Interview with author Alex Gray: 'Literacy should be accessible for everyone'

Posted: 03/03/2016 | ,

An award-winning crime writer has spoken about the importance of making literature accessible for all – after being shocked to learn that just 5% of books are translated into Braille.

Today marks the launch of Alex Gray’s highly anticipated latest novel, The Darkest Goodbye, in both print and alternative formats

The Darkest Goodbye is the thirteenth thriller in the Detective Lorimer series and Gray has been working with the Edinburgh-based Scottish Braille Press to ensure that her visually impaired fans can get their hands on a copy on the same day that the print version is launched.

“I strongly believe that all books should be accessible to everybody,” said Gray, during a visit to the Press last week.

“I was shocked when I was told that just 5% of books are transcribed into Braille. I feel very honoured that mine are published by the Scottish Braille Press, I was thrilled when I found out that was going to happen and that they were being made in large print and audiobooks too.

“I used to sing with the City of Glasgow Chorus and one of our members was blind and read music in Braille and I thought how wonderfully inclusive Braille can make things like music. That really inspired me. Nobody should be kept from doing what they love. Literature should be for everybody.”

The Darkest Goodbye explores the morality of assisted dying – a topic Gray herself feels very strongly about. The story follows the investigation of the murder of an elderly lady after being visited in the early hours of the morning by someone dressed as a carer.

“The Darkest Goodbye leaves some unfinished business, it will make the reader think “oh!” and want to know more,” she said.

“There’s a part in the book where Lorimer speaks out to say that if you don’t give somebody a chance to tell you that they want their life to end, it is murder. That’s the law.

"When I was writing the book I was thinking there are so many hopeless patients in this difficult position, what if somebody thought they could make money out of this, offering to give relatives a helping hand to end the suffering, or for darker reasons, like inheritance.

"By making the decision to end someone’s life you are taking away from the victim to say goodbye – the darkest goodbye.”

Gray, a former English teacher, became a professional writer in the 1990s after being diagnosed with ME, although one of her primary school teachers predicted she would grow up to become an author when she was just eight years old.

And today she has awards including the Scottish Association of Writer’s Constable and Pitlochry trophies under her belt, is a regular on the bestseller lists and has co-founded successful crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland.

When asked what advice she would give to young people hoping to overcome personal challenges, Gray says that she believes that challenges can lead to other opportunities, quoting from the book of proverbs, ‘a man’s heart plans his way but the Lord directs his steps’. 

“I have that quote on the wall of my office,” she adds. “Something I strongly believe is that doors don’t close. Doors open. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was 20, but life gets in the way. Then in 1992 when ME hit me, I could hardly stay awake, my limbs ached terrible, it’s a horrible thing. I started writing then and my book got picked up, it was a door opening.” 

The Darkest Goodbye is available from the Scottish Braille Press online shop.