Ever since I turned 30, I’ve had this fascination with death.
I’m the kind of person who’s always running around trying to find out what it’s all about. Sex? Let’s have lots of that then and see how it goes (note to self: you’ll get over it, believe me) Love? (note to self: ditto.) Travel? Only trouble is that I can’t seem to just tick places off. Like a murderer, I have to go back to visit the scene of the crime…again, and again, and again. Except for Tasmania. I’ve truly DONE Tasmania.
Now death – that’s a destination you only go to once (as far as we know). So in a gruesome, not very much sort of way, I kinda look forward to it. Finally, I’ll know (or not know, as the case may be). So naturally I was interested in a book by Susan Paul titled ‘The Afterlife Coach’. What, you mean even after death we can’t escape that irritating guy exhorting us to ‘be the very best we can be’? Well, no, apparently: Susan’s heroine Claire spends her time providing post-death counselling to people who, for their sins, are stuck ‘in between’ rather than being shunted straight to Heaven or Hell. Here’s my chat with Susan about this interesting concept…
Rose: Death is the last great adventure, and The Afterlife Coach is a take on that eternal question ‘What happens next?’. When you end up in the great beyond – Up, Down or In Between- what do you think your own afterlife coach is going to focus on? Less chocolate eclairs? More early morning jogs?
Susan: Claire (the heroine of the book) is somewhat allergic to exercise so I would imagine there will far be more eclairs than jogs. Being In Between’s star coach, I imagine she’ll soon see the likes of Steve Jobs and Joan Rivers which will make for quite a ride. She won’t be looking for it, but love will find her again (hide, Claire, hide!) and she’ll constantly be dodging Karen’s (the lush best friend, see below) shenanigans.
Rose: The coach’s best friend, Karen, gets pregnant and isn’t sure who the dad is. That’s refreshingly unusual for an uptight literary scene which insists that every likeable female character keeps her chastity belt locked until Mr Right gets out his throbbing key. What’s your view on female promiscuity in life and literature?
Susan: I try to live my life in a thoroughly non-judgmental manner. Unless, of course, we’re talking about my 17 year old daughter. That said, I like the power women are asserting in all areas in their lives and that includes the power over what they do with their bodies. With the exception of the aforementioned 17 year old. My own 21 year old daughter is disappointingly chaste (and not so disappointingly gay).
Rose: In your book, three flawed but famous – and dead – individuals turn up unannounced at our heroine’s house and proceed to invade her life. Why’d you pick Napoleon, Dracula and Janis Joplin – out of all the possible candidates for afterlife chaos?
Susan: When I first imagined the book, it was focused solely on Napoleon and the juxtaposition of him being a little old lady made me laugh. I won’t get into a missing body part (true fact), but I loved the idea of a highly skilled emperor in the garb of a little old lady and how he needed to learn humility. As for Janis Joplin, I didn’t know much about her, yet through my research, I admired and grieved for her and wanted to pretend I could help this troubled woman. As for Dracula, I am simply terrified of vampires and used his persona as a way to try to deal with the fear. Astonishingly, it kind of worked! I’m sorry for Janis too, mainly because she and I have both been accused of not exactly delighting the eye…and yet, our frizzy hair and bumpy noses are about as relevant as Tolstoy’s makeup routine.
Rose: So, the afterlife’s divided into sectors for the Good, the Bad and the In Between. I’m curious about what’s in the Bad Place…not flames and devils, I take it? I’m guessing armies of expert psychologists doggedly trying to explain to Pol Pot why you shouldn’t shoot more than ten people at a time?
Susan: Because I only eluded to the “bad” part of after, I didn’t really have to envision what it was like. But in my mind, every nightmare, horror and fear is exaggerated and you’re stuck in the worst existence imaginable. Forever. Dracula was a one-off. Bottom line: do good… I think I believe that hell and heaven are on earth, and such things fade into irrelevance once we cross that final border.
Rose: And your next book? Tell me what we have to look forward to?
Susan: I love surrounding myself with funny, wacky characters (me too, although I wouldn’t describe The Man this way to his face) and I’m always saddened when I have to say goodbye to them at the end of a book. So I’m working on another tale that turns traditional ways of viewing well-known concepts on their head. Stay tuned!
You can find The Afterlife Coach here on Amazon, or find out more about Susan here. A few final thoughts on the idea of an afterlife coach. If I had one, I think she’d tell me to work on my honesty (I’ll say anything for an easy life) and stop writing people I don’t like into my novels (or, for that matter, blog posts).
What would your afterlife coach say?