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Archive for May 12th, 2014

TerriBruce_OfficialAuthorPic Thanks to Terri Bruce, author of fantasy and science fiction stories with a literary bent, for stopping by and sharing the inspiration for one of the characters from her new novel, Thereafter.

But before reading Terri’s post, here’s a little bit about Thereafter: ‘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…’

Thereafter Spotlight: Gao by Terri Bruce

‘Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Vonnie! I’m thrilled to be here to talk about my newest book, Thereafter. Today, I wanted to share a bit about the character Gao, a Chinese philosopher that the main character, Irene, meets in the afterlife:

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Irene smiled as Ian’s words pulled her out of her reverie. He was watching her carefully across the campfire. Irene shifted position; she and the horse were using each other as a mutual backrest, and she wiggled against it, trying to find a more comfortable position.

Irene shook her head. “Just thinking about the cairns; I was wondering why someone would build an altar in the afterlife. If they are shrines, wouldn’t each one just send stuff to the person who built it?”

“People pray to their gods. One assumes they are closer here,” a high, thin voice at her elbow said.

Irene started. She looked up and then did a double take. The speaker was a middle-aged Chinese man. His long, black robe, Fu-Manchu mustache, and waist-length beard were straight out of a Hollywood movie.

He gave her a reassuring smile and a low bow. “Your pardon. I did not mean to startle.” As he straightened up, he suddenly brightened, a smile blooming across his face.

“Ah!” he said, gesturing to the horse. “Gives new meaning to the saying, ‘trying to save the dead horse as if it is still alive.’ Ha!”

Irene looked at the horse, but since she had no idea what the man was talking about, she didn’t know how to respond. She looked at Ian for help.

“Howdy!” he said to the newcomer. “Pull up some ground.” He sat up, moving his legs to make room, and patted the space next to him. “I’m Ian and this is Irene.”

The man gracefully dropped to a kneeling position. He gave Ian a slight bow and then turned to Irene. He smiled as he bowed to her. “Ah! Irene. A very good name.”

Irene raised an eyebrow. “Is it?”

“Oh, yes. Irene of Thessalonica, Irene of Rome, Irene of Macedonia, Irene of Athens, Irene of Hungary…yes, a very good name. Very auspicious.”

“Wow, I had no idea.” She hesitated and then added, as if revealing an embarrassing secret. “I was named for an actress.”

“Ah, yes,” the man cried with delight. “Irene Dunne. Very nice lady.”

Irene eyed him up and down once more, certain the guy was not from the twentieth century. “You…know her?”

The man gave her a gentle smile. “I have been here a very long time.” Then he bowed again. “I am Gao. A seeker of truth.”

thereafter_stolzer_72 When I was writing Thereafter, I knew that I wanted Irene to meet a philosopher in the afterlife. Originally, the role of the philosopher was envisioned as an Austrian named Martin who lived during the mid-eighteen hundreds. However, I realized my story lacked diversity—why were all the ghosts Irene encountered European? She already had Ian, an American cowboy from the late 1800s, and Andras, a Spanish knight from the late eleven hundreds. Given that I include people from any time and any place in my story, I decided to look for someone much further back in time—preferably from before the birth of Christ—and preferably someone with an Eastern philosophy/view-point.

In doing some other research for the book, I came across a reference to a Chinese philosopher named Gao, who lived around 300 BCE. Not much is known about Gao—none of his work/writings have survived; all that we know about him is anecdotes related via the writings of others, which was actually pretty perfect for my needs. The anecdotes gave just enough of an idea of the historical man’s philosophy/personality, but beyond that he was a blank slate. He was perfect for my story and in he went.

Another interesting thing about this scene is that Gao says, “Gives new meaning to the saying, ‘trying to save the dead horse as if it is still alive.’” This is the original/origin of the saying “beating a dead horse.” The saying is originally Chinese and has been changed slightly through translation and usage to the modern version that we now use, but originally referred to a futile action (trying to revive something that is already dead) rather than rehashing an old subject. It was too perfect not to include; here I had a Chinese philosopher and a dead horse, together in one scene, so how could I not drop in the original version of the saying as one of the many sly, geeky jokes I tend to include in my stories.

And there you have it—a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the character of Gao and his appearance in Thereafter.’

To learn more about Terri Bruce and her books:
visit her website and facebook page
and follow her on goodreads and twitter.

And you can buy Thereafter on
Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Smashwords.

Thanks again to Terri for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more Monday Guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and occasional weekend, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a character-filled day! – Vonnie

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