Gregory Day, author of The Grand Hotel, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |June 17, 2010

The Booktopia Book Guru Asks

Gregory Day,

author of

The Patron Saint of Eels, Ron McCoy’s Sea of Diamonds and now The Grand Hotel,

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born on Shakespeare’s birthday, in Cotham Road Kew, and undoubtedly that was my greatest moment. After being expelled from an atheist kindergarten in the suburbs of Melbourne I was fortunate to be taught by Carmelite priests and brothers in a bush setting.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to be Joe Strummer from The Clash, when I was eighteen I wanted to be stoned, and when I was thirty I wanted to be a swagman. Although others might doubt it, in my own way I feel I’ve achieved all of these ambitions.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That the earth was round. I know now that it’s a lot bumpier than that. I must admit also that back then I thought writers were particularly interesting people.

4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Such Is Life by Tom Collins, which is Australia’s great neglected literary masterpiece; La Route Montante by Paul Cezanne, which hangs in the National Gallery of Victoria, and Music For Airports by Brian Eno, which I first heard as a teenager in a black church in the Otways.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

To me reading is an almost sacred activity and the great novel is its high mass. The novel is so deeply powerful as an art form because of the investment of time and faith it demands. A good novel can sweep you up, quarry you out, illuminate you and truly inhabit your life. And, of course, although the writer composes the sentences of the novel the reader is a full participant in the imaginative process and far from a mere voyeur.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

In a crazy world, so brutal and so beautiful, I wanted to express my version of a heartland in the liveliest way. And so, The Grand Hotel was written with the cork out and is essentially a story about the fine line between laughter and tears. It’s set in an unlikely, artistic, iconoclastic and uproarious hotel in the coastal bush of Victoria. Like Australia itself the book is full of colourful, confronting, and hopefully entertaining juxtapositions, and as the story unfolds and the characters deepen, the borders between the colonial past and the global present, the strictures of reality and the freedom of the imagination, really begin to blur.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I’d love my readers to feel more in touch with the natural world, more at home in their own skin, and to smile at the mere thought of The Grand Hotel.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I admire Joseph Furphy (alias Tom Collins) for his incredibly gifted local eloquence and humour, and W.B.Yeats for his incomparably cosmic and fine crafted poetry.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To write what the heart and mind demand rather than from any notion of a career.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

The horse of the mind must submit to the harness of the word.

Gregory, thank you for playing.

Note from Booktopia Buzz’s Toni Whtmont:

Gregory Day holed up at the Bundanon (Arthur and Yvonne Boyd’s inspirational property) to write the first draft of The Grand Hotel and you can feel the landscape breathe through this story from its opening scenes. The novel starts with Noel emerging from weeks of self-enforced exile, living in fact as a swagman, to gradually re-connect with the town of his youth. Noel eventually becomes the unlikely publican of an even more unlikely hotel. There is a lot to recognise about ourselves in The Grand Hotel, although I defy anyone to name another pub where random dadaist recordings are played as musak in the men’s loos!

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  • Dougal

    September 28, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Greg – it’s great to see you are still pumping out the words. Your reviews have been positive and although I am only a third of the way through your novels i fully intend to catch up.
    I loved your story in the age this week and i hope your revenge is sweet and your vocal chords are not too shot after the Grand Final replay this week.
    Go the Woods !

  • jane

    October 25, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Hi Greg,
    I was born Jane Breheney.
    I am Mark Breheney’s neice.
    My sister Susan passed this on to me.
    She lives in Port Macquarie and sms’d me that you were on radio national.
    I think her timetables may be different to ours though….
    I remember great times at Bolinda Road.
    I remember the Christmas’s that you and your family rocked up too.
    I just wanted to email you and wish you all the best with your book.
    We have a beach house in Anglesea so I will purchase your novel ( the only time I really get to read). take it down there and curl up in front of the fire and turn the pages.
    Sending you my warmest regards,
    Jane Dillon ( Breheney)

  • Sue Hartnett

    October 29, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Greg
    I am a member of a “slightly dadaist” bookclub – some of the members live at Aireys, and that’s where our nexr meeting is. Our latest read is The Grand Hotel – we generally go aff on all sorts of tangents, and we would love it if you would consider joining us as our guest of honour and keeping us on track! Let me know if you are interested.

  • Laraine Smith

    March 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Hello Greg as yet I have not read any your books but have ordered The Grand Hotel and am hoping it arrives soon .
    I picked up a coaster advertising it in a book shop last year and had forgotten about it and found the book mark again in our caravan when cleaning it this week.
    The reason I picked it up from the table in the book shop cafe was because of your name I am in the middle of doing my family history and the name Day is the one I am trying to concentrate on at the moment If its at all possible could you please send me an email with names of your Grandparents and great Grandparents please

  • Jill Loorham

    February 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    What a terrific story The Grand Hotel is. It’s my first read of anything written by Gregory Day, but it won’t be my last.
    Inspirational also, the story, in a very personal way,’cause I’d like to have a go at having a pub in the bush. I’d never be as easy-going and capable as Noel was though. Note, I haven’t finished the whole book yet, so my comments might be completely off.
    Thanks Gregory (Greg?), your story’s being read by me at a time when I lhave a need of some idiosyncratic behaviour (and the laughable predictability of the suits.) Needs mine: a good dose of weird ad wonderful characters, laughs and sighs. Maybe a tear or two.
    Ta muchly.
    From the other world (whatever that is) in Faraday in Victoria

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