writers’ group to help keep me motivated and accountable. It worked and I was able to finally finish that novel in 2009, though it still remains unpublished. I started work on another novel, Hereafter, and was able to sell that to a publisher in 2012. I think what finally pushed me to try and get published was belonging to the writers’ group. Joining the writers’ group made me feel like I was serious about writing and being published—it became a goal instead of just a hobby.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I describe my work as “fantasy and science fiction with a literary bent,” though my work is a really a blend of science fiction/fantasy, women’s fiction, and literary fiction, in the vein of The Lovely Bones, Cloud of Sparrows, Peony in Love, The Sparrow, Neverwhere, and The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Do you write in different genres?
For me, genre is just a tool for telling a story. I’m not wedded to a particular genre, so I do tend to write in different genres (as well as different styles). I’m fascinated by a lot of things—the world is a source of endless wonder to me—and so I tend to hop around, exploring various subjects through my writing, and, as such, I write in the genre best suited for the story I’m telling. I’ve explored identity and truth in my first (still unpublished) novel, Say It Three Times. In the Afterlife Series, I explore afterlife mythology, the nature of love and friendship, and learning to accept our own weaknesses. I have a science fantasy in the works that is about survival, identity, and dealing with mortality, and a historical fiction on the backburner that is about the Bread and Roses strike of 1912. So… yeah, for sure on the genre hopping.
All of my stories share common elements—they tend to be more character-driven than plot-driven, often are more “think pieces” and low concept (rather than high concept/easy to describe in a succinct statement) that stay with the reader and keep them thinking long after the story is done, and are almost always cross-genre or defy genre-conventions. It’s these characteristics that are the trademarks of my writing, rather than a particular style (or genre). However, no matter what genre I’m writing in or what style I’m using, readers know that, from me, they are going to get a thought-provoking, often unsettling, story that will make them think.
If yes which is your favorite genre to write?
So far, I’ve mostly stuck to science fiction and fantasy—those come naturally to me—but really, I love all genres. For me, the key thing is telling a character-driven story about people’s emotional struggles. That’s what I love to write about. And if that takes the form of a fantasy story or a science fiction story or a romance or a historical fiction, then so be it. Whatever tool/setting is necessary to tell the character’s story.
How did you come up with the title for your latest book?
Originally, Hereafter, the first book in the series, was called “In the Land of Mictlan—Book One: Across the Pontine” (Mictlan is the Aztec afterlife and a Pontine is a bridge to the afterlife). My sister talked me out of that—too pretentious, didn’t fit the style of the book (sounds more epic fantasy), and no one would know what it meant. Then I struggled and struggled to find a new title—finally I settled on “Hereafter” just as a place holder, assuming the publisher would change it. Well, the publisher ended up liking it, and decided to keep it. Of course, right after the publisher bought my book, another book by a big name YA author came out with the same title. We talked about changing my title, but the publisher liked it and I already had named all the other books in the series based on all of them being a play on the word “after” (the “after” in “afterlife”), so we decided to keep it.
I have titles for all six books in the series already; each uses the word “after” and is related to the central theme of each story:
• Book #1 is titled Hereafter, which takes place (here) on Earth/the land of the living.
• Book #2 is called Thereafter and takes place (over there) in the afterlife/on the “other side.”
• Book #3 is called Whereafter and takes place (somewhere) in between the land of the living and the afterlife (it’s unclear where the characters are), and also, the book is about the two main characters’ attempts to reach a particular destination (to get somewhere in particular).
• Book #4, Whenafter, will be about “when” the story is taking place. In Whereafter, we learn that time is not passing the same in the land of the living as it is in the land of the dead. So in Book #4, exactly when the story is taking place will be important.
• The remaining books will be called, either Elseafter (Book #5) (about choices) (it was originally going to be called Never After but there’s a few other books with that title already, including one by Laurell K. Hamilton, so I switched the title), and Ever After (Book #6) (this might change as I worry it’s clichéd, but it does fit really perfectly).
Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?
A little bit of both. Every story always has a working title, which may or may not end up being the finished/published title of the story. So there’s a title from the very beginning that I refer to it as and then upon completion, that working title is often changed to what ends up being the title it’s published under. I tend to continue referring to a book by its working title, however, forever. I still call Hereafter “Mictlan” and that’s how it’s saved on my computer!
What books/authors have influenced your life?
For sure, T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King,” was one of the most impactful books I have ever read. I read it once a year around my birthday just to remind myself that the struggle to be noble and good is worth it. Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” influenced my social-political views, “The Little Prince” influenced my life philosophy, and Marianne Williamson’s “A Return to Love” has helped guide me in my attempts to be the best version of myself.
What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?
As always, I have a bunch of things in the works. There is, of course, the next book in the Afterlife series, I’m working on editing a “Blade Runner meets The Usual Suspects” science noir story that I’ll be shopping to publishers soon, and I’m working on a science fiction novel that started out as a space-opera “sci-fi western” and is morphing into a much more sobering, almost hard sci-fi mortality tale about a group of space miners trying to survive on an abandoned mining outpost in deep space.
Of course, your readers probably most want to know what is in store for Irene and Jonah! The next book in the Afterlife series is titled, “Whenafter.” There is no release date set yet, but I have already started working on it. Whenafter will feature the return of a significant character from Hereafter, and finally, readers will get some answers to some long-standing, unanswered questions!
In The Afterlife, Nothing Is As It Seems…
Just as she’s found the doorway from the Great Beyond back to the land of the living, Irene Dunphy’s plan to return home as a guardian angel is derailed by a surprise attack from an old enemy.
Swept into the afterlife plane inhabited by the Nephilim, Irene is forced to call in a favor from the mysterious Samyel—the Nephilim who used her to bring him to the afterlife and then promptly abandoned her. He’s her only hope of survival and escape—if he can be trusted to deliver on past promises. But will Samyel help her—or betray her?
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I find it really hard to write emotionally sad scenes—goodbyes and death/loss. I have a hard time feeling like the scene is emotional enough—I want readers to really feel it (and to cry!). Emotional scenes in terms of anger, embarrassment, frustration, fear… all of those I find much easier. But I’ve never written a really sad scene that I felt was good enough (like when Irene’s horse dies in Thereafter or when she says goodbye to Jonah at the end of Thereafter).
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I think my most favorite author is Terry Pratchett because he so effortlessly combined humor and emotional gut punches. In one sentence he’d have you laughing and in the next he’d be delivering a very sobering commentary on society or having something very emotional happen to the characters. It’s amazing to me how he was able to do both elements so well and to blend them so well.
Of course, any author that can make me cry also ranks among my favorites as well: T.H. White (The Once and Future King), Aryn Kyle (The God of Animals), and Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow) are all on this list.
Do you have to travel much to do research for your books?
Virtual travel! LOL! I do a lot of research for the books in the Afterlife series—in a way, they are almost historical fiction, because the afterlife is full of people from throughout history, right? So I’ve had to research not just afterlife myths, but physical places associated with the afterlife (real life places that people believe are doorways to the afterlife), fashions from throughout history, the geographic history of Boston, Massachusetts (I had to find “ghost streets” for Hereafter and/or streets that have been renamed in the last one hundred years), and do extensive research on the geography and history of Spain as relates to the crusades and the wars against the Moors in the twelfth century. I love the internet so much—how did authors do all this research before then?!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t wait for inspiration, don’t wait to be in the mood—push yourself through the “meh” feelings and writers’ block and just put words on the page. You can always edit it later. The biggest challenge for a new writer (any writer, really) is actually finishing a story. It’s so easy to start a story, but finishing… that’s much harder. But you can’t get published if you don’t actually finish anything.
I want to thank you once again for letting me stop by and chat about Whereafter. For those that love afterlife mythology or want to learn more about the Afterlife series, during the month of April, I will be participating in the “A to Z Blogging Challenge,” and every day, I will be posting a video blog (at http://www.terribruce.net) in which I reveal all of the hidden references to afterlife mythology and “Easter Eggs” in the series. I encourage everyone to stop by each day and check out the videos! You can also sign up for my newsletter to stay up to date with all my latest news. In addition, I love interacting with readers, so please feel free to email me or connect with me on Twitter.
Genre: Contemporary fantasy/paranormal
Publisher: Mictlan Press
Date of Publication: March 15, 2016
Number of pages: 345
Word Count: 100,000
Paperback and all ebook formats
Cover Artist: Shelby Robinson – artwork
Jennifer Stolzer – layout and design
How Far Would You Go To Get Your Life Back?
Stuck in the afterlife on an island encircled by fire and hunted by shadows bent on trapping them there forever, Irene and Andras struggle to hold onto the last vestiges of their physical selves, without which they can never return to the land of the living. But it’s not just external forces they’ll have to fight as the pair grow to realize they have different goals. Irene still clings to the hope that she can somehow return to her old life—the one she had before she died—while Andras would be only too glad to embrace oblivion.
Meanwhile, Jonah desperately searches for a way to cross over to the other side, even if doing so means his death. His crossing over, however, is the one thing that could destroy Irene’s chances of returning home.
Too many obstacles, too many people to save, and the thing Irene most desperately wants—to return to her old life—seems farther away than ever. Only one thing is clear: moving on will require making a terrible sacrifice.
Char shook her head and rolled her eyes. “I was going more for a sense of forced gaiety in the face of impending doom, but, sure, your rather strange and far-fetched idea works, too.”
“Doom?” Jonah scoffed. “There’s nothing creepy here. In fact…” He scanned the room, his lips pursed as the subtle thought that had been nagging at him since they’d arrived finally crystalized. Setting aside the fact that Irene wouldn’t be caught dead waltzing or in a library or wandering naked in a garden, and that her letters had indicated she was outside, at a river, there was another glaring indication that they weren’t in the right place: Valhalla, Heaven, Eden, Tlalocan… they all had one thing in common. They were where the happy dead went.
Disappointment sizzled through him, instantly souring the happiness of a few moments ago. “You know what—let’s go.” He turned back toward the doorway through which they had just come.
“Go? Wait… you mean we’re leaving?”
“Irene’s not here.” Frustration burned like acid in his gut. He pushed blindly through the throng, numbness and anger warring within him. All that time, all that effort… for nothing. He was back to square one.
“What do you mean? This place is huge; we haven’t even searched half of it yet.”
“I can tell she’s not here. This isn’t where she went.” Bitterness bubbled over, and he desperately wanted to punch something. He tried to tamp the feeling down; he’d give vent to his feelings in private, away from Char’s prying, mocking eyes.
“How do you know she isn’t here?” Char said, a note of insistence creeping into her voice. “We’ve hardly even looked.”
Jonah stopped dead in his tracks and gestured wildly to the rooms around them. “Look around. These people are all happy. This is Valhalla and Elysium and Eden—the places people go to carouse and rejoice and celebrate a life well lived. These people don’t mind that they’re dead. In fact, they’re thrilled. It’s one endless party.”
“And let me guess—Irene was not happy to be dead?”
Jonah turned away from her with a scowl and resumed heading for the doorway back the way they had come. “No. She was pissed. This is the last place she’d be. No, she’s somewhere else.” Waiting at a river to pay a coin to a ferryman—that sounded like the Greek or Egyptian afterlife to him. And if she hadn’t then crossed into Elysium, that left Tartarus or Hades—basically Hell. He’d been right to worry. She was in trouble.
About the Author:
Terri Bruce has been making up adventure stories for as long as she can remember and won her first writing award when she was twelve. Like Anne Shirley, she prefers to make people cry rather than laugh, but is happy if she can do either. She produces fantasy and adventure stories from a haunted house in New England where she lives with her husband and three cats. She is the author of the Afterlife Series, which includes Hereafter (Afterlife #1) and Thereafter (Afterlife #2) and several short stories including “Welcome to OASIS” (“Dear Robot” anthology, Kelly Jacobson publisher) and “The Well” (“Scratching the Surface” anthology, Third Flatiron Press).