Today, I’m joined by Brad Graber.
Brad is the debut novelist of The Intersect (Dark Victory Press), published earlier this year. He was born and raised in New York City and obtained a B.A. in Biology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an M.H.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. As a healthcare executive, Brad has held a number of management positions over the years; he currently resides in Phoenix on the grounds of the Arizona Biltmore with his long-term spouse and their dog Charlie. Brad is formerly a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and Certified Medical Executive through Medical Group Management Association. He no longer works in healthcare though he does continue to actively volunteer with local non-profit organizations. Brad is currently working with Duet, transporting seniors to their medical appointments; he also takes a blind senior grocery shopping every two weeks.
Praise for The Intersect:
“Beautifully told by Brad Graber … I found myself thinking that I was one of the characters and interacting with those around me. It was really only when I closed the book that I really realized that I had only been reading.”—Reviews by Amos Lassen
From the publisher:
Set against Arizona’s political and cultural vortex at the start of 2010, “The Intersect” explores the issues of the day by weaving together the lives of disparate characters striving to survive in a world where the strongest link, and most lasting connection, is made among strangers. When Dave and Charlie relocate from the Bay Area to Phoenix, tensions ratchet up in their relationship as Charlie insists on buying a house on the grounds of the Arizona Biltmore as Dave contemplates leaving his job. Daisy, a spry septuagenarian, shows up at their front door after a long convalescence, unaware that her greedy, Michigan relatives, Jack and Enid, have already sold her home. Charlie assumes the older woman is Dave’s distant aunt and happily ushers her into a guest room. Meanwhile, across town, Anna, a gifted psychic who channels the dead, is concerned about her neighborhood. She hires a handyman to install motion-detectors, unaware that Ernie has entered the United States illegally from Mexico as a child. When Henry, a homeless gay teen, attempts to rob Anna, Ernie intervenes and a melee ensues. The police mistakenly arrest Ernie, leading to his deportation. And so begins “The Intersect” as relationships unravel, secrets are revealed, love blossoms, and injustice leads to a thrilling climax.
Now, Brad Graber the facts and fiction of The Intersect …
John Valeri: What inspired you to write The Intersect – and how do you see the title as fitting of its story?
Brad Graber: When I moved to Arizona in 2009 from the Bay Area , there was this negative drumbeat about gay marriage and undocumented immigrants in the media, and yet, I found myself surrounded by the most welcoming and friendly people. The city of Phoenix, along with Scottsdale, Tempe, Flagstaff, Tucson and Bisbee – were nothing like my initial impressions of Arizona. I was awed by that disconnect, and wanted to share the other side of Arizona that I’ve come to love. And since I’ve moved around a lot in my life, I’m also interested in how strangers connect. So if you think of two slightly overlapping circles, and of each person as occupying their own circle, then the shared space or the overlap, is The Intersect. And that common ground, is the space where interests, philosophies, and perhaps kismet, will cement these friendships. And whether we are red or blue, Republicans or Democrats, there is a connection we all share at The Intersect.
JV: Tell us about the diverse characters that populate your book. In what ways do you see them as being representative of the human condition – and what is the significance of their seemingly random encounters?
BG: The characters include Daisy, the 75-year-old living independently, who breaks a hip and is forced to navigate the healthcare system alone; Dave and Charlie, who relocate for Dave’s job, only to discover that some jobs aren’t worth having; and Ernie, an illegal immigrant raised in the United States, who passes as an American. There’s Henry, a gay teen who becomes homeless when he comes out to a rejecting family; Anna the psychic, who’d rather channel the dead than deal with the living; and Bonnie, searching for love in all the wrong places. Rounding out the story is Jack and Enid, a married couple recently relocated from Michigan, facing the challenges of retirement and a rocky relationship.
My characters come from different walks of life, different ages, and different cultural and social backgrounds. They present as real people; with flaws, biases and failings, which help to shape the story. And sometimes those human frailties trigger a moment of kindness which I think we all possess given the right circumstance and moment.
JV: You have experience with healthcare management and non-profit volunteer work. How has that influenced your writing – and what truths do you hope readers will garner from your fiction?
BG: When you work in healthcare, listening becomes a critically skill to working well with a diverse workforce. You have to put yourself in another’s shoes so that you understand how best to communicate effectively. From physicians to nurses to care givers, they each have a different vocabulary – but a common theme – delivering quality care. And sometimes, management might be disconnected, focused on business drivers that are critical if an organization is to survive. So there is a natural tension which works wonderfully as you tell the story of a senior with a broken a hip at the same time that you explore an executive’s decision to leave a management position.
Bottom-line for me is placing being able to place the reader in the shoes of the character. What are they thinking? How are they managing through life? What are their core beliefs and values? That is the most interesting part of the story. Understanding someone else’s perspective, especially if it is different from your own.
JV: In what way does setting enhance narrative – and how can place become its own character within a story? Also what do you hope to portray about Phoenix, given that it’s where you make your home?
BG: The Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, where so much of the story takes place, is absolutely beautiful. A Garden of Eden in the desert. The birds, the gorgeous sunsets, the lush greenery—all this conjures an intimate setting where neighbors walk their dogs and greet each other with a friendly hello, offering the perfect opportunity for strangers let down their guard and interact. You can easily forget that you’re in the midst of a busy southwestern metropolitan city. It feels more like a small-town – welcoming, intimate, a place where confidences will be shared – and people are more vulnerable. Likewise, the settings of Phoenix, the restaurants, the shopping centers, mirror that warmth. The wonder of Phoenix is that more people don’t know about what a spectacular place it is to live. Not only for its natural beauty beyond the Biltmore, but also for the quality of the people who live here.
JV: In your opinion, what is the role of the reader – and how does The Intersect work to engage him/her in that?
BG: I’ve written the novel with the desire that the reader will slip into the mind of the key characters – in a sense – becoming them. I want them to absorb the issues – understand the reactions – feel the human kindness that is present in each of us – which I hope envelopes the storyline. The novel is a very intimate look-see; and I hope the reader walks away with a perspective they might not have considered before reading the book.
JV: Leave us with a teaser – what comes next?
BG: I’m currently working on my second novel, The Season of the Caterpillar, the story of a teen being raised by her grandmother, and the teen goes on a journey in search of her namesake. I’m hoping to have that book completed in 2017.
With thanks to Brad Graber for his generosity of time and thought and to Larissa Ackerman of Claire McKinneyPR, LLC, for arranging this interview.