1. How did you come up with the title?
The setting of the book is in my neighborhood where I was raised. One of the oldest elementary schools in Dubuque, Iowa is Audubon. It was built in the early to mid 1800s. At the edge of the school property there once stood an elm tree that towered over the rooftops in our deprived corner of the world. It had an exposed root system where we as kids would sit. The older boys sat on the best roots that were directly next to the tree. The younger kids had to sit father away on the small roots. Everyone knew that tradition. In the 1950s no girls were allowed to sit by the tree. They knew the tradition and accepted it.
While under this ‘shade tree’, we would sing as loud as we could to the school janitor whenever he would come outside to work. The song we sang was to the “Death March” and went like this: “Poor old Merle for the worst is yet to come – HEY!” The ‘Hey” part was the most important. He would call us ‘little assholes’ and we would crack up with laughter. That is where I created the name of my novel, The Shade Tree Choir. The more pissed we were at adults (usually our parents who beat us), the louder we sang.
2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, there are several messages.
- If the reader does not come from a dysfunctional home I want him/her to attain a glimpse of what can happen behind closed doors.
- I want the reader to learn some of the effects mental illness and alcoholism have on children.
- If the reader were an authority figure such as a schoolteacher, I would hope he/she would gain some insight into poor behavior of students. Not all-bad behavior is inherent. Maybe, that school bully is beaten at home and ‘somebody is going to pay’!
- If a teenager living in a dysfunctional home reads my book, I would most certainly HOPE they realize they can get out. I set a goal at eight years of age to get out. I knew I was a fast sprinter and at that young and tender age I still was able to figure out that my running ability was my ticket. I hope that poor teenager finds their talent and focuses on it.
- A student in college studying psychology or sociology would gain insight into defense mechanisms that can be created even in an eight year old boy in order to survive constant physical and mental abuse / trauma. This living situation can be compared to PTSD creating severe depression, withdrawal, thoughts of suicide, and high anxiety disorders.
- I would hope the reader would appreciate the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” I was accepted into my friend’s family and because of their kindness and support I was able to find some sense of normalcy. I had track coaches and teachers that I allude to in the book who helped me meet my goal of getting away.
- There is a large group in the world called Adult Children of Alcoholics. Every single one of these who read my book would be nodding their heads with understanding throughout. These ‘Adult Children’ typically suffer from a lifetime of depression, anxiety, poor at relationships, some take to the bottle while others become perfectionists. For me, I became a perfectionist.
80% of the novel is real.
4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
Yes. In the 1950s, most all of our fathers were WWII veterans. Dubuque, Iowa is a blue-collar city with a long tradition of hard working, manual laborers. There are pockets in the city where the people are uneducated. That was my neighborhood. Our parents taught us to hate Blacks, Orientals, and anyone else we thought was beneath us. Our fathers hated their lot in life. I wish I had developed this better. But that gives me something to do with the sequel.
5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I mentioned earlier about defense mechanisms that are developed in order to survive. I did not know that I had suppressed a memory that was traumatic when it popped into my conscious state. In the book you will read a part where I was locked away in a darkened stairwell for some sixteen hours with no food, water, or light of any kind. I did not know I suppressed that awful memory until writing my book. That ‘old ghost’ came up and bit me. I remember actually sobbing while trying to write that part.
Sobbing at times seemed to be the norm in writing this book. Many times I said to myself, “Jesus am I ever lucky to have made it out.”
So the emotional catharsis was the hardest part.
6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Oh, my yes. Do you know how we all say we should call an old friend and say ‘hello’ and then never do? I now make it a point to say thanks to old friends that helped me out back then. As a matter of fact four of us have re-kindled our teenage friendships and I am the one who will write the next book about all of us. I am now very close to my older sister and brother.
7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
When I was seven years old I made a booklet titled ‘Why I Like My Mom’. It was for Mother’s Day. There were cut out pictures from magazines and I wrote several passages under the pictures. She looked at it and threw it in the trash. But that did not stifle my writing.
In 11th grade I wrote my first poem called “It”. The teacher and class loved it.
In college I had a minor in English and loved to write. I once wrote a comparison of Jesus to Mark Twain and that short story was selected as the best in all of the classes.
I continued to write during my career as a physical therapist. I’ve had numerous articles on health-related issues published in magazines, journals, and newspapers.
I continued writing poetry – but of a different sort. I am the Cowboy Poet Laureate of Tennessee. I wrote numerous poems and short stories, and then performed them live on stage. I have entertained folks nationwide with my work. I have done opening acts for the late Tammy Wynette, Johnny Paycheck, Diamond Rio and many others. I was on NPR many years ago. I was on Florida Public Television and featured in numerous newspapers across the country.
8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Mark Twain is the best storyteller ever! I like his use of sarcasm, humor, and insight into human behavior. What a gift he had in being able to show faults with politicians, religious zealots, and the general public without them being upset. Pretty neat!
9. Tell us your latest news.
I said earlier I am The Cowboy Poet Laureate of Tennessee. For years crowds asked if I had my work in print. I have tickled to tell you that in about one month my cowboy poetry and some stories will be out for the public. It is called Campfire Collection of Cowpoke Poetry. It is through Cowboy Poet Press.
The book can be seen on my web page. I use phrases like, “Laugh ‘till ya leak.” And, “Where a little bull goes a long way.” Like Mark Twain, I love ‘tongue-in-cheek humor.
10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
There is nothing more powerful in writing than a ‘Thank You’. Authors do so appreciate a kind word from readers. When you, the reader likes a work, take the time to send a note of thanks to the author.
To the aspiring writer: Write for the pure enjoyment of the art. Allow your heart to leap on to the page.
About the Book
Meet eight-year-old Krame. His friends call him the “Thinker,” and he’s leader of their gang since he’s always the one to plot their pranks so they won’t get caught. At home, though, there’s no getting away with anything. Krame’s father is an alcoholic, who beats him mercilessly, forces him to stand in the corner for hours on end, and locks him in an unlit stairwell without food or water. His mentally ill mother is also an alcoholic, and fails to give her son any scrap of emotional support. Things go on like this… until tragedy strikes.
The grim truth of Krame’s childhood stays hidden for forty years until he opens up to one of his old friends when he returns home to bury his father. In the process of recollecting his past, Krame discovers his father was not who he thought he was.
Price: $12.99, $3.99 ebook
Genre: Fiction based on fact, drama
Publisher: Cowboy Poet Press
Release Date: August 2012
Buy Link: DavidNelsonAuthor.com
About the Author
David Nelson graduated from the University of Dubuque located in Dubuque, Iowa. He received his post graduate degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Iowa, College of Medicine, School of Physical Therapy. He is now a retired physical therapist.
He is a national public speaker on dysfunctional families and alcoholism. He has spoken on stress management, ergonomics, back pain prevention and many other health-related topics.
He is the Cowboy Poet Laureate of Tennessee and performs across the country with his show, “The Cowboy Comedy Show”. www.cowboycomedyshow.com
Links to connect with David:
Facebook (fan page)
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