I have a couple of things in common with George Bernard Shaw. First, his middle name and my first name are pronounced the same, which probably isn’t the way you’re pronouncing it if you’re American and don’t know me personally. Second, we’re both Irish, which is why our name is pronounced the way it is. I was listening to a book by Cecilia Ahern and one of the main characters was named Bernard, and it reminded me that there is an entire country where everyone knows how to say my name correctly. It made me feel a little better.
I was born in the States but moved to Ireland when I was little. My grandmother there had died and I suppose my mother was homesick. I spent the formative years of my life living in Dublin, which is why I’m more comfortable kicking around round balls than hitting them with bats, throwing them through hoops, or carrying egg shaped ones around while big people try to kill me.
When I was ten, a war broke out. The Irish euphemistically called it ‘The Troubles’. When the violence spilled into Dublin, my father realized he was American and didn’t have to put up with a war, so it was back to the States. I made one trip to Belfast during ‘The Troubles’ and all I remember are a lot of soldiers and armored cars. I don’t know how people put up with living in war zones. It was scary.
Despite our common nationality, I haven’t read as much of Shaw’s works as I should have. However, one of his plays always stood out in my mind. The main character of The Devil’s Disciple went through a similar experience as my father. My father also turned his back on the faith of his childhood because of the things he witnessed and experienced, even to the point of attending a Jewish synagogue since it was non-Christian. I remember being there with him as a child. Years later I asked my mother why we never converted to Judaism and apparently it had something to do with the requirement to learn Hebrew. I guess that was too daunting.
But the things my father learned in the synagogue prepared him to return to Christianity, specifically the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He felt that Mormonism was a natural extension of Judaism which makes sense to Mormons but probably not to a lot of other people.
And Mormons believe in the Afterlife.
My stories are not religious, however. I’m not describing mormon beliefs about the Afterlife. The fantasy Afterlife I’ve created is more of a pedestrian place than heaven probably really is, and the initial inspiration for my stories came out of a trivial struggle with life that I share with many people descended from northern climes.
I sunburn easily.
One of my daughters is also fair skinned and has red hair, and she sunburns even more easily than me. She’s partly the inspiration for the red-haired Catherine of Beaches of Brazil. I remember fantasizing about what life after resurrection might be like and I wondered how it would be to spend a day at the beach and not have to put lotions and sun screen on every few hours and to not have to endure the pitying looks of those around me who naturally and easily tan. And the idea for a story was born.
I thought about Beaches of Brazil often, probably every time I went to the beach, and it’s why it was the first story I published. It felt good to finally write it down.
So, my stories are not mormon doctrine, or anyone’s doctrine, just some fun things I’ve imagined about real people living in an environment that’s quite different from ours, but which, since they have some control over their surroundings, they’ve turned into something they’re comfortable with. I think that’s basic human nature.
In some ways, Gary Lomax is like me. He doesn’t always know what he wants out of life, but he wants to explore it, to have adventures, to see what’s around the corner or on the next block. And he gets to do it in the context of a world where no one has to worry about earning money or getting sick or dying or gaining weight from eating too much chocolate. That’s my fantasy and that’s why I enjoy writing about the Afterlife.