Sunday, 5 June 2016

Blogival - "Doing Life in Paradise" by Gary Line

Book Blurb:

Doing Life in Paradise explores the impact and ripple effect of trauma on a group of strangers inextricably linked by, and witness to, a tragic accident. 

The novel is a surreal voyeuristic journey into the minds and lies of its larger than life characters, each trapped in their own psychological struggle for survival and redemption.  Ruby hopes for love, but her destiny is controlled by a malicious spider.  Peter laments the loss of love, but prefers to discuss it with Mr Dishwasher.  Madeleine discovers rapture while counting down her periods.  Hawkey knows if you lie to your psychologist, you are still telling the truth. And Tommy is a killer. 

Through the eyes of its flawed characters, and clipped acerbic prose Doing Life in Paradise exposes the absurdity of life and dependence on hope to find meaning within life’s disinterest.  But how can life in a city called Paradise feel anything but cruelly ironic, how can it not be anything but a life sentence?

The novel explores the peculiar places life can take us, while exposing the curious strategies we each employ in order to survive.

We also asked Gary Line questions about his book Doing Life in Paradise and about his writing process. These are his answers. Enjoy!

How did you come up with the story?
In Doing Life in Paradise, the narrative discusses the philosophy of the dependence people have on hope, or should I say the over-dependence. Without hope we all would struggle to get out of bed each day but too much hope, or the wrong kind of hope can be a paralysing factor in people’s lives. It either prevents them from taking charge of their own life or at the very least, retards their outcomes – they hope for things rather than taking action to achieve the things they want in life. The story took shape when I imagined a group of ordinary citizens to which an extraordinary thing happens. Such as, in this case, the witnessing of the accident which kills a young girl. Events like this tend to interrupt people’s hope structure.

Doing Life in Paradise asks the questions, what happens to a young woman when she witnesses a car accident, which results in the death of a girl her own age? What happens to the young driver of the car who causes the accident? What happens to the other people who witness this accident? such as a young boy with his mother and the brother of the girl run over and so on. And how do these people cope and proceed with their aspirations in the light of such a tragedy? Are their personal hopes and dreams corrupted? What can they rely upon now?

This is how I started the story, but how I invent scenes and characters is a function of my writing process.

What is your writing process? 
As a writer, I am always thinking, listening and watching people. I note what people say, and what they do and when they do the things they do. I am not concerned too much about why people do anything, as the explanations of why people do the things they do, are very often elaborate lies – lies they tell themselves and lies they tell others almost as though the truth of our lives must be kept hidden. It is this behaviour and gap that the narrative explores.

I do not have a formal method to track a plot such as cards for each chapter or an organisational chart. Nor do I construct characters in service to a plot. It is the other way around. I am more interested in the characters and what they do both consciously and unconsciously.

It can start with a line of dialogue, or alternatively, a line of seemingly ordinary dialogue or behaviour will trigger an idea or a character. The discussion of the importance of either character over plot or vice versa has never been answered satisfactorily and probably never will. However, each writer will have their own opinion in regards to this question that will always inform the way they write. I think both are important, but for me, character is the superior of the two. So invariably, I will start with the character. I zero in on the gap or space we inhabit between reality and hyper-reality, the gap between lies and truth.

Elaborate action is not so important, I am more interested in the interior life of a character – what they think, what they believe in, and how they react when life indiscriminately singles them out and interrupts their universe. Postmodernism often concerns itself with the small events, not the grand events of life – indeed it might be said that it is all the small human events that create the grand event, or result from a grand event. This is never more evident than the example of 9/11 for example.

I start writing with an idea that is expressed through either dialogue or action and I may have a theme in mind but almost always, I never have an ending in mind – I prefer to let the narrative write its own ending, as life itself does. And it isn’t automatic that any opening line or paragraph will survive. As any piece I write takes on its own life and creates its own universe and starts to drive in one particular direction, the first sentence or paragraph, even the character themselves might disappear or change. For example, I started Doing Life in Paradise with the character Peter. It was his story and journey that started the whole thing but that changed, and it became more of Ruby’s journey, at least that is now how the narrative starts.

This may seem somewhat unorganised or even chaotic but that is not the case in the end. However, this method allows me to be as surprised as my reader might be with the actions and behaviour of my characters, and there will be a freshness and an absurdity to each character that might not be there if I were to use a more logical controlled method. In other words, I trust in the ‘muse’, I let the work do the work and I do not consciously impose myself in a contrived way. 

Here is an except chapter from Doing Life in Paradise


Tommy had to come home early from work. He was sick again. He managed to pick up some tin beer at the Tonsley Park Hotel drive-thru near his flat in Clovelly Park without passing out. He had to rest outside the café where Ruby often had her favourite pineapple crush drink and where he bought biscuits. But that was when he was eating. He made it back to his flat and struggled up the stairs, holding on to the rail and trying to keep hold of his tin beer with his shaking hands. About half way up, Lemon Guy who lives on the top floor was coming down. Tommy didn’t look at Lemon Guy, no one looked at Lemon Guy, he wasn’t the kind of guy you wanted to make eye contact with, he took it as an invitation to beat the crap out of you. And Tommy was too sick to take in Lemon Guy’s stink. ‘Well if it isn’t Franz.’ Tommy was never sure why Lemon Guy insisted on calling him Franz but he wasn’t the kind of guy you challenged; Tommy wouldn’t have thought him capable of reading anything more substantial than a comic, so literary allusions were well out of his reach. Tommy stopped, held his breath swallowing his nausea and bowed his head to let Lemon Guy pass. But it was no good. As Lemon Guy reached Tommy, he clocked Tommy right in the face. Tommy’s legs buckled, and he crashed to the floor. When Tommy opened his eyes, his nose was full of lemon smell and blood and Lemon Guy’s face was only centimetres from Tommy’s face. Lemon Guy spat at Tommy. ‘You killed my cat, you cockroach.’ Lemon Guy shouted this into Tommy’s nostrils. Tommy didn’t ordinarily use his nostrils for hearing, but in Lemon Guy’s case, he felt compelled to make an exception. Then Lemon Guy smashed Tommy again with his head and that was when Tommy felt his nose buckle, making a sound like plastic snapping. It seemed unlikely that a discussion about neighbourly harmony would be fruitful right at this moment. Tommy felt his nose fill with blood, which surely would put to an end any ambitions Tommy’s nostrils might have entertained as listening devices. As it stood at the moment, they were flat out fulfilling their basic design function of air in, air out. Tommy didn’t know it was Lemon Guy’s goddamn cat. It was true then, Tommy thought, he had killed Lemon Guy’s cat and this confirmed his worse fears about himself. Tommy was a killer.

My Review

***I received the eBook free as a review copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review***

Angelina: This was definitely a very interesting and unique book to read. Honestly, after I finished reading this book, I needed some time afterwards to sit down and think about what just happened. Not because I didn't understand what exactly happened, but to process it timeline-wise. 
This book switches perspectives every chapter to the next person who is going to progress the story in some way. Those main characters are called Ruby, Tommy, Peter, Madeline and Steve. The story takes place in a town called Paradise (previously called Adelaide). I won't reveal much about what happened prevoiusly because a lot of the fun reading came from finding out what happened and how all of the characters are linked together in a strange and explicit way. But stated simply, all of these characters were linked together when they all witnessed the same trauma several years back that would ultimately affect their lives in the future. 
I actually really liked the concept of this book. It was really philosophical at times and I had to put the book down several times when the statements got big and deep in order to process my thoughts on them. Another unique thing about the theme is that it talked quite a bit about coincidences and synchronicity. Especially after finishing the book, it does make one think about coincidences that can't be explained in real life. However, I think that in some cases, the characters became too philosophical to the point where it started getting a bit annoying. I felt kind of overwhelmed that every single character became so philosophical. I felt that the plot wasn't progressing because of this because some of the philosophical thoughts, I felt, were being repeated by the individual characters. On the other hand, a factor that had me wanting to keep on reading this book was to see when the characters would meet once again. The close calls when the characters just barely missed each other had me wanting to read more. 
The characters in this book were unique. They all seemed really real, not just a work of fiction. They all had to deal with problems that other people also face around the world. First I thought that it seemed weird that coincidentally all of the characters had such big dilemmas in their lives, but then it kind of made sense with the context of the story. My favourite perspectives were probably Ruby and Tommy's perspectives. Something about their point of view just clicked with me. 
I also really liked how the ending tied all of the loose ends together really nicely, so that there wasn't anything left hanging which would otherwise make the reader have a nagging feeling that something was missing. 
Overall, this was a very unique book with a very realistic set of characters. The book focuses on how characters deal with trauma and the stress of living in a place called "Paradise". The philosophical thought put in this book was clever, although I felt that it as too much for me at times. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars!

About Gary Lines

Website is

Gary is a regular contributor to the Australian Financial Review, Australia’s premier business daily newspaper. He writes a column for the “Talking Points” section, which allows him to discuss everything from ‘Why we keep our books’ to Celebrity chefs and their proliferation in the world today. This section of the paper is intended to be informative and humorous.

Doing Life in Paradise, Gary’s debut novel, has received strong endorsement from reviewers as being a ‘precise’, ‘thoughtful’, ‘clever’ and ‘intriguing and highly original read’. The novel centres on a group of people all struggling to cope with the absurdity of life. Some make it, some don’t – everyone tries in their own way.


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