Into the afterlife

Deborah Young. Photo: Cooked Photography

While she was looking out her dining room window one autumn evening, Deborah Young’s characters came to life. She could envision their storylines. Then, she began dreaming about them.

“They wouldn’t leave me alone,” says Young, an astrologer and spiritual counsellor. “I had this bone deep connection to them. It was the same knowing I had when I took the leap into being an astrologer. They were beyond my mind.”

Over the course of five years, Young took some time on and off to devote to writing her 420-page novel Gabriel’s Great Perhaps, which launched on Oct. 6.

That time was a challenge due to a busy astrology business. “I had to block off time. I wrote in a retreat centre, Cuba, France, and Germany,” Young says. “Here at home, it’s sometimes difficult to focus away from my work.”

Time was so scarce that there would oftentimes be eight months between writing periods, however Young says her commitment to finishing the book “never wavered. There was one six-week period where I wrote 90,000 words. I found myself as a scribe, just dictating their stories.”

Gabriel’s Great Perhaps is a novel about the afterlife, full of comedy, drama, and spirituality. Writing it, says Young, was as if she was “honouring” the characters she had envisioned. “They needed an advocate, a midwife, someone to tell their stories,” she explains. “I felt like I owed it to them, and I’m the type of person that once I make a commitment, I make a commitment.”

The story, featuring characters from many different countries and cultures, is full of unity and diversity.

“It’s so aligned with 2020 and 2021,” she say, comparing it to how she believes Nova Scotians united during the pandemic. “They come from different places, different philosophies, they have biases of each other, and assumptions of their past… but they’re uniting for the common good.”

Two of the characters are Americans, while another is based loosely on Young’s partner, a German Buddhist. One is from P.E.I., Young’s home province, and another is a Muslim comedian from the U.K. A lot of readers have already expressed their like of the over-the-top, outrageous character from New Mexico. Another is a Hindu doctor that had been living in Australia. They have one macabre quality in common: “They all die a quirky death,” says the author.

Since the book’s release, Young has been receiving some “excellent” feedback from readers.

“I’ve read a lot of interesting comments from people and what they got out of it,” Young says. “It’s been very insightful, with some things I would never have thought about.”

Young is working on a sequel to Gabriel’s Great Perhaps, aiming to finish in early 2022. She’s doing some writing at home and will be travelling within Nova Scotia during the pandemic until she’s able to go further afield. “I love series books and I’m exploring that, but right now my focus is on the sequel,” she says. “I’m hoping it rolls out quickly. The storyline is there.”

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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