Gary James' Interview With The Author Of
Micah Nathan is the author of the book Losing Graceland (Broadway Books), a fictional account of a driver who gives a ride to a man who may be Elvis Presley.
Elvis alive? Now, there's a novel idea!
Q - Where did you come up with this title of yours, Losing Graceland?
A - That' a good question. Well, the first title of it was Memphis Is Burning. That was kind of the working title. Actually, going way back, the very first working title was A Fistful Of Doughnuts.
Q - Don't like that one.
A - That was just like one of those very, very early ones and the thing about working titles is that you always know they're not going to be the final title. It's usually just something that sparks this image. And I had an image of Elvis as an old man. At this point in his life, I figured he was just kind of consumed with eating, reading the paper and reading those cheap tabloid magazines always claiming that he's been spotted. From that it became a little more serious. Losing Graceland, it just kind of came to me. I was told by my publisher, and I kind of agree, that Memphis Is Burning sounded a little too much like a civil rights book. They just wanted something a little more. So, I spent about a week or so and the title just kind of came to me.
Q - Did you base any of the characters in the book on people you met along the way? I don't even know, did you go to Memphis?
A - As is the case with my first book, I just kind of based it on characters and people that I'd want to spend the next couple of years writing about. Sure, every fiction author either consciously or subconsciously mines all the characters in their book on people they've met. Certainly no one was based on who I really knew and in kind of a strange way, the old man in the book, who may or may not be Elvis, we still aren't sure, he's loosely based on Elvis. That was one of the things I really wanted. I didn't want him to be just another version of Elvis because we've seen that before and it's just so cheap. People use it as an opportunity to kind of poke fun at him and tell the same old tired jokes. I really wanted this character to be a human.
Q - And it's an opening to write yet another follow-up book.
A - (laughs) Well, I'll leave that up to someone else. This story is one of those one-shot deals. And I had a lot of fun doing it too.
Q - Were you an Elvis fan?
A - I wasn't. Although, that never stopped anybody. (laughs) Elvis fans kind of span all the age ranges. I was brought up with the false belief that one could either be a fan of The Beatles or Elvis, but one could not be a fan of both.
Q - Where did that come from, your parents?
A - I don't know. That just kind of seemed to be, especially thinking of what Elvis represented for the '60s generation. He was kind of old news. He was part of that '50s establishment. Then, this sort of new era of music came along and one couldn't really be fans of both. I think what that generation forgot is that when Elvis first came he was as radical, if not more radical than The Beatles.
Q - And don't forget what John Lennon said - "Before Elvis, there was nothing."
A - Exactly. The Beatles worshipped Elvis. For me, Elvis was the first Punk. He was filled with so much danger. Parents and adults were terrified of him. I think it's because he was one of the first White artists that actually kind of embraced Black music. I grew up not really listening to too much Elvis. Of course I knew about him 'cause he's everywhere. Then I just had this image of what if Elvis were still alive? How would he view his life? Would he have viewed the end of his life as a complete waste? Would he be filled with sorrow? Would he be filled with anger? Would he be filled with regret? I have this kind of small little film in my head where he would have been 73. I first came up with the idea three years ago. I had this image of him wandering into a karaoke bar where they were having an Elvis night, and kind of just going up onstage and giving it all he's got and coming in second place. (laughs) I kind of saw the women at the bar saying "You have a great voice, but you don't look anything like him." (laughs) I just thought that would be kind of a great little tale. From that scene, the book came out of it.
Q - What would you say if I told you I've interviewed people who say Elvis is very much alive.
A - I would say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I guess that's all I could say. I think people want him to be alive so badly 'cause they feel he was taken too soon, although it was interesting, I had a radio interview in Jackson, Tennessee and the host had his excellent point; he said that Elvis gave us everything he had. He said "he didn't leave anything else. He didn't leave anything. He just gave it all." I agree with that. I do think it would have been interesting to see if he would have made it to having a second career renaissance much like Johnny Cash did, actually better. For this book, I really wanted to keep this thing a fictionalized account of really an old man and a young kid going on this road trip. I tried to keep myself away from any kind of speculation. I didn't want it to cloud what I was going through with this thing. I was trying to get behind Elvis the myth.
Q - It almost sounds like this book of yours could be made into a movie. Do you have any offers on the table?
A - I'm not sure yet. It's funny. I tend to leave those things up to my agents. I have a wonderful film agent who, as far as I know, has just started sending this book out. Yeah, look, it's kind of every author's fantasy that someone will pay them more money for any book. (laughs) Whether or not books get made into films is really, really rare. When it does, it's a combination of luck and timing and a very small amount of talent. So, I'm just trying to focus on my next book and I'll let the business people do whatever it is they do, which I'm still really not too clear on. (laughs)