Q&A with Author Gerard Graham

I have had an amazing opportunity to follow up my review of Checking Out Of The Hotel Euthanasia with a Q&A session with the author, Gerard Graham! 

 

Q ONE THING I PERSONALLY WOULD BE FASCINATED TO KNOW IS WHERE YOUR IDEA FOR THE BOOK CAME FROM?
A It started when my wife and I spent 3 months in Naples, Florida. We were exploring possible places to live in the USA which were warmer than Chicago and Pittsburgh where my sons live.  It quickly became apparent that we were the youngest folk in town. As an observer of human nature I found humour in this. One bar tender happened to comment that it was like a Disneyland for the elderly. It didn’t take much for my delinquent brain to develop this into a theme park for assisted dying and then a hotel set in the near future that people would pay for the privilege.  And so “Checking Out of the Hotel Euthanasia” was born.
Q WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO WRITE?
A A range of factors such as my lifelong love of literature particularly satirical fiction, my professional background in creating social policy for older people and interest in the law and my life experiences of being placed in a residential school at 6 years old that set me on a course of combating institutionalization. It is a modern dilemma which is challenging for society and can be quite a dry subject. My aim was to make the moral dilemmas and hypocrisy on all sides of the assisted dying debate accessible to the public at large through humour.
Q TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR BACKGROUND
A I was born (a mistake). My mother was 44 years old when she had me. Brought up in poverty, my father died when I was 4. I was raised in East End of Glasgow, Scotland. A tough industrial city with razer sharp humor. My professional career involved working as a social work manager and independent consultant. I was most known for bringing re-ablement (an approach that empowered older people and improved independence) to Scotland. My wife Barbara and I moved to Portugal for eight years and are now resident in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, to be closer to my two sons and four grandchildren. I have also written and illustrated a number of children’s books as well as creating artwork for other authors. “Checking Out of the Hotel Euthanasia” is my first adult novel.
Q WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK?
A The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov that is an hilarious and satirical tale where the devil visits Stalin’s Moscow and causes havoc.
Q WHAT WRITERS ARE YOU INFLUENCES AND INSPIRED BY?
A Magical Realism: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gunter Grass, Herman Hess, Jose Saramago-  Philosphy: Bertrand Russel, –  Humour: Spike Milligan, Romain Puertolas, Jonaton Jonason- Scottish: Neil Gunn, Alan Spence – Insight: Jon Ronson
Q WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?
A Naturally creative, I always see the funny side of things. It is easy for me to formulate stories and scenarios in my head. I have a tendency to take observations and expand them exponentially to a bizarre and outlandish point. I am a keen observer of human nature. A lifetime in social work and developing social policy means I always had to consider the law, ethical issues, morality and benefits to the individual and society.
Q WHAT IS THE NOVEL ABOUT?
A It is a story about a chaotic cell of Scottish Catholic agitators setting out on a mission to blow up the decadent splendor of the Hotel Euthanasia. It is set twenty-one years into the future as a range of bizarre guests book into the Hotel Euthanasia, an enterprise specializing in self indulgent themed productions customized to the desires of guests’ final assisted suicide experience. A series of shambolic events lead to Rab, the leader of the group along with his madcap cronies being sealed in coffins heading on a conveyor belt towards certain death in the hotel’s crematorium. At different levels, this satirical comedy, balances an exploration of moral and philosophical issues with playfully merciless humour, poking fun at everything and everyone.
Q WHY A COMEDY?
A This novel makes the moral and philosophical sensitivities around assisted dying accessible through dark satirical Scottish humour. It is a sensitive subject but a comedy makes the issues easier to explore. As human beings we use humour to laugh at ourselves and to confront difficult and sensitive issues. We have used humor to consider difficult issues and moral views with race, sex and class…this just takes it a stage further to consider assisted dying.
Q WHY IS IT SET IN THE FUTURE?
A It imagines a world in the near future where there is a commercial possibility of assisted dying being a tourist destination of choice. I think it is more than a little prophetic and predict that this will soon be upon us if not already started.
Q WHO IS THE PROTAGANIST?
A The main character, Rab, is a member of the Communist Party.  We find him campaigning with a group of people affected by long term debilitating conditions, to change the law for assisted dying. His position dramatically alters when his parents partake in assisted suicide at the hotel.  Rab converts to Catholicism and leads a chaotic Catholic terrorist ‘Retribution and Inquisition’ cell to blow up the hotel. Unfortunately, a number of extraordinary events take place and he and his compatriots find themselves in coffins heading towards the hotel’s crematorium instead of their planned escape via the cemetery.
Q IS THE BOOK OFFENSIVE?
A I obviously have a penchant for outrageous, rebellious and risqué humor. This is juxtapositioned with the solemn event of death that may evoke strong feelings from the reader. The novel with its light touch use of real life characterizations and scenarios invokes empathy for those emotionally involved with issues around death and assisted dying. It encourages the reader with the precept that you can never truly understand a man unless you have walked a mile in that man’s kilt on a windy day.  It may, however, be emotive causing disapproval and censure from people who would wish to repress what they consider to be a troublesome and disagreeable subject.
Q HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE HUMOR?
A Razor sharp as a Glasgow gang and playfully merciless in poking fun at everybody and everything. It cuts through the pomposity and pretentiousness of institutions, politics, religion like a fart in a royal carriage.
Q IS THE BOOK ADVOCATING ASSISTED SUICIDE?
A It leaves the reader wondering throughout as the main protagonist starts off as an advocate but then after the death of his parents at the Hotel euthanasia he changes his view. The reader has to decide if it is for or against.
Q HOW WILL IT HELP THE DEBATE AROUND THIS CONTEMORARY ISSUE?
A It makes the issue accessible to the public at large. People have said they approached it thinking the subject would be boring. Readers said they could not put it down and the twists and turns kept them on tenterhooks till the end. They also appreciated that there was another laugh every few pages.
Q HOW HAS YOUR PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING?
A Social Work management and ‘expert’ consultant status has given me an acute understanding of human nature along with a day to day working knowledge of ethical and legal considerations. Inclusion of social work skills in enablement, empowerment, self-determination, relationships, emotional intelligence, empathy, counselling and communication were all drawn from in order to develop the characters and the moral dilemmas.
Q WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE AFFECTED BY ASSISTED DYING ISSUES?
A Read the story with an open mind.  There is something there for everybody.  It might challenge your values and views. Use the scenarios to discuss the issues.
Q HOW CAN WE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BOOK AND AUTHOR?
A Website. @villadedino Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.  Ringwood Publishing.

 



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