Back in August, I reviewed a powerful and intriguing book called The Last Bridge by author Teri Coyne. Four months later, that post still receives several hits a week and it has nothing to do with the quality of my review and everything to do with the amazing book and author on which I was commenting. It is my extreme pleasure to revisit The Last Bridge and to interview Teri Coyne! In case this isn't exciting enough, read on after the interview for details about the chance to participate in a phenomenal giveaway to win your own copy of The Last Bridge...plus a bonus! Without further ado, meet Teri Coyne!
Hi Teri! I was first led to read The Last Bridge when I heard the description about Cat being drawn home and the note left for her which read, "He is not who you think he is." How did you develop the idea for these words?
I’m not really sure. The whole idea for the story came to me as an image of a farmhouse kitchen with garbage bags taped to the walls and a note on an old kitchen table. I heard a voice speaking the opening line of the book…and as hard as I tried to shake it I could stop thinking about the image, the voice and what the heck was on that note.
The story was the process of discovering what had happened in the kitchen and what the note meant.
Was Cat a difficult character to write? Were you ever tempted to make things easier for her or did you always know that she had to walk a rough road?
Cat wasn’t a hard character to write or for me to love but telling her story was hard. I discovered early in the process of writing the story that while I loved Cat many readers found her unlikeable. That hurt my feelings as I knew what happened to her to make her that way and I wanted the readers to stay with the story long enough to find out the whole story.
I knew the road would be rough for Cat – the road to redemption always is don’t you think? While Cat struggles with the impact of her early traumas she is also perpetuating pain with Addison and her son. This is often the case with people who have experienced abuse, while they continue to suffer the effects of the trauma, they often act out their abuse in ways that are destructive to others. Cat’s only chance for happiness is to take responsibility for her choices and to own her own actions. In order for her to do that she had to confront the past and that was hard to write.
Bridges - both real and symbolic - played an important role in the story. At what point in constructing the book did you choose the title?
I’ll let you in on a little secret a writing mentor of mine told me early in the process of writing the book – she said not to get too attached to your titles. While I pride myself on being able to spin a good yarn I am not good at titles. So the title of the book changed a few times before we settled on The Last Bridge. My agent read it when it was called “Chasing Venus” which referred to a scene in the book which was edited out, then she sold it to Random House as “Skin and Bones” and then right before we went to publication it was renamed “The Last Bridge,” which my agent came up with.
I loved the title because, like you mentioned, it refers to both the real bridge in the story and the one we all have to cross to find our way to the truth.
What do you hope that your readers take away from Cat's story?
I really want readers to appreciate the importance of being able to own your own truth, the tell your story and to own the choices you make in your life. I know, it’s a tall order and not a very long book!
While we accept the concept that sexual abuse happens, we do not accept the reality. In speak with many women who experienced various forms of abuse what was most painful to hear was not their story but the fact that many of them have never had the chance to tell the people close to them the truth of what they went through. Often we assume it will be too painful for someone to tell but I think what we really believe is that it will be too painful to hear.
It is but loving someone is letting them tell their story and helping them feel safe to tell it.
I fervently believe that if women told the truth about their lives we would feel more empowered and able to stop so much of the abuse that goes on. Okay – I’m off my soapbox now!
What authors or works would you say have inspired or influenced you?
So many authors have had an impact on my life and on my writing. One of my favorite writers is Tom Robbins, I loved the passion and imagination he brings to his stories, his compelling point of view and his incredible sense of fun and humor. Sue Miller writes thoughtful and engaging stories with women characters who are flawed in real ways and struggling. Lionel Shriver is one of my current favorites, she has a keen awareness of the dynamics of love and of the impact our experiences have on our relationships. And finally Sarah Waters is my go to writer for finely crafted and amazing stories.
From your website I see that you have a background in acting - and even stand-up comedy. Do you prefer being on stage to writing? Do you still perform as an actress or comedienne?
I haven’t performed in a while and I do have moments where I miss it. Stand-up is very immediate, you know right away whether you hit the mark or not, whereas with writing you don’t always know. Both stand-up and writing allow me to tell stories, which is one of my passions while acting afforded me the chance to inhabit someone else’s story. I am hoping to do stand-up again at some point.
You also have some great writing samples on your site of your poetry and some shorter reflective works. ("Helping Hands", "The Easiest Way to Ruin Your Birthday", "Water" and "Good Fences" were my favorites!) Do you prefer writing smaller pieces or full novels? Do your shorter works ever develop into longer things?
Thank you so much for your kind words about my other writing. I love writing poetry and have been doing it since I was a young girl, in fact it was the first writing I ever did. I also love writing my blog and sharing my observations.
I feel like every story or idea has the right form it should take so as much as possible I try to let the form speak to me rather than try to shove it into a format. Sometimes I think I have an idea for a novel but as I start to write it I realize it wants to be a short story. On the other hand I thought The Last Bridge was going to be a short story and it turned into a novel so you never know.
Like most things in my life I am trying to just go with the flow.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my second novel – which is going through a major rewrite and I’m working on a few essays . I also have a third novel outlined…if there were only more hours in the day!
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My website, www.tericoyne.com is chocked full of more information than you would ever want to know about me and my blog is updated weekly with observations, thoughts, etc. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter so feel free to join me there! Thanks so much for supporting the book I really appreciate it!
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