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.
Andras grunted, the sound filled with suspicion. Irene bent down to tie her shoelace, as much to avoid eye contact as anything. When she straightened up, something in the distance caught her eye, shimmering like a mirage. She squinted, not sure she was really seeing what she thought she saw.
“You know, now might be a good time for you to tell me what it was like to live in a castle,” she said.
Andras shook his head, sadly, as if Irene had disappointed him. “You cling too much to the past. Forget the trappings of life. Free your mind from these longings, and so, free your soul. Only then will we be able to escape these shackles and enter Heaven to rest at the side of God.”
Why did he always have to argue about everything? “For God’s sake,” she said, exasperated, “just answer the question!”
Irene pointed to the hulking structure in the distance. “Because,” she said as Andras whirled around to see what she was pointing at, “correct me if I’m wrong, but that looks like a castle.”
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).
Thank you so much for letting me stop by today to talk about my latest book, Whereafter. I’m really excited to be here!
Where are you from?
I am originally from a very small town in New Hampshire. I moved to the Greater Boston area to attend college and lived there for many years and then twelve years ago, my husband and I moved back to NH. Our dream, however, is to live up in the Bucksport-Ellsworth area of Maine, so we can be closer to Acadia National Park. The whole “Downeast” area of Maine is beautiful, and we love it there!
Tell us your latest news?
Well… I have a new book out! Whereafter, the latest book in my Afterlife series, released on March 15th.
Whereafter (Afterlife #3) is the third book (of six) in the series. The series tells the story of Irene Dunphy, a thirty-six year old party girl, who dies and is stuck on earth as a ghost. She eventually figures out how to cross over to the other side, and she has to learn how to navigate the afterlife and figure out how to spend eternity.
It’s also the story of the friendship that springs up between her and a fourteen-year-old boy named Jonah Johnson. Jonah is alive, but he can see dead people—thanks to a meditation he learned from a book he found in his school library. Jonah, in many ways, is older than Irene (he’s certainly more mature), and he knows a lot more about the afterlife (it’s his obsession) so he becomes the rock Irene leans on during her journey.
Whereafter is the book I’ve been dying to write ever since I wrote the first book in the series, Hereafter. Everyone who has read Hereafter wonders why Jonah stays friends with Irene—she’s rude, snarky, and has a major drinking problem. Some people felt the relationship was somewhat abusive, and many readers didn’t understand why Jonah put up with Irene. In Whereafter, for the first time, Jonah is a point-of-view character, and we get to see his side of the story. I think readers are going to be happy to finally get inside his head and see what’s going on there.
In addition, I had several short stories come out recently—one in “Dear Robot,” an anthology of science fiction stories, and one in “It’s Come to Our Attention,” an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories from Third Flatiron Pres about unexpected happenings.
When and why did you begin writing?
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.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always considered myself a writer, but I didn’t consider myself an author (a professional writer) until my first book (Hereafter) was published. Holding the book in my hands made it feel real. However, it was also strange because I didn’t feel like I had “made it” and was “real” author yet. It wasn’t until now (the past six months) when I have also had numerous short stories accepted for publication and have a third novel coming out that I think, “yeah, I’m an author,” and feel like it’s true.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I think, more than what inspired to me to write my first book, since I’ve always written, is what inspired me to try and get published. And, honestly, I’m not even sure I know what did it. I think a great deal of it had to do with the fact that I joined a writers’ group and at that point, writing went from being a hobby to being something I was consciously investing a lot of time into. For years I had written stories I just gave to my friends and then I got into writing fan-fiction—and both of those things fulfilled my need to write and to have share my work with readers. If I hadn’t joined the writers’ group I don’t think it would have ever gone beyond that. But once I joined the writers’ group, I felt more like a professional writer. I had “homework,” (to critique other people’s work), I had people critiquing my writing and as a result I was pushed to consciously strive to improve my writing (so I didn’t embarrass myself in front of the other writers in the group), and then after putting in all that work and effort—not just by me but of my critique partners as well, it seemed a shame to just stick the completed novel in the drawer. It felt like I had to try and get it published—if only because I owed it to my critique partners because of the time they had put into helping to improve the story.
Do you have a specific writing style?
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. Stylistically, I tend to vary a lot, matching the style to the story I’m telling and viewing style (and genre) simply as tools for telling the story. That is, I use whatever style is necessary for telling the story. In addition, I write in several genres, and each genre has its own stylistic conventions, so I have to adapt my writing style to the genre I’m writing. For instance, I’m writing a science noir right now, that is written in a very spare, terse style to match the narrator, who is a former old school cop—which is very different from Irene, the main character of Whereafter, who is a modern party girl and is written in a more “chick lit” style. 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.
How did you come up with the title?
I’m terrible at titles. 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 a 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, When After, 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).
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
LOL—there is but I’m not going to tell you what it is! I want readers to discover it for themselves. If I’ve done my job as a writer, then readers will grasp the message in the book.
I can tell you that this series is very close to my heart; there are so many things I wanted to write about, and they are all in there. I wanted to write a story about a woman that saves herself (rather than have a man or a romantic relationship/finding love be the solution to her problems). I wanted to write a love story that wasn’t a romance or about romantic or sexual love. I wanted to write about depression. Whereafter is particularly special to me because Jonah, the fourteen-year-old boy that befriends Irene in the first book, finally becomes a point-of-view character in this book, and readers can finally get his side of the story. I’m excited to hear what readers think.
How much of the book is realistic?
When I set out to write this series, I tried to make it as realistic as possible. I love mythology, especially the origins of myths. And if we assume that all humans share the same afterlife, I wondered how it could be that there were so many different descriptions—basically so many divergent descriptions of the same thing. So then I began to wonder what the afterlife would look like if all of the myths and stories were true—maybe it was like “The Blind Men and the Elephant” where all of the stories describe only a part of the afterlife. If so, then how would all those parts fit together?
I also wanted to write a story that felt at least plausible but hopefully also realistic—which meant it had to be, at least a little, grounded in actual physics. So, in that case, how would ghosts be able to walk through walls but also be able to pick up things or move things around? How would ghosts residing on earth but also be spirits leaving the earthly realm to go to the afterlife/residing somewhere else work? Etc. For me, that’s been some of the most fun (and most challenging parts) of writing the story. Making sure the internal mechanics are consistent, realistic, and plausible while also adhering to the actual myths and beliefs of various cultures and religions.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There’s so much real life stuff in my books! Irene’s recollection of her death by drowning is actually my memory of the experience. I nearly drowned when I was six, and I’ve never forgotten it. Jonah depression is taken from my own experiences and my own struggles as a teenager of feeling like a misfit and being a lonely, nerdy outsider. In Whereafter, Jonah has a very emotional scene where he tries to describe why he’s suicidal and why he’s so desperate to find Irene, who he’s kind of pinned all his hopes of not being so lonely on, and all of that is taken from my own feelings and memories from that age.
In addition, many of my characters are drawn from actual history. All of Andras’s background and history is taken from historical research. Even though he is a fictional character, his family is real, the religious order he belonged to is real, the holding of Ucles is real, and the history of the battle of Alarcos in 1195 is all real.
In Book #2 (Thereafter), Ian’s history and background are all real, though he himself is fiction. The Chinese philosopher Gao that Irene and Ian meet was a real person. There are actually a lot of hidden, real life people in the series. I do a lot of research and try to find real life people that match the characters I need/want for particular scenes. And in those cases where I don’t use a real person, I invent a person but I make all of their life circumstances as realistic as possible—such as Amy in Hereafter. She is not a real person, but her profession, where she lived (a boarding house in Boston’s South End), the way she dressed, the way she speaks, her social and political views, her slang/vocabulary, and even the names of streets she references are all historically accurate for the time period in which she would have lived. Sometimes I feel like my Afterlife series is historical fiction masquerading as fantasy!
What books have most influenced your life most?
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 being my attempts to be the best version of myself.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I actually did have a mentor, a writer named Charles “Chuck” Groskey, who was one of my critique partners for Hereafter, and who, sadly, passed away (from cancer) before Hereafter was published. Chuck was a great mentor because he had a very kind, gentle way of providing feedback. He would say things like, “I think you can do better than this,” and often that was enough to send the message that I needed to rework something or that a section wasn’t “up to snuff.” He was never mean or harsh and yet his feedback was always spot on. I miss him, a lot.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading “It’s Come to Our Attention,” an anthology that just came out in February that features my short story “The Well”—an almost Lovecraftian horror story. After that, I’m going to be reading the second book in Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series, which I just discovered and have fallen in love with. The first book in that series, “The Lies of Locke Lamora,” reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s writing/stories in many ways, and I love Terry Pratchett’s books.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I recently read Joey Comeau’s “One Bloody Thing After Another” and thought that was a brilliant, chaotic, deranged masterpiece. I really loved it and look forward to reading some other things by him. I also want to read “Hour of Mischief,” by Aimee Hyndman—who, in the interests of full disclosure, is one of my critique partners. She does amazing world building in all of her stories, and I’m so happy for her first release. I have never read that story of hers, so I look forward to it. Shauna Roberts and D.L. Carter are two other fantasy authors I’ve come across recently whose work looks really intriguing and I can’t wait to read.
What are your current 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 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?
In addition, 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!
What would you like my readers to know?
I love talking to people! I love email, and I’m very active on twitter. Feel free to just say “hi.” I love talking books—what people are reading, authors they like, and sharing leads on new and interesting/not main stream/diverse stories and authors. And cats—I always love talking about cats J
Thank you for letting me stop by to chat about Whereafter. And thank you to everyone stopping by! Please be sure to check out all of the other stops on the Whereafter release tour and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! Readers can also sign up for my newsletter (on my website) to stay up to date with all my latest news. In addition, I love interacting with people, so please feel free to email me or connect with me on Twitter.
2 $25 Amazon Gift Cards