Darrel Nelson: I am somewhat of a late-bloomer. I’m a sixty-one-year-old debut novelist, with thirty-seven years teaching experience in the classroom. I am married to Marsha, and we are parents of four children (who have wonderful spouses) and are also the proud grandparents of ten grandchildren. I enjoy songwriting as well as writing fiction, and I have had two songs professionally produced and played on the local radio. I currently teach Fourth Grade in Raymond, Alberta, Canada, and I incorporate a lot of music in my classroom. Plus, I enjoy reading my junior novels (unpublished) to my students each year. I am retiring at the end of this school year so that I can write full time and see how many novels I have in me.
ib4b: What was the inspiration behind The Anniversary Waltz?
DN: My wife and I took our parents on a drive to a heritage park about ten years ago. En route, they reminisced about their individual courtships and how friends had planned a shivaree for them on their wedding days. A shivaree was a local custom of friends separating the bride and groom, after the wedding, as a prank, and keeping them apart for a while. They might put the bride in a wheelbarrow and push her up and down Main Street. Or take her to someone’s home and keep her there for a while. All in good fun. On the drive that day, our parents explained that for one reason or another, the shivaree intended for their weddings failed to occur. But my mother-in-law reminded us that on her son’s wedding day, his bride was whisked away in a car by friends and involved in a car accident. Fortunately, no one was hurt. But it got me wondering . . . what if? And so I decided to grasp that thread of an idea and see where it led. The Anniversary Waltz is the result.
ib4b: Oh, I love that your idea came from a conversation with your parents and in-laws! What message or lesson do you hope readers will take away from reading it?
DN: I based the novel on Christianity’s most powerful principle: love. In this case, the love of a young man, Adam, for a young woman, Elizabeth—a young woman who, on the day before her wedding, is involved in a car accident and is somewhat disfigured. She falls into a depression because she feels unlovable. She locks herself away in her bedroom and refuses to let Adam see her. The plan that Adam comes up with to rescue her from herself and convince her that his love is real is moving and powerful. In this age of growing despair and increasing calamities, I want the reader to have faith that the power of love can help them in their lives. We all face adversities. Love can help us cope with them.
ib4b: How do you see yourself in the book?
DN: I relate best to the main male character, Adam. I based him on my father, who served in World War II and came home from France and met my mother, who had worked in a dry cleaners. But because my father died when I was five years of age, I didn’t know him that well. I used what I had been told about him, plus imagination, to develop Adam’s character.
DN: I read books on the culture of the 1940s and listened to family stories about that era. But I basically did research on a need-to-know basis. I began writing the novel based on what I knew of life back in my parents’ day, since I’d heard stories all my life about that time period. Then I supplemented the novel with facts as I needed them. For example, if I wanted to make reference to a song of the day, I researched it to make sure it actually existed then. I talked to my mother about working in a dry cleaners, since she worked in one as a young woman, and I incorporated some of my family history throughout the novel to add authenticity. My editor questioned several details, and I had to go back and double check my facts to make sure there weren’t any anachronisms in the novel.
ib4b: It seems like most authors have quite an interesting journey to getting published. What did you do in your "former life"?
DN: I’m still involved in my “former life,” although that’s going to change at the end of June. (I’m retiring from teaching so I can write full time.) During my teaching years I have written a dozen novels, several dramatic productions, and have penned hundreds of songs. But I’ve always maintained a keen interest in writing novels, and after years of receiving enough rejection slips to wallpaper my house, I finally got a publishing contract with Charisma House. So soon I’ll be able to leave my “former life.”
ib4b: What were some of your favorite books growing up?
DN: As a boy, I read every Tarzan novel I could get my hands on. I was really into adventure stories. I also read a lot of children’s classics: Kidnapped, Little Men, and Treasure Island. As I got older, I preferred living the adventure rather than reading about it. But somewhere along the line—after I got married—I began to enjoy “relationship” books and found that I liked stories where love was the main theme. Somehow I went from Tarzan to Nicholas Sparks!
ib4b: That's quite a shift ... I love it! What was the last "must read" Christian fiction book that you read?
DN: I’m a big fan of Charles Martin’s novels. Where the River Ends, Chasing Fireflies, Wrapped in Rain, The Other Side of the Mountain, and Thunder and Rain are some of my favorites. I think he’s an excellent writer and I appreciate his literary style. I would recommend any of his novels.
DN: Here’s my plug for education: “If you can read this . . . you had a good teacher.”
ib4b: Ha! I'd buy that shirt. :) Best concert you’ve ever been to?
DN: I’m a fan of the Beach Boys and have seen them in concert three times. I once owned every record they made (on vinyl, of course) and when cassette tapes came out, our family vacations consisted of long drives, listening to the Beach Boys. Who wouldn’t be buoyed by “Fun, Fun, Fun”?
ib4b: What is your least favorite word?
DN: Ironically, my least favorite word is also my favorite word. Let me explain. I love and worship the name of Deity. But when I hear it taken in vain or used profanely, it offends me. The name of Deity is commonly used in expressions of surprise or shock, and to me that’s sad.
ib4b: Do you have a "life verse" or favorite Scripture?
DN: I have many favorite scriptures, but one I really like is 2 Kings 6:16. The prophet Elisha is speaking to his servant at a time when the king of Syria has sent his army to capture them. When the servant sees the army approaching, he is frightened. Elisha tells him, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” I love the thought that with God’s help, we are never outnumbered. There are never obstacles large enough to overpower us or defeat us when God is on our side.
ib4b: That's a great verse ... I'll have to go back and read that story again. My husband wanted me to ask this question, so write your memoir in six words or less.
DN: I tried to make a difference.
ib4b: Can you tell us a bit about what you're working on now? When can we expect to see it in stores?
DN: I’m just finishing the final edits on my second novel, The Return of Cassandra Todd. It comes out in the spring of 2013. It’s still a love story, but it takes a different approach than I used in The Anniversary Waltz. Here is a brief summary:
Turner Caldwell could never have imagined that the outdoor training and survival skills he learned at Camp Kopawanee, a Christian summer youth camp where he worked eight years as a leader, would one day become so crucial. When Cassandra Todd, the girl associated with making his life miserable in high school, suddenly re-enters his life and asks for help in eluding her abusive husband, Turner finds himself entangled in a life and death struggle that will require every skill he has in order to survive.I’m half finished my third novel, A Wedding at Angelo’s, and look forward to retiring from teaching so I can finish the novel and move right into my fourth one, tentatively entitled Skipping Stones.
ib4b: Sounds like you've been busy! I can't wait to read The Return of Cassandra Todd and the others as well.
I hope you guys will check out The Anniversary Waltz if you haven't already. You can read my review and the first chapter here.
Darrel Nelson Online