So today I am introducing you to the wonderful Terri Bruce, author of Hereafter.
First up we have a lovely guest post written by her about the title of the book and then a review of the book.
Hope you enjoy!
In Search of a Title
I want to thank Faye for having me stop by today – I love Faye’s blog, plus Faye was one of the first people to ever host me as an author (I did a guest post on writing sequels for her back in April) AND she lives in England, all of which makes her one of my favorite people in the world.
So today I wanted to talk a little about titles—specifically, the trouble I had coming up with a title for Hereafter. Now, there are some very light spoilers in this post and some tantalizing teasers of what to expect from future books in the series—so if you don’t like that sort of thing, best look away now. J
From the beginning, the concept for the Hereafter series was the story of a woman making her way through the afterlife. One of the most common beliefs I came across in my research was this idea that the afterlife contains different levels or realms. Most thought the dead would have to travel through many different levels—facing difficult challenges in each—to reach their final destination. This journey was meant to test the soul’s worthiness to enter paradise. In some cases, it was more a belief in different intensities of punishment or reward—such as the nine circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno. In these cases, a soul was simply sent to the appropriate level, based on how good or how bad they had been in life.
For Hereafter I used this idea of traveling through multiple realms—each with a distinct feel and purpose—and facing in each a specific challenge to prove one’s worthiness to move on. This “physical” journey would reflect the person’s increasing enlightenment. Hereafter was always envisioned as a series in which the stories would hook together like the cars of a train—each book picks up directly where the previous one left off. However, I’m trying to be very careful to make each book stand alone with a finite beginning, middle, and end. I hate books that end on a cliffhanger—to me that’s a book that isn’t complete—if the story doesn’t end there, then neither should the book. So, if I do my job correctly, you should be able to stop reading the series at any point and still have a good sense of completion and ending.
I modeled the different levels of the afterlife, in part, on Aztec beliefs. In addition, the series was originally planned as nine books, and the Aztecs believed that there were nine levels to the underworld so I originally titled the series: On the Shores of Mictlan—Mictlan being the name of the Aztec afterlife. The first book in the series was called Across the Pontine. So the full title would have been On the Shores of Mictlan, Book 1: Across the Pontine.
No one, and I mean no one (including me), liked this title. My sister, who is a librarian and therefore very smart, very well read, and has a large vocabulary, said “What the hell is Mictlan?” J In addition, very few people know that a pontine is a bridge and, more specifically, often used to refer to a spiritual bridge. Hence, the title was meant to reflect a spiritual journey through the afterlife, plus pick up the bridge/tunnel theme frequently referenced in the book. I did send a few query letters with that title, but very quickly realized that it was going to kill my chances of finding an agent or publisher.
But what to call it instead? Hereafter isn’t really about the afterlife. It’s about Irene and her struggle to figure out who she is, what she wants from life, and what’s important. After.Life would have been a GREAT title, but it was already taken. After a bit of thought, I settled on Life 2.0, with the idea that each book would increment the title—Life 3.0, Life 4.0, etc. Feedback on this title was that it made the book sound like it was about robots, cyborgs, or cyber-implants—some kind of techno-thriller or dystopian book about sentient computers.
Back to the drawing board. Finally, impatient to continue querying and drawing a blank, I decided to just call it Hereafter. It wasn’t very original or evocative, but it was just meant to be a working title. After all, the publisher would most likely change it, so why waste time racking my brain? So I returned to querying, using that as the title. Meanwhile, I started working on the second book of the series, and somewhere along the line the idea came to me that Hereafter was the perfect title for Book 1 because Irene is here (on earth) after she dies, compared Book 2, where she has crossed over to the other side—in essence, she was now there (as compared to here). Book 2 then became Thereafter. Suddenly, I realized that every title in the series would contain the word “after” and the title would describe the afterlife realm through which Irene was traveling in that book: Hereafter, Thereafter, Whereafter, When After, Better After, Ever After (there are some advocating for “Forever After” for the last book, and I’m starting to warm up to it).
Now I loved my title and in my head, the series became the “Afterlife Series.” However, around this time, Clint Eastwood’s movie, “Hereafter” came out. Then Tara Hudson’s book of the same title came out. Now I was sad again—the title was taken and the publisher would definitely want to change it.
Finally, I sold Hereafter to Eternal Press and, to my surprise, they didn’t want to change the title. We talked about it and in the end they liked the naming scheme for the series and since Tara Hudson was writing for the Young Adult market and I was writing for adults, keeping the title wouldn’t cause any confusion.
And there you have it. Some of the behind the scenes negotiations that took place to finally arrive at my book’s title, and a little glimpse of what to expect from future books in the series. So, what do you think—would you have preferred it to be called Mictlan or Life 2.0?
This sounds suspiciously like hell to Irene, so she prepares to strike out for the Great Beyond. The only problem is that, while this side has exorcism, ghost repellents, and soul devouring demons, the other side has three-headed hell hounds, final judgment, and eternal torment. If only there was a third option…
in the beginning
Sometimes, when I’m reading and reviewing a book, I often kick myself for never introducing half ratings on the blog. Personally, I can’t stand them. It’s one of those things that just really irks me but there are a few times when I find myself wondering why this is. While reading Hereafter, I have had this very feeling. I almost want to scrap my rating system just to accommodate this book; and some others, so that it fits better. I really enjoyed this book but it also had its few flaws for me. It should be deserving of three and a half hearts, in my opinion, but because I don’t work in that framework, I am rating it three hearts. But I feel it was important to let you all know that it is closer to four hearts than it is to two hearts!
it’s all a mystery
One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the concept. If you awoke one day to find out that you were dead but still wandering on earth, how would you deal with the things you come across? I loved how well this is executed throughout the novel and it is so clear that Terri has done a lot of hard research to make this book what it was. I cannot say with any accuracy whether the informational facts used within the book were true or not but they certainly fit well within the book and it was nice to read them all. I liked how it all fit together eventually, how things occurred, and how they mixed together.
I think this book may have been a little better if we were given more than just the POV of Irene but this may also be due to the fact I’ve reading a lot of dual POV books lately but I felt that some great characters were being missed and it sometimes failed to give a full scope of what was going on. Fortunately, this was only few and far between, didn’t make me want to stop reading and is definitely more of a “me” issue then a novel issue.
until the pieces fit
It took me a really long time to get my head around Irene. I often found her childish and just annoying to read. Her character and the depth of it took a long time to fully come to surface. When it did I found myself clicking with her but before then it was just a bit of a struggle. Obviously her situation wasn’t great but I honestly just felt like hitting her on the upside of the head and telling her to stop being such a fool. This did make it a challenge to read at times but it was nothing major and it was still easy to carry on reading – I still found myself wanting and needing to know more – where was it all going?
Jonah was by far my favourite character. He was so intellectual, protective, caring and just downright awesome. He was so kind to Irene and just kept coming back even when she just kept pushing and pushing. The relationship between the two felt so raw and real and just perfect. It wasn’t easy, they didn’t know what they were to each other but he treated her like a friend and he really was the best friend. Despite this, there were times when he got on my nerves and I just wanted to tell him to leave Irene alone, which Irene proceeded to do for me anyway, but even at these times I still felt a lot of respect for him.
in perfect harmony
The first thing I noticed when I started reading this book was that I loved the writing style. I have been reading a lot of YA books lately and it has, admittedly, been a bit of a while since I read an adult book but I really liked the writing style that Terri has. She has found the perfect balance between description and dialogue and just manages to stop the reader from getting too lost within the plot and narration of the book. It flows really well and really does a good job of keeping the reader interested and wanting to come back for more. The story kept going, more information to cover, more plot twists to uncover and really Terri did a great job in putting together this book.
and create something new
Hereafter may not have been one of those books that grabbed me from front to end, it may have been a book that was difficult to rate but it is still a book that I really enjoyed and one that I am really glad I picked up to read. It is funny in places, sad in others, aggressive elsewhere and full of peace and clarity as well. It really paints a nice picture on the after-life and what could come next and is just a lovely book that I think many people will really enjoy and be glad that they picked up. I would recommend this book to people who like adult paranormal books that can get into the real nitty-gritty emotions. It is a grand book that has made me very intrigued for the next in the series!
* this book was received in return for an honest review *