Nothing in life is free. Turns out, nothing in the afterlife is, either. When recently-deceased Irene Dunphy decided to “follow the light,” she thought she’d end up in Heaven or Hell and her journey would be over. Boy, was she wrong. She soon finds that “the other side” isn’t a final destination but a kind of purgatory where billions of spirits are stuck, with no way to move forward or back. Even worse, deranged phantoms known as “Hungry Ghosts” stalk the dead, intent on destroying them. The only way out is for Irene to forget her life on earth—including the boy who risked everything to help her cross over—which she’s not about to do.As Irene desperately searches for an alternative, help unexpectedly comes in the unlikeliest of forms: a twelfth-century Spanish knight and a nineteenth-century American cowboy. Even more surprising, one offers a chance for redemption; the other, love. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to have either if she can’t find a way to escape the hellish limbo where they’re all trapped.
Today I welcome the lovely Terri Bruce to the blog for an interview. Terri is the author of Hereafter and Thereafter. Two books which I’ve recently read and really enjoyed. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to ask her some questions…
I’m so happy to be here today, thank you so much for inviting me, Chrissi! I actually met Chrissi through Top Ten Tuesday when we started commenting on each other’s posts and I’m a regular reader of her blog, so it’s an honor for me to be here today.
How long have you been writing for?
I’ve always written; in grade school, they had us write a story every year, which we then made into a book – we printed it neatly on nice paper, drew pictures to accompany the story, and then sewed it all together with a cardboard wrapped in wall paper for covers. I think that was my favorite thing we did all year and I still have those stories (thanks Mom for keeping them!). It wasn’t until 2001, however, that I really set out to write a novel “for real,” and that’s when I started working steadily toward becoming a professional author.
What inspired you to write Hereafter and Thereafter?
The idea for the Afterlife Series came to me one day while I was driving (as so many ideas do); I thought about how different all the stories are of what happens to us when we die. If all the stories stem from some common story or belief what might that original story look like? How could we reconcile all these different “truths” about what happens, and all the various superstitions related to ghosts and how to bury the dead and such, and what would the afterlife look like if all the stories were true in some way? Around the same time, the character of Irene came to me—a strong-headed, complex woman who isn’t really good or bad and who is just sort of treading water in life—and her struggle to deal with her early/unexpected death. The two ideas came together and Hereafter was born.
Can you see yourself in any of the characters?
LOL – well, none of the characters are “me” per se, but a lot of Jonah’s depression is pulled from my own memories and experiences as a teen. Whenever I hear someone say they wish they could “go back” to being a teen/kid and do it all again, I think, “NO.WAY.” I would never go back—being a teen was awful!
My husband, on the other hand, will tell you I’m a lot like Irene. When I’m doing the final editing of my books, I read the entire story out loud to my husband. When I’m reading Irene’s parts, especially when she’s losing her temper, he usually starts laughing and says, “And that’s exactly how you say it, too!” That usually gets a pillow thrown at him.
Both books come across as very well researched about the afterlife. Did you have to research quite a bit or have you always had an interest in it?
I love mythology, especially the origins of myths. Throughout history, cultures borrowed from each other, building on each other’s mythology and stories. If you go back far enough, you can find the common origins of those stories—that’s the stuff I find really fascinating. When I came up with the idea for Hereafter, I thought about all the stories/myths related to what happens to us when we die that are out there, and how different they all are and I wondered what the common, underlying story(ies) were—what were the common, unifying threads? And to take it one step further, if all the stories were true, how could they be reconciled? That was the challenge I set up for myself with this series: to create a cohesive vision of the afterlife that included ALL of the myths from every culture and religion on Earth from throughout all of history. So the research has been quite extensive and incredibly interesting; I have a giant three-ring binder full of my research and I’ve worked as much of it as I can into the series.
If Hereafter and Thereafter were made into movies, who would you cast as Irene?
This is a really tough question, actually! For three years now, ever since Hereafter was first published, I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with an actress to play Irene. It’s tough. I think I’d have to go with an unknown because I don’t know of anyone who fits the bill. Alison Scagliotti might be perfect if she was just a little older (Irene is 36). Jaime Murray and Alicia Coppola would be almost perfect (the right mix of sweet and snarky) but they are a little too mature—and I don’t mean to say that they’re too old; I mean, when you look at their faces and in their eyes, they are mature, grown-up, thoughtful women. Irene is very immature. You’d never mistake her for someone’s mother or someone who could be maternal.
I don’t know—readers, what do you think? Any suggestions on who should play Irene?
What’s your favourite scene in Thereafter and why?
There’s a couple of scenes that I really like, for different reasons. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the creation of the horse because I feel very clever for making the Chinese myth of burning paper items to send them to the dead true/literal and because…HORSE! Can you think of a WORSE traveling companion for Irene than a horse? Writing Irene’s reaction to the horse was a lot of fun.
I love the initial letters from Jonah to Irene because of what he doesn’t say. In Hereafter and Thereafter, Jonah is a bit of an iceberg in that most of what’s going on with him is below the surface. He doesn’t give up how he’s feeling very easily and the reader has to work for it a bit. Spoiler alert but that changes in Book #3.
And finally, I really love the scene where Andras comforts Irene outside the hotel. I thought I managed to hit just the right tone with how Andras responds to Irene’s distress and how Irene responds to him.
What’s next for you writing wise?
I’m working on finishing up Book #3 of the series (there will be six books total) and I’m working on a science fiction story that’s sort of Firefly meets Battlestar Galatica—that is, cowboys in space who must look for a new home when theirs is destroyed.
Currently reading?: Weight of Worlds by Alma Alexander (short story collection) and re-reading Federica by Georgette Heyer.
Favourite author?: I have to pick just one?! That’s a toughie, but I have to say Terry Pratchett—if I see his name on a book I buy it, even if I don’t know what it’s about.
Favourite place to write?: I imagine out story lines in the shower and car, but I jot notes anywhere I am (I keep a notebook on me). I do most of my typing on my laptop while sitting on the couch in the living room.
Favourite fictional character?:Ooooh, another toughie! Hmmm…I don’t know. I don’t think I can pick just one. Possibly Lord Vetinari from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Books.
Book you wish you had written?: The Night Circus; the writing was really gorgeous in that book. I wish I could write that lyrically.
About Terri and where to find her:
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.
Book Buy Links (available at all major book retailers)
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Thereafter-Afterlife-Series-Volume/dp/0991303628/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8
Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thereafter-terri-bruce/1115324247?ean=2940149344697
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