Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Whereafter by Terri Bruce
Thank you so much for having me on your blog today to talk about my latest book, Whereafter! I’m really excited to be here!
Please share with readers a little about Whereafter.
Whereafter (Afterlife #3) is the third book (of six) in my Afterlife 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 find get inside his head and see what’s going on there.
Have you ever based your book or characters on actual events or people from 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 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. LOL—sometimes I feel like my Afterlife series is historical fiction masquerading as fantasy!
Is there a theme or message in your work that you would like readers to connect to?
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’s so many things I wanted to write about, and they are all in this series. 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.
What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?
That I’m paralyzingly shy. Most people think I’m an extrovert—I’m not. I’m a very, very high introvert and I’m very shy/nervous when I meet someone for the first time. However, I do love meeting new people, and I love it when people message me on Facebook or Twitter (I do respond!). I go to quite a few conventions around New England (Arisia, Boskone, Pi-Con, and Readercon), so please do say hi to me if you see me there.
When you’re not writing what do you do? Do you have any hobbies or guilty pleasures?
I love horseback riding, quilting, crocheting, reading, hiking, cooking, baking…LOL! Too many hobbies, not enough time! It’s unfortunate that I have to work full-time—it makes finding the time for hobbies very hard. I’m still fairly new to writing as a profession, rather than a hobby, so I haven’t quite found that work-life balance around working, writing (which is now basically a second full-time job), and hobbies/fun. I’m trying to keep writing to M-F, like a job, and keep my weekends free for hobbies, but it’s all a work in progress.
Is there a genre(s) that you’d like to write that you haven’t tackled yet?
I’ve had a historical fiction banging around in the back of my head for a while, but haven’t had the courage to attempt it. You have to get all the details right with historical fiction and I don’t know if I’m that exact a writer. The same goes for hard sci-fi—I don’t know if I have the chops, or the patience, to write with the required level of accuracy. This is why most of my writing tends to be general sci-fi and fantasy that combines a lot of historical research—I can pull in the elements I like but then fudge the other details. :)
Of all the characters you’ve ever written, who is your favorite and why?
This is a really tough question because I always like something about every character—if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to stick with them for the year or more it takes me to write a novel. Jonah might be the closest to my heart—he has the most “me” in him, and he was only supposed to be a bit-player. He was just supposed to have two lines in which he told Irene she was dead and then that was it. Instead, he refused to leave the story and grew into one of the main characters. I have a soft spot for Jonah because of his combination of vulnerability and determination. Irene, on the other hand, makes me laugh. I love her snarkiness. She’s so much fun to write. Andras I have the least in common with because I am not at all religious, but I admire him—I admire the strength of his convictions and his consistency.
I’m working on an unrelated (to the Afterlife series) science-noir story at the moment and that character is actually really unlikeable and his head space is hard to spend time in because it’s very dark and kind of hateful, but, at the same time, I like the character because writing him challenges me and I love, stylistically, how he speaks and thinks (which are highly stylized and also very metaphorical—whenever he talks about one thing he’s really talking about something else). So, really, from every character I write, I learn something and I love them all in different ways. Except Ian (from Thereafter)—that guy was just a jerk. I hated him from the beginning. :)
If this book is part of a series…what is the next book? Any details you can share?
The next book will be 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?
What is next for you? Do you have any scheduled upcoming releases or works in progress?
As always, I have a bunch of things in the works. There is, of course, the next book in the Afterlife series—Whenafter—and the Whereafter launch party in April/May (check my website for date and location), 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.
In addition, 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 (on my blog at http://www.terribruce.net) in which I reveal all of the hidden references to afterlife mythology and “easter eggs” hidden in the series. I encourage everyone to stop by each day and check out the videos—you’ll have a chance to see just how much research went into this series and hopefully everyone will find the videos interesting as well as fun!
Those interested in keeping up to date with all my news can sign up for my newsletter at http://www.terribruce.net.
What is in your to read pile?
My TBR pile is 294 book long! Eek! For 2016, one of my resolutions is to do a better job making time for reading. That has really gone by the wayside since I became a published author, and I’m trying to set aside dedicated time for reading. I received a whole bag of books at World Fantasy Con in November, and I vowed to at least try each book I received, even if I didn’t think it would be to my taste. I’ve ended up liking several of them very much and discovering some new series this way—Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series (which reminds me a bit of Terry Pratchett’s writing, which I adore) and Chuck Wendig’s “Miriam Black” series, in particular. I’ve received the first book of each series at WFC and have read them, and now reading the rest of the books in the series is high on my list.
At the moment, I’m reading “It’s Come to Our Attention,” an anthology that just came out in February that features on of my short stories and “Life on the Edge: The Coming Age of Quantum Biology” by Johnjoe McFadden. After that, I’m going to be reading the second book in Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series and Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians.”
Thank you for letting me stop by and chat about Whereafter. And thank you to all 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! I love interacting with readers, so please feel free to email me or connect with me on Twitter! 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!
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.
Irene could hear voices. She shushed Andras and cocked her head. “I think there are people up ahead,” she said. The land, transitioning from black sand to short black grass, sloped upwards as it moved away from the shore, the white trees growing more plentiful until they turned into densely-packed forest.
Irene started forward with Andras behind her and followed the sound. The black grass crunched softly under foot as they mounted the gentle slope and approached the edge of the wood. Irene stopped to touch a tree—though it was knobby and gnarled, the surface was smooth as silk, without texture. Irene wasn’t sure what that meant, except she was pretty sure it wasn’t actually a tree.
At the top of the rise they stopped short in surprise as they came upon a scene straight out of a medieval tapestry. In a clearing amongst the gleaming white trees—these with dense clusters of bright pink leaves—stood a massive oaken dining table, large enough to seat thirty or more. Around this table, seated upon massive, hand-carved chairs like mini-thrones, were richly dressed men and women, resplendent in long and lavish flowing robes and gowns of velvet and damask in shades of vermilion, plum, garnet, hunter, and the like, all edged with embroidery, lace, and fur. The women wore Renaissance style hats of one or two peaks from which trailed gauzy veils, and the men wore large, floppy, velvet and ermine hats.
The table was heaped with luscious fruits and roasted meats and goblets of jewel-colored liquids, possibly wine, though the platters were covered over by a layer of fallen pink leaves, which fell lazily from the trees like tinkling musical notes, giving the impression that the platters hadn’t been touched for years. Bird-song permeated the grove, sweet and gentle, filling Irene with a sense of peace and tranquility.
Irene had a strange yearning to join the party at the table—to sit down with them, to drink from one of the cups, and to sample the food on the table. Her stomach rumbled—not with hunger so much as longing—and Irene put a hand to it, as if she could quiet it with the gesture.
The men and women around the table had been talking languorously, though Irene couldn’t make out their words—she thought they might have been speaking a foreign language—but as they became aware of Irene’s and Andras’s presence, the conversation slowly trailed off and then died.
“Uh, hello?” Irene said, cautiously, stepping forward. There was no trace of friendliness from the people. In fact, the atmosphere of the entire area seemed to be growing less friendly by the second. Even the bird-song had stopped.
Thirty pairs of eyes slowly swiveled to face Irene and Andras.
Irene gasped and stepped back. Now that they diners faced her, she could see what she hadn’t been able to see before: each person had the head of an animal—a goat, an ox, a horse, a fox, a cat, a crocodile…
A horse-headed woman in an apricot-colored robe rose to her feet. “You don’t belong here,” she said harshly, her frigid tone turning Irene’s blood to ice.
“I’m sorry… we got lost…” Irene said, clutching her bag tighter as alarm snaked through her.
“This place is not for you,” said a jaguar-headed man in carnelian robes, also rising to his feet.
Irene took a step back. The naked hostility was apparent now.
“I think we should go—” she said in an undertone to Andras.
There was a movement at the table, and then something whistled through the air, striking Irene on the shoulder hard.
“Ow!” she cried, as the projectile dropped to the ground—a rock. “Hey!” she cried angrily, rubbing the bruise, but then another rock hit her, this time thudding dully against the side of her head. Andras grunted and flinched as he, too, was hit.
“You don’t belong here,” the men and women at the table said, each rising one by one. More rocks followed. Irene backed away hastily.
“Alright! Alright! We’re going!”
The diners were all standing now, intoning “you don’t belong here” in unison as rocks rained down on Irene and Andras.
“Come on!” Andras shouted.
Following his lead, Irene turned and ran, rocks pelting her head, her shoulders, her back, her legs as she fled.
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).