What does it mean to cross over the Void and into the embrace of eternity, and who among the living bears responsibility for the souls yet to make the journey? In BridgeKeeper, author L. S. Moore grapples with existential questions; the fear of death and the fear of truly living, in a debut that is equal parts bone-chilling and heart-warming. The Quiet Ones is proud to present, in conversation, L. S. Moore.
TQO: Leading off, we’d like to congratulate you on your debut. BridgeKeeper is a beautifully enthralling story, rich with a wide variety of noticeable influences for a broad audience. We got notes of the CW show Supernatural, the film The Sixth Sense, and novels like Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and Victoria Schwab’s City of Ghosts. Can you speak about your actual influences and what drew you toward the modern-day ghost story? Did we get any correct?
LSM: Thank you so much. I’m certainly happy with this list of authors! They’re some of my favorites. I have to give the show Supernatural credit for kicking off my writing life though. My first novel, actually the first piece of fiction I ever wrote, was fan-fiction for the show. When I was a child, long before I knew there was a name for the stories running through my head, my
imagination supplied fan-fiction adventures inspired by the books, movies and television shows I loved. I’m not sure why, but the impulse to write those stories down didn’t hit me until rather late in life. My sons were in their early teens and fans of Supernatural too. I’m sure that had something to do with it. I spent over a year writing and revising the story, wandering away from the canon of Eric Kripke’s creation, adding my own characters and conflicts. . . People all over the world followed along as I
posted a chapter a week. I even won an award! There’s no emotional high like having fans of your fiction! That novel was the first and last piece of fan-fiction I ever wrote, but I never looked back.
TQO: What were some of the unique challenges you encountered in crafting BridgeKeeper from its inception all the way to publication and what advice would you give other writers who might be experiencing similar hardships?
LSM: I’ve learned that there’s no right way to become a writer. You either are one or you’re not, even if you’re the only person who knows it. By far my biggest challenge was, and still is, learning to write. Before I submitted an early draft of BridgeKeeper for my first professional critique, I’d never taken a fiction writing class. My mentor gave me encouraging feedback, but I wanted to do better. I asked her if I should go back to school to earn another degree? My first was in theater, a whole different kind of storytelling. She told me that college was a valid choice, but she also suggested a different path. She introduced me to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI. My local chapter was very active, and still is. I lucked into the most incredible critique group, started attending workshops and retreats, and discovered excellent books on the subject. Twelve years later, here I am. Maybe not the shortest road I could have taken, but it fit into my lifestyle with work and kids. It’s been a wonderfully
TQO: In BridgeKeeper’s world of magic and mystery, it’s a powerful choice to tell the story from the point of view of the sidekick who, himself, has supplemental special powers. What lead you to that creative decision and how did it inform your craft as you developed the novel?
LSM: I’m a sucker for characters based on regular people fighting past ordinary weaknesses and flaws to discover the hero inside themselves. I’d go out for a beer with Robin rather than Batman any day! Standing in the shadow of their partners, sidekicks have many more challenges to overcome. They’re not as powerful, gifted, self-assured or driven, but have to face the same dangers and conflicts. It makes them much more interesting to me. For readers, especially teens, I think it’s easier to imagine yourself as
the sidekick rather than the person up on the pedestal. It’s not such a huge leap to think, Yeah, I’m a kid like Robin… I could do that too. In early drafts I told the story from different points of view, but I always came back to Will, the younger brother.
TQO: Throughout the novel, the theme of family and familial responsibility reigns supreme. What is it about the relationship between siblings that made you choose that angle for your central characters?
LSM: Deep bonds between characters hook me into a story whether I’m writing it or reading it, but there’s nothing like the inescapable blood ties of siblings. Siblings’ brains, bodies and personalities literally develop alongside each other. You can’t divorce your sister. There are no ex-brothers. In real life, few of us test our sibling bonds the way we can test them in fiction. I enjoy exploring how love and rivalry interact, how obligation becomes loyalty. I’m intrigued by the idea that it’s possible for a person you’ve known your entire life to surprise you. You asked earlier about what influences led me to write a modern-day ghost story. I’ll mention a few sets of brothers. Jim Butcher’s wizard Harry Dresden has a brother named Thomas. I loved Rob Thurman’s series with Cal and Niko Leandros. Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry pitted brothers against the zombie apocalypse. Those authors, and my two sons, helped make writing sibling characters exciting to me.
TQO: The end pages of the novel feature images of graves with a caption referencing the “tombstone tourism“ that has taken you all over the country. What are your top five most beautiful American cemeteries?
LSM: Only five? I’ve visited so many! I even found a gem of a cemetery in a grocery store parking lot once! But my top five would start with Genoa, a tiny town in the mountains of Nevada. There were probably only a few hundred people buried there, but their families had lovingly and lavishly decorated the graves with native quartz, personal mementos and hand-carved markers. Each grave told a fascinating story. Also in Nevada, on the hill behind Virginia City is the most evocative old west cemetery I’ve ever seen. The day I visited, there happened to be a full solar eclipse happening. The sun shadows flickering on the tombstones were magical. One more civilized cemetery is Lake View in Seattle. The grounds are gorgeously landscaped, but the best part is the “unkindness” of ravens that claim the stones and monuments there and have for generations. Mount Mora in St. Joseph, Missouri was full of poison ivy the last time I visited, but it has some of the most elaborate and haunting mausoleums I’ve ever seen. And lastly, my fifth favorite cemetery is the next one I find along a country road or sandwiched between two freeways in the middle of a city or preserved in a parking lot. They’re everywhere, you just have to stop and take them in. Cemeteries are great places to write in, by the way. Whether you need a quiet, beautiful spot or a dreary, spooky one, they’re meant to be visited. I find
great character names strolling among the stones. Quirky epitaphs can spark a story idea. You never know what you’ll find.
TQO: Your book also features a gorgeously illustrated cover and chapter headers by Cristina Bencina. What was it like to work with her on BridgeKeeper?
LSM: It’s been a dream! All the credit for finding Cristina goes to my publisher. The chapter headers were her idea, and I love them. That said, I gave input on every image in the book. Cristina was incredible at taking my clumsily expressed ideas and turning them into art. She read BridgeKeeper before she started so all it took were a few reference photos, and a little back and forth on details. I got exactly what I wanted, without knowing it was exactly what I wanted, if you know what I mean. The style and artistry are all Cristina.
TQO: Before we go, do you have any final words of wisdom for our writers and readers?
LSM: For writers, here’s something I wish someone had told me. Don’t saddle yourself with self-imposed deadlines. Ignore that voice in your head that says, If I haven’t published within two years, I’m a failure. Or I’m getting too old for this. Arbitrary restraints like that squeeze the joy out of writing. As long as you’re studying your craft, improving, and enjoying yourself, you’re not wasting time. Find a community, a critique group or workshops and dive in. Also, these days there are many pathways to publication. Everything from online magazines like this one, to mid-sized independent publishers in all kinds of niches, don’t be afraid to explore non-traditional paths.
And readers, thank you so much! I meant it when I said there’s no rush like the rush we get from having
fans. Keep reading and please support the authors you love by posting reviews.