I’m really excited to be here today to celebrate the release of my third book, Whereafter. Whereafter is the third book in the Afterlife series, which tells the story of a woman named Irene Dunphy who dies and has to learn to navigate the afterlife as a ghost.
One of the key features of the series is that it features afterlife mythology from every religion and culture—both past and present. For every book, the landscape is usually drawn from one or two cultures and then additional elements are layered in. In the first book, Hereafter, Irene is stuck on Earth as a ghost. The way that ghosts behave and interact with the world is built on modern American ghost folklore. The world is also populated with creatures called “The Uglies,” which are modeled on Navajo “Chindi” and Chinese “Yuan gui.”
The second book of the series, Thereafter, is set in the afterlife or land of the dead. The world here is dark and gray—the sky is gray, the trees are black, the ground is gray and washed out. This is modeled on the Sumerian afterlife, kur-nu-gi-a, which was described as a gray, washed out place, where the food is “as ash.” Lilith (from Jewish mythology), who some historian argue is also the same person as Inanna from Sumer-Akkadian mythology, makes an appearance as well. The book also pulls heavily from Greek mythology—Irene has to pay a ferryman a coin to cross the river Acheron and continue on her journey—and Chinse and Japanese mythology—the land is filled with “hungry ghosts” modeled on Chinese Nu gui and Japanese Gaki.
The third book, Whereafter, is modeled heavily on the Egyptian afterlife. The landscape that Irene and Andras travel through is an endless wheat field (in ancient Egypt, the realm of the dead was called Duat, which was also called the Field of Rushes or the Wheat Fields of Osiris). The Egyptians believed that people were made up of five separate parts: the body, the heart, the life spark, the shadow, and the spirit or mind. The Egyptians believed that after death, the shadow gathered food for the spirit (once it left the body) and fed it. Then, the spirit joined with the shadow to form a ghost. In Whereafter, this belief is directly translated into free-roaming shadows that attack any ghosts and steal their shadow/ghost body. Layered into this Sumerian/Egyptian hybrid world is some modern Christianity in the form of a giant mansion, the rooms of which are various other versions of Heaven/paradise (Valhalla, the Garden of Eden, the Aztec “Garden of the Rain God,” etc.). In addition, Irene and Andras have to cross a bridge the width of a hair, which is taken from Zoroastrian afterlife mythology, and Irene burns a paper effigy of a cow, which turns into the real thing, which is taken from Chinese mythology. There are many other small touches like that throughout all three books. For anyone who likes afterlife mythology, the books pose a fun challenge of trying to identify all the afterlife mythology that the various elements are pulled from.
It’s been fun and interesting—and very challenging combining all of these elements together. For the remaining three books of the series, I will be pulling in more ancient Greek and ancient Roman mythology, as well as mythology from India, various regions of Africa, and various Native American tribes. What’s been most interesting about writing these books is how the various myths reveal that no matter where or when we lived, we all have more in common than we think. Most afterlife beliefs have many elements in common, and, in many cases, it’s been easier than I expected to be able to piece all these various stories together to make a coherent whole!
For anyone that loves afterlife mythology or wants 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! You can also sign up for my newsletter to stay up to date with all my latest news. In addition, I love interacting with readers, 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.
They crossed into the previous room, navigating carefully between the jostling throng. Jonah barely paid attention as his mind worked furiously.
“What do you mean, someplace else? Where else do the dead go when they cross over if not here?”
Jonah’s scowl deepened. As usual, Char wasn’t getting the hint that he didn’t really want to talk anymore. “Lots of places.”
A pang went through him as the ever-present image of a burning lake of fire burned in the forefront of his mind. “In one of her letters, Irene said she was in a city and then in a forest—a dark, creepy forest. Based on the description, I think she was in the place where the Restless Dead go.”
Grimly, he said, “Exactly.”
And then she took a boat to Hell.
“Look, I’m sure she’s fine,” Char said hurriedly, in an obvious, though fruitless, attempt to reassure him.
He stared straight ahead as they wove through the crowd, trying to block out the nagging worry growing inside of him.
They crossed back into the Norse room and then into one of the gardens and then into an unfamiliar room. Jonah paused for a second, trying to get his bearings. “Did we come through here before?” he asked.
Char shook her head. “I think you took a wrong turn out of the garden.”
There had been only one way out of the garden—Jonah was sure of it. A feeling of unease started to take hold of him as he turned around and headed back through the doorway they had just come through. He stopped short the second they stepped across the threshold. Instead of passing back into the garden where they had just been, they now stood in the white room with the harps.
“What the…” Jonah looked around, his unease growing. “Wasn’t this just Tlalocan?”
Char stared at him, her eyes wide, and nodded.
“Come on,” Jonah grabbed her hand, a sinking feeling spreading upwards from the pit of his stomach, and headed for the far end of the hall. In all the stories, getting into the Underworld was easy; it was getting out that was hard. He recalled Persephone’s warning, and his stomach lurched. He sped up and they passed through the doorway into another unfamiliar room.
“Wasn’t this where Valhalla was?” Char asked, but Jonah didn’t pause—he just strode resolutely forward, his jaw set, dragging Char with him. They passed straight through the room and in the next instant found themselves back in the blue ballroom.
“I don’t understand,” Char said. “How could we possibly be here again?”
The sinking feeling was getting worse, giving way to an uneasy sense of inevitability. However, he refused to admit defeat just yet.
“Maybe it’s a different room that just looks like the room we were in before?” Char said, clearly grasping at straws.
They turned around and headed back through the doorway they had just come through. It should have led to the room they were just in—the white room—but instead, they found themselves back in the blue ballroom.
“But… but… this is impossible!” Char cried, stopping dead in her tracks. Jonah tried to tug her forward, but she yanked her hand from his grasp. “What the hell is going on?”
Jonah tried to keep his face and voice perfectly neutral as he spoke—to keep both Char and himself from panicking. Panic wouldn’t do either of them any good. “The rooms move. Nothing’s fixed.”
Char stared at him, the color draining from her face. “You say that like it’s no big deal.”
Jonah bit his lip and didn’t meet her eyes, hoping that she couldn’t hear the hammering of his heart. “It’s a big deal,” he said, his voice tight.
“How are we going to get out of here if we can’t find our way back to the entrance?”
He didn’t answer—couldn’t answer; he didn’t know.
More forcefully, Char said, “Jonah?”
But he didn’t have to say anything—he knew she could see it in his face.
They were stuck.
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).