Author, journalist, musician and philanthropist Mitch Albom, who has written several best sellers including “Tuesdays with Morrie” and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” is stopping by Connecticut this week to talk about his newest book, “The First Phone Call From Heaven.” Albom, a Detroit resident who also writes for the Detroit Free Press, will talk about his newest book and a variety of other topics ranging from his professions to his charities Wednesday at Southern Connecticut State University’s Lyman Center at 7:30 p.m. The program, co-sponsored by the university and radio station WSHU, is part of the station’s “Join the Conversation” author series. At a time of year when lost loved ones, family, friends and spirit take center stage for many, Albom, well known for the inspirational stories and themes in his books, plays and films, was more than happy to talk about his philosophy and his new book as he Spilled the Beans with Java.
Q: What do you want us to believe in from your books?
A: I guess to believe in something period. That would be a start, and to think that hope, no matter how bleak life can seem, is always out there. In both this new book and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” I have had similar messages. They are connected because of heaven. In “Five People” I really was hoping readers would come away with realizing that every life matters and there is no such thing as being a nobody. In “Phone Call” it’s a little about if you believe that you are going to talk to someone or see them again, believing is enough. It’s okay.
Q: Do you believe? Have you always been a spiritual man?
A: I do believe. Being spiritual is precious to me. It gives your life a sense of purpose and meaning beyond what we are doing here. I don’t like to think we die and are just worm food. Nor do I mean that I am living for the day I die and go somewhere better. I think there is a point that when you start believing in heaven you start behaving differently. You are nicer to people. You are more connected to other human being, both those you know and those you have not met.
Q: Somewhere along the way, it seems too many of us have lost our spirituality. Why do you think that is and how do we get it back?
A: I think the reason we have lost it is because it has been replaced by things and fame and money. When people say they are married to their work they really mean it. We worship our work. We do it for status and how far we can get. It is hard to think about anything else. Our culture teaches us to celebrate ourselves. You see it on the football field, the stage, business, music. There is no room to celebrate other people. We have to recognize that this is not going to be satisfying in the end. I think it comes to you when you get older. More people walk away from that culture as they get older. That job that was going to take care of them? They are laid off. The friends I thought I had when I had money? As soon as I lost my money, there didn’t call anymore. I think you get more philosophical about life as you get older. When you are young, you think it is always going to be that way. It is hard to tell a young person that they are dazzled for now. But I don’t blame them. That’s youth.
Q: In your book, I love Katherine’s practically ancient salmon pink flip phone that becomes the one everyone wants because of the calls from heaven. Why that one?
A: The phone in the book? I get teased all the time for still having a flip phone. It’s what I have and I don’t think it’s funny to have it. I thought a dated model would fit the character in the book who carries it.
Q: There are naysayers who say communicating or believing you can communicate with the dead is sinful. What do you say back?
A: I say that’s fine. I’m not a rabbi or a pastor or priest, I am a storyteller. I am not trying to convert anyone. I write to entertain. If they have hope at the end of the stories, that’s great. It’s like the Frank Capra movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.” He would say ‘yes, I want everybody to watch this movie and believe what I do. But if you believe there are no such things as angels, it’s okay.
Q: If you could receive a single phone call from heaven, who would you want the caller to be?
A: Morrie Schwartz from “Tuesdays with Morrie.” He died before the book was written about him and I would like what he thought about it, if I represented him well.
Q: I know you have a new publisher, what’s next bookwise?
A: At some point I want to write a non-fiction about my experiences in Haiti and my orphanage there. And I’m working on another novel that takes place in the music world. I’ve never written about music. It takes place 50 years ago and has a message about life.
Q: You called “Phone Call” your favorite so far in one interview. Why?
A: I think you latest book you write is always your favorites. “Tuesdays With Morrie” was also special in my heart. You only write one like that in your career. That one was written for the right reasons. The new book is much longer than any of my previous books. And I was really able to get into the characters. One of the motivating factors for “Phone Call” was that my mother had a stroke four years ago and cannot speak. I miss her voice. She is still alive but I miss hearing her. And my wife lost her sister a year ago and she still has messages from her on her cell phone that she wants to save so she can listen to the voice.
Q: What is something no one knows about you?
A: I am a huge Elvis Presley movie fan. There are the most sweet, innocent films there are I finally got my wife to watch “Follow that Dream” with me and she said ‘now I see why you like them.’
Tickets are the program are $25 for general admission and $5 for students with ID, and include a copy of the book. Information: http://bit.ly/19h0lj2