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Author Interview: Lila Bruce Chats about Chasing Shadows

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Get ready to learn more about the book Chasing Shadows in this discussion with sapphic author Lila Bruce.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Lila Bruce about Chasing Shadows, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Return to Hometown category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write Chasing Shadows?

When I first started “Chasing Shadows” all I had the basic idea of the story but no details beyond that. At the time, I was staying with my mother and had gone with her to the small town in Alabama where my stepdad grew up to pick up some paperwork at the local courthouse. All the buildings, even the storefronts on the main drag, looked straight out of the 1970s/80s. It looked like the kind of place where everybody knew everyone and nothing much ever happened. It really reminded me the visits we’d make when I was growing up to my grandmother’s house in the country.

It spoke to what was going on in my life right then too – I had just had an unexpected major surgery that prevented me from driving and doing most of your day-to-day things. As a result, I had to move back in with my mother for what turned out to be almost three months. That feeling of stepping back to a place and time you’d forgotten / didn’t expect to find yourself back at gave me what I needed to fully flesh out the story. As an idea, “Chasing Shadows” could be set anywhere really, but to be set in a small town in the South felt perfect. In many ways, the town itself became a character.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

It’s hard to say, because I love all the characters in this book. Both the main characters speak to me on several levels as I can totally identify with feeling of your life going off in a direction that you had no control over – Cameron finding herself in a suffocating 9 to 5 job right out of college and Avery having to put her own life on hold to come back home when her family needed her. If pressed, though, I have to say Jane is low-key my favorite. She’s just as wild in her antics as Avery’s grandmother, just subtle in the way she goes about things.

What inspired the idea for Chasing Shadows?

My mother has an obsession with the tv ghosthunter shows and watches them constantly. You know the ones, where the host walks around in the dark, trying to entice contact from the other side by saying things like, “If you can hear me, knock three times…” It was while watching one of those shows that the thought “what would happen if something did knock back” crossed my mind, and the story was born.

What part of Chasing Shadows was the most fun to write?

The grandmothers in the story, Mildred and Jane. The two are loosely based on my mother and her best friend. The two have been friends since high school, over fifty years now. While they don’t get into trouble quite to the extent that Mildred and Jane do, they do get into their fair share of mischief and are most definitely each others’ partner in crime.

How much research did you need to do for Chasing Shadows?

More than you’d think. I watched multiple episodes of several different shows to get a feel for the type of tv ghosthunter that I wanted to Cameron to be. And while I had watched these shows before, I never really paid attention to the tools the ghosthunters used, so I had to do some deep dives on that. Part of that research ended up being signing up for a ghosthunting tour of an old, supposedly haunted hotel in Chattanooga, TN, where I got use a spirit box and an EMF meter on my own.

What is your favorite line from your book?

Probably the first line: “For a dead woman, Loralyn Baker looked pretty damn good.”

What is your writing process like?

I’ve tried to be a true plotter and failed miserably. I ended up second-guessing everything and just not writing anything at all. These days, I’m more of a plantser – somewhere in between a plotter and a pantser. I do tend to sit down and let the story go off in whatever direction it wants to, but with a little bit of structure to get me there. My structure is not a formal outline, but a set of ideas of things that I’d like to see happen in the story that go up on my whiteboard. I’ll add to, erase, and move those ideas as the story progresses.

Do you have a pet who helps/hinders your typing?

My writing partner is Blueberry Muffin, our seven year old British Longhair cat. Blueberry finds that she gets her best sleep either on one of my notebooks or stretched out across my computer keyboard (preferably whichever one I’m actively using). She’s a bit of a diva – she tends to keep to herself and will only eat a certain brand of cat food that must be in “her” bowl and in “her” spot. Blueberry’s claim to fame is that she once went viral on Twitter – her post garnered almost 6k likes and got her a small feature in a British newspaper.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing, and by whom?

By far, it would be something I heard years ago at a mainstream romance book convention I took my mother to in Atlanta. In one of the panels the author (I couldn’t tell you her name if my life depended on it, sorry. All I can remember is that she wrote cowboy romances) was asked one of those “what is the secret to your success” type questions, and her answer was that she wrote the kind of story that she would want to read herself. That line defines my writing. And because I write that way, I don’t feel bound by any one genre. I’ve written about ghosts and FBI agents and talking dogs, but all have been stories that would interest me as a reader.

What has helped or hindered you most when writing a book?

I have pretty bad imposter syndrome. I tend to get to a point in the story that I’m writing that I start to doubt myself and then will freeze up totally. Sometimes I’m able to work through it, other times not. I remember that when I was writing Chasing Shadows, it hit about midway through the book, when the characters were trapped in the basement. I ended up putting the story down for about a month and used the time that I would normally spend writing to do some home improvement projects. Doing that, starting and finishing a side project to completion, got me to feel good about myself again, and then I was able to come back and finish the story.

What type of books do you enjoy reading the most?

I tend to genre hop, so have different tastes in books. What I read really just depends on what type of mood I’m in. But, while I enjoy a good cozy mystery or a hot lesbian romance, my first love will always be sci-fi / fantasy. These were the books that I read growing up. A lot of times, they would feature gay-coded characters in a time when it was impossible to be gay in the mainstream. And, a good sci-fi / fantasy often has elements of other genres – there will be romance, mystery, adventure, etc. My tastes haven’t changed much in this area, but these days I’m able to read really good sci-fi / fantasy with sapphic representation from authors like Tasha Suri, K Aten, Tamysn Muir, and Fletcher DeLancey.

What books have you read more than once in your life?

Two books come instantly to mind – “The Blue Sword” by Robin McKinley and “Arrows of the Queen” by Mercedes Lackey. These were my go-to’s in high school and I’ve probably read both more than fifty times. I think because both explore the ideas of identity, belonging, and self-worth (just with swords and horses), something I needed growing up, whether I consciously knew it then or not.

Meet Lila Bruce

Lila Bruce lives with her wife and their ever growing collection of cats in the hills of North Georgia. She loves to read and write all genres of romance, consume unhealthy amounts of coffee, and has always been a sucker for a happy ending.

Visit Lila’s Website

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Author Interview