It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we’ll meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Jeh Bruce, author of:
- Snakestone and Sword
- Borrowing Trouble
- Out of the Embers of Hell
- Path to the Night Mountains
- Stalking the Apocalypse
- Hide and Sidhe
I published my first six novels under the name J. E. Bruce, but after a few years, I began hearing from readers that they were finding it difficult to locate my novels because they were getting a lot of false hits when doing an internet (or Amazon) search. As it turns out, since the publication of my first novel well over a decade ago, a number of other people started writing under a name that started with the initials “J. E.” (how dare they!) so my 7th novel was (and all subsequent novels will be) published under my nickname, Jeh (pronounced “Jay”). So J. E. and Jeh Bruce are one and the same person–me!
I am a former forensic osteologist who specialized in ancient warfare, specifically of the Mediterranean basin during the Bronze Age. I also worked as an epidemiological RN. I’ve always been fascinated with ancient history, prehistory, myths and legends from around the world, as well as astronomy and space exploration, and so weave these subjects of interest into my tales. While the science fiction/fantasy elements in my novels are, by their nature, largely speculative (although the science is based in fact), the historical and archaeological elements are accurate down to the smallest detail.
Author Interview with Jeh Bruce:
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- Can you explain what a forensic osteologist is? (That sounds fascinating!)
It’s a fancy name for an archaeological pathologist. Give me a bone and I can tell you if it’s animal or human. Give me enough bones and I can tell you the gender and age of the individual, and possibly cause of death. Mind you, I was active in the field before DNA analysis was in common use–in fact before it was even a twinkle in some mad scientist’s eye.
- How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
7, with an 8th coming out this year and a 9th in the pipeline. My favorite depends on my current mood. I suppose I would say I’m most proud of Borrowing Trouble just because of the subject matter and what was going on in my life when I was writing it.
- How long have you been writing?
Let’s just say my early drafts were penned in cuneiform.
- Tell us about your first published book? What was the journey like?
When I first started out, self-publishing was equated to vanity publishing and had a very negative connotation, so I never considered that. I have nothing against self-publishing; it just wasn’t–and still isn’t for me. I went the traditional route: agent then mainstream publisher. My experiences with agents was, to be kind, not good. Two were well-meaning but basically inept and a third, once he signed a well-known author, instantly forgot about all of his other clients–not that he told any of us that he’d stopped sending out our manuscripts to editors. I will give him credit for one thing: he got one of my novels in front of Jim Baen (of Baen Books) himself and Mr. Baen and I exchanged a number of emails about what changes he wanted to see before he would consider offering me a contract. Sadly, Mr. Baen died suddenly in 2006 and the editor who took over was not interested. At that point I decided to forgo agents entirely and began querying publishers directly. In 2007 I signed with a smaller traditional publisher. The novel wasn’t the first I’d written but it was the first to be published, in 2008. I stayed with that publisher, and worked with an excellent editor, until 2017 when the publisher decided that while they would continue to print on demand and offer the novels as ebooks, they would cease any future publishing ventures. 6 of my 7 novels were published by them and I will forever remain grateful to my editor, Robert Preece. He drove me nuts at times, and I know I drove him nuts as well, but in the end the novels were far better for his hard work.
- What has been your hardest scene to write?
It depends on what you mean by “hardest”. Emotionally hardest or technically hardest? For me it would be the latter as I’m rather obsessive that historical/medical/archaeological facts be accurate, or at least accurately extrapolated upon, even if I have to rewrite the scene to fit the facts instead of the other way around. To me that makes it more fun to write, but also more challenging and time consuming because I need to do the research first.
- What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?
Ray Bradbury. He was not only an astonishing story teller, but his way with words was pure magic; he could conjure the most detailed descriptions from just a few well-chosen words. I also wish I could sit down and pick John Steakley’s brain as far as character development. The character Felix in “Armour” was a masterclass in that skill.
- What does literary success look like to you?
When out of the blue a total stranger emails me or posts on my author Facebook page or on Instagram or Twitter that they enjoyed reading a particular novel of mine. I’ll never be a best-selling author, or have a hundred thousand followers on Twitter or Instagram and I am more than fine with that. Having someone take the time to tell me that a novel I wrote temporarily transported them to another time, or took their mind off the real world for a few hours is to me the absolute best thing I could ask for as a writer.
- Share a photo – favorite place, favorite animal, something that inspired your writing, etc.
This was taken inside of Newgrange in County Meath, at sunrise on the winter solstice. Newgrange played a pivotal role in my 7th novel, Borrowing Trouble. It’s an absolutely stunning Neolithic passage tomb.
- Are you working on any more books you want to tell us about?
I am currently waiting on the edits from my new publisher. The novel is set in Carthage (the ancient city in modern-day Tunisia), at the time of the Roman siege in 146BCE and during the French excavations of the site in the 1920s and revolves around a time traveling gene thief.
- Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?
I’m on Twitter, (@bruce_jeh) Instagram, Facebook and have my own author page on Wix and yes, readers can and do interact with me.