Terri Bruce has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Like Anne Shirley, she prefers to make people cry rather than laugh, but is happy if she can do either. She produces fantasy and science fiction stories from beautiful Downeast, ME, where she lives with her husband and multiple cats. She is the author of the paranormal/contemporary fantasy “Afterlife” series, which includes Hereafter (Afterlife #1) and Thereafter (Afterlife #2), and several science fiction and fantasy short stories, including “Welcome to OASIS” (Dear Robot anthology, November 2015), “The Tower” (Non-Binary Review # 8 1001 Arabian Nights, Zoetic Press, November 2015), and “The Well” (It’s Come to Our Attention anthology, Third Flatiron Press, February 2016). Visit her on the web at www.terribruce.net and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/_TerriBruce.
Featured Author: Terri Bruce Interview
LHP: How long have you been writing?
Terri Bruce: I’ve always written, since I was a kid. I taught myself to type on my mother’s electric typewriter the summer when I was fourteen so I could produce stories faster (typing was not only faster than writing long hand, but I, and those I shared the stories with, could actually read them). In high school, I wrote serialized fiction and gave copies to my friends. In college, I wrote fan-fiction and posted it in fan forums. Finally, in 2010, I decided to seek publication for HEREAFTER, the first novel in my Afterlife series. It took two years to sell the story and have it be released, but since then, I’ve been working steadily as a writer.
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LHP: What/who inspired you to be a writer?
Terri Bruce: I wouldn’t say that I’ve been inspired to be a writer—writing is just something I’ve always enjoyed and always done. I fall asleep at night by dreaming up stories—usually alternate romance lines for my favorite television characters—and as soon as I wake up in the morning, my brain is working on story ideas. It’s just always there, in the back of my mind. A lot of writers jokingly refer to their characters as their imaginary friends; I’m more inclined to call them my ghosts. They follow me around, whispering in my ear and bugging me until I write their stories. Back to top >>>
LHP: What genre do you prefer to write in?
Terri Bruce: Well, I’d prefer to write romance, because I love a good “happily ever after” story. Unfortunately, I can’t write those kinds of stories. Instead, I write cross-genre stories that are a bit hard to classify—generally they fall into the “magical realism” and “literary speculative fiction” genres. I tend to write in the vein of Audrey Niffenegger, China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, and Alice Hoffman. Back to top >>>
LHP: Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?
Terri Bruce: There’s supposed to be a process??? Back to top >>>
LHP: What is your daily/weekly routine as a writer?
Terri Bruce: There’s supposed to be a routine??? Back to top >>>
LHP: Are there any software tools, resources, or websites you use often while writing?
Terri Bruce: Not really – I’m pretty old school as a writer. I use Microsoft Word and pads of paper. If I’m near/at a computer, I use the computer. If not, I grab whatever paper is handy and scribble notes, parts of scenes, etc. to transcribe later. My house is covered in sticky notes and scraps of paper—I’m kind of like Dan Hedaya’s character in The Usual Suspects when he says that you have to stand back (from the mess on his desk) and it all makes sense. I often can’t find that one specific scribbled note I’ve made, but collectively, the mass of scribbled notes make sense and contain the story.
LHP: What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?
Terri Bruce: The challenges change at each stage of one’s career—finishing a story, learning to accept feedback/edits, querying, etc. Currently, for me, the biggest challenge is finding the time and head space to write—I work full time, and some days, when I get done with work, I do not want to sit at a computer any more or I’m too mentally tired to write, so not losing momentum and pushing through that can be challenging. Learning how to use my limited time and mental energy to balance the business side of writing (querying, marketing, etc.) with actually writing—there’s only so many hours in the day and it’s hard to balance all the tasks and responsibilities—is also a challenge. If I only have two free hours in a week, I’d prefer to use those for writing, but there’s also the need to send stories out for submission, make edits on stories that have been accepted for publication, engage in marketing activities such as new release announcements, etc. There’s a constant push-pull on an author’s time, and I’m still working to find the right balance between all of these things. Back to top >>>
LHP: Do you have a set number of words per day you target? or do you set other goals to meet?
Terri Bruce: Most emphatically ‘no.’ My life is too busy to hold myself to those types of targets. Some days I can write 10,000 words in a day, when the stories are flowing well, and sometimes I might not write a single word for weeks because the story needs to percolate further or I have other things going on in my life that push writing to the back burner. I think it’s important that writers not hold themselves to artificial targets if the targets just add stress and detract from the work. We all have to find a process that works for us.
LHP: Question: How much time is spent on “the business of writing” – queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?
LHP: Do you prefer short stories or full length novels in your writing?
Terri Bruce: I like both, and I write both. Short stories are harder, in a way, because you have to cram all the same elements of a novel—character development, world building, plot arc—into a shorter space, so I think short stories require a higher skill level than novels. But I enjoy writing both and consider both equally important literary forms. A great collection of short stories can be as moving and exhilarating as a novel. One of my favorite books of all time is Stories that Scared Even Me edited by Alfred Hitchcock. My dad gave me that book—I still have it—and the stories scared the pants off me! But they aren’t “jump scare” type stories—they are quiet, worrying, creeping, unsettling tales that get under your skin and stay with you. Frank Stockton’s “The Lady or the Tiger,” “Flowers for Algernon,” and Robert Proctor’s “Test” are all classic short stories that I love just as much as The Chronicles of Narnia, Pride and Prejudice, and Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and all have contributed equally to my love of writing. Back to top >>>
LHP: Can you give some us some insight into your story, “Death and the Horse” in Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths Vol.1?
Terri Bruce: I love mythology, especially origin myths. Almost all of my stories have some element of mythology or folklore in them because I love the intersection of magic and mysticism and real life. I grew up in a culture centered in what you might call magical realism—very poor, rural America where farmers still leave tithings in the fields for the spirits that help the crops grow. My (very sane, very rational) grandmother used to talk to my dead grandfather every day—she’d sit at the dining room table and have a very long conversation with him every morning, and I had no doubt he answered her back (how else could she carry on a conversation with him if he wasn’t holding up his end of the conversation)? And one could say these are comforting rituals, and nothing more (that there is nothing supernatural there) or you can say that there is a supernatural element (there really are supernatural forces that make the crops grow or the dead can talk to us) and both are simultaneously true and not true and also irrelevant because we humans carry out the rituals anyway, whether or not the supernatural exists, and it’s the act of engaging in the ritual that matters—it creates the beliefs and actions that define us. To my mind, there is no division between the supernatural and magic and reality because they are woven through every element of everything we do. The very act of imagining is fantastical because we picture in our minds a reality that doesn’t yet exist—and may not currently be possible. How is that not the very definition of magic?
For “Death and the Horse,” the story genesis was random—as it is with almost all of my stories. I was working on a jig-saw puzzle that featured the four horses of the apocalypse. And oddly, while one of the horses was pictured as light gray on the box cover, it was a sort of greenish-gray on the puzzle pieces. And I decided to google “green horse” to find out if this was a misprint of the puzzle or just a trick of the light, and I came across articles talking about the actual description of the “pale horse” ridden by death in Revelations, and apparently in the original gnoptic texts, the word used for “pale” actually means a light green (I know, right???). So, I don’t know if the jigsaw puzzle was being clever or just used a weird shade of gray that happened to look kind of gray-green, but that got me thinking about “the pale horse” ridden by death and next thing I knew, the story of Death’s search for the perfect horse just sort of came to me. I envisioned Death as sort of a Terry Pratchett-esque bureaucrat/functionary and thought about the qualities Death’s horse might need. My Death is not a monster and not war-like doesn’t revel in the end of life. He views it as a necessity, sometimes a relief/blessing. He’s very stoic and matter-of-fact about it, and I decided his horse would need those same qualities. From there, it was just a matter of doing some research on various famous horses in history—I wanted to make sure I pulled from a diverse group of stories and myths—and building a story around them. Back to top >>>
LHP: What advice can you give other writers?
Terri Bruce: It’s hard to give advice to writers because I find writing is like dieting: what works for one person won’t work for another. I guess that’s my advice—listen to what others say, but don’t fret if it doesn’t work for you. Some writers say “set a time every day to write and stick to it” or “set a word goal and stick to it” or “you must write books to market” or “you can’t have an unlikeable protagonist” or whatever it is. In my experience, those are general, broad, guidelines but, as with most things in life, it always depends on the circumstances. The other thing I’ve learned is that there is a “lid for every pot.” Meaning, it might take a while to find it, but there’s a fit for your type of writing out there—somewhere out there in the world is a group of people who will like what you are doing. So keep doing you and keep looking for those people, because they are out there. Back to top >>>