Debra Adelaide confronts death in latest novel

Wed May 13, 2009 9:33am EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Australian writer Debra Adelaide was writing her third novel, on the topic of dying, when her 6-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia.

For about a year, Adelaide put the book to one side, thinking she would never go back to a humorous book on death, but a year down the track, as her son recovered, she found herself engrossed in it again, eventually finishing "The Household Guide to Dying."

She found writing the book, which has just been released in the United States and Canada, helped her confront dying and made her far more open to talking, and joking, about death.

Adelaide, a lecturer in creative writing, spoke to Reuters about her writing and her latest novel, which follows on from "The Hotel Albatross" in 1995 and "Serpent Dust" in 1998, as well as 8 anthologies and reference books on Australian literature:

Q: What triggered this novel?

A: "The idea had been percolating for a long time. I realized I had started to think about dying when my children were young, with the extreme emotions generated by birth and having young children arousing fears that you probably don't confront head on. As a parent I was very anxious about the welfare of my little children as they seemed so fragile. I'm not morbid but I remember thinking how we're not about expressing those sorts of fears."

Q: Do you think people's attitude to death has changed?

A: "I think we have changed quite a bit and we are more prepared to confront death and dying and to talk about it more. I am not sure but I suspect that is part of the whole cycle of abandoning religion and we start to create our own civil ceremonies to compensate. We've seen this happening with marriage over the years and naming ceremonies for babies but it is now happening more with dying."   Continued...