Today we shine the spotlight on
After The Fall
Rikki, a teenager being raised by her grandmother, has a secret. She can’t remember her mother. Whenever Rikki asks the older woman a question, Rita falls apart and refuses to discuss the matter. Desperate to learn the truth, Rikki finds a hidden family album. Is the boy in the photograph with her mother a long lost uncle? Determined to solve the mystery, Rikki embarks on a journey from New York City to Toledo, then on to Detroit and Phoenix to meet Harry, a writer who is struggling with his own issues of identity.
From the award-winning writer of The Intersect, come After the Fall, a fast-paced, engaging read, with twists and turns that will surely surprise. After the Fall: an emotional roller-coaster of a mystery packed with personality and charm. Once you begin the journey, you won’t be able to turn back.
“What are you doing?” Rita asked as she put on her coat, ready to go grocery shopping. “I thought you said you were coming with me.”
Rikki sat at the kitchen table. “I’m almost done.” She scribbled out a final sentence, as a look of pleasure swept across her face.
“That must be some letter,” Rita huffed. “Who are you writing to?”
Rikki held up the legal pad. “This isn’t a letter. It’s a short story.”
“Well, excuse me,” Rita snapped sarcastically, hands on her hips, winter coat wide open. “My mistake. So, are we going or not?”
“Yes,” Rikki said as she marched off in her slippers to the bedroom. “I need to change my shoes. I’ll just be a moment.”
When Rikki returned, coat in hand, Rita was sitting at the kitchen table reading. She looked up as her granddaughter approached. Rikki was suddenly unnerved. There was a look in Rita’s eyes she hadn’t seen before. A look she didn’t understand. She readied herself for the criticism. To be mocked. Her adrenaline surged as she prepared to defend herself.
Rita smiled as she held the yellow pad. “This is good. Where’d you come up with the idea?”
Rikki rushed forward and grabbed the pad. “It’s not done yet.”
“Oh, but it’s very good. I’d like to read more.”
Rikki suddenly felt ill. “It’s only a first draft.”
“I didn’t know you could write.” Rita opened her purse and searched through it. “Why didn’t I know this?”
Rikki shrugged her shoulders. “There’s really nothing to know. It’s a writing contest. The winner gets a scholarship. No big deal. I probably won’t win.”
Rita pulled out a Salem 100 and gently tapped it on the table.
“Please don’t light that. Please,” Rikki begged.
Rita tried to squeeze the cigarette back into the pack. “Damn,” she said as the cigarette broke in half. “Rikki, these are expensive. Now look what you made me do.”
“One less nail in the coffin,” Rikki muttered.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this short story?” Rita asked. “Am I that older woman?”
“It’s not about you,” Rikki clarified.
“Well, that isn’t very flattering. I’m thinking I’d make an interesting character.” Rita slid out of her coat and let it drop to the back of the chair. “So, what’s it about?”
“A journey,” Rikki offered. “A young girl goes off to find herself.”
Rita broke into a broad smile. “Oh, well, that makes sense.”
Rikki pulled out a chair and sat down. “She travels to a place she’s never been before and all sorts of wonderful things happen to her.”
“Like Alice in Wonderland? The Wizard of Oz?”
“Kind of . . .”
And despite Rikki’s request, Rita took out another cigarette and this time she lit it, inhaling deeply before exhaling up toward the ceiling. “Honey, it’s been done before and by far better writers.”
“I suppose,” Rikki said as she clutched the short story to her chest.
“You know, you remind me of your mother right now.” Rita took another drag as she eyed her granddaughter. “She thought she had this great talent. She attended Music and Art High School in Manhattan. I didn’t want her to go. It was so silly. No one can earn a living as a painter, unless of course they’re painting the outside of your house. And then she got that scholarship to Cranbrook’s Academy of Art. Spending her day dreaming impossible dreams. I think of that and wonder what might have happened if she’d been an administrative assistant or a bookkeeper. Something practical. Logical. She might still be alive.” Rita shifted her focus to her right index finger and a chipped nail.
“At least she was happy,” Rikki said, bringing her back to the conversation.
“Happy? You think she was happy?” Rita shook her head to the contrary. “She wanted to live in Europe. Study in Paris. She’d often say. ‘If I had studied overseas, I’m certain I could have become a marvelous portrait painter.’”
“Why didn’t she go to Paris?”
Rita put her cigarette out, smashing it into the ashtray with a twist. “Because people like us don’t go to Paris. We don’t do anything.”
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A Conversation with Brad Graber, Author of After the Fall
After the Fall is a novel about Rikki, a 15-year old teenager being raised by her 75-year old grandmother, Rita, who goes on a journey to uncover the secrets of her family. What captured your interest in telling this particular story?
I’ve always been interested in cross-generational relationships. I was close to my grandmother when I was growing up and I was aware that there are secrets in families that impede healthy relationships. So, it just seemed like fertile ground to explore. And of course there can be this natural tension between a grandmother and teen. Love may be there, but teenagers see the world in such a different way. Rikki is just learning about life – she has a significant gap in her memory – she can’t remember her mother – and she knows her grandmother is withholding information. She understands that Rita is manipulative, but still loves her dearly. All the while, she doesn’t know the history of her family. So as Rikki goes on her journey - that becomes the focus of the novel – the push/pull with Rita. Rikki is determined to uncover the secrets that Rita is hiding.
The story at first might seems Young Adult, but then there is Harry, who occupies the other main story line. Harry is a writer in his mid-fifties, who lives in Phoenix, and who has an inner dialogue going on that guides him. What is it about Harry that captured your imagination?
Harry is basically stuck and I think there are a lot of adults who find themselves in precisely that circumstance. He may be a successful author, earning a living as a mystery writer, but in fact, his life stopped when he lost the love of his life. And so Harry has receded into a fairly solitary existence. He’s transferred all of his affection to his beloved wire-haired fox terrier, Beetle, but mostly, Harry lives in his head. That’s not a hard stretch for a writer.
Is Harry based on yourself?
There are elements of Harry that I share. But each of my characters is an extension of me in one way or another. After all, I’m the one behind their creation. But, and as the story evolves, I slip away, and my characters step forward, fully alive and very independent.
Rita is a fascinating character. The relationship between the Rikki and Rita is beautifully crafted. It’s playful at moments, and then tense. How did you manage to strike that balance? Is their relationship based on any experiences in your own life?
When I was an adolescent, I was always interested in the adult conversations that were going on around me. And those conversations were always easily in earshot. All you had to do was stop and listen. And I was close to my grandparents, so I knew the lingo of how those conversations tended to go. At least in my family. Though I have to say, Rita is unique. She certainly isn’t exactly like my grandmother. However, she does share one quality. The fierce love she has for her family. But the playfulness, that is tribute to my mother who could be a lot of fun and then also very protective.
Lil shows up as the seductress. What do you want readers to take away from her role in the story?
Lil is a survivor. She is the friend we all wish we had. Loving, warm, accepting – and sometimes just too pushy for her own good. But the thing that is wonderful about Lil is that she doesn’t let her disappointments rule her. She is the eternal optimist. And that is really how I see her.
Are any of the characters based on people you know or have met?
The characters are unique – but as any writer will tell you – there’s always a seed of truth to the story. The circumstances are quite different, but years ago someone I loved died, and through that death, years later, I learned about the niece who was interested in knowing more about her uncle. So, in a way, the story is inspired by that truth. Though, as in all good fiction, After the Fall has very little to do with the reality of that experience. It is fiction!
Rikki goes on a journey to find the answers to her family’s secrets. Do you think it’s important to leave home in order to find yourself?
It does tend to speed up the process. If you remain cocooned, you really can’t get to the root of the issues that are keeping you stuck. And in After the Fall, Rikki is certainly struggling to understand what has happened to her family and how it has affected her life.
What is one lesson you’d like readers to take away from the book?
There are two. The most compelling is that human beings are fallible. We may believe that we’re acting out of love, but sometimes, we can do more harm than good. Another lesson is that we construct stories to help explain our lives, and sometimes, these stories become traps, limiting our ability to grow. I think we all have a tendency to identify with our own truths, and sometimes, the way to move forward is to tear down those walls and shift perspective.
What is your next project?
I’ve been working on a third novel, tentatively titled, Boca by Moonlight. The story of two men in their sixties and the ladies that they love. It should be an interesting change.
About the author:
Brad Graber writes novels because he grew up in a family where no one ever listened to him - so he made up stories about them.
Born and raised in New York City, Brad 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. A former healthcare executive, Brad has held a number of management positions and been a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a Certified Medical Executive through Medical Group Management Association. Though he no longer works in healthcare, he continues to volunteer with local non-profits.
After the Fall is Brad’s second novel. His debut novel, The Intersect, released in 2016, has won multiple awards and garnered rave reviews. Brad has lived in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago; West Bloomfield, a suburb of Detroit; and Mill Valley, a suburb of San Francisco. He currently resides in Phoenix on the grounds of the Arizona Biltmore with his husband Jeff and their dog Charlie.
Promotional post. Materials provided by the author.