Monday, August 6, 2018

Interview with author Chuck Redman

Author Chuck Redman joins me today. We’re talking a little bit about his new satirical literary fiction, A Cottonwood Stand (A novel of Nebraska).

Chuck Redman was born and raised in small-town Nebraska, a place that still gives him chills even though the scenery is less dramatic than the goosebumps on his arm. But he eventually rambled east for undergrad at Michigan and law school at NYU. Then he marched west to practice criminal and immigration law in Los Angeles for 40 years. In his spare time, he wrote a little. He’s retired now, freeing him to enjoy his wife, his kids, his reading, his writing, his worrying about the future of the planet.

His novel A Cottonwood Stand, set in Nebraska, takes a satirical look at the way our nation has chosen to evolve, in terms of values. Mr. Redman’s daughter, a musician and artist, created a beautiful needlepoint of the story’s “legendary” cottonwood, and his son, a musician and community activist, adapted the needlepoint for the book cover.

His short fiction or humor have appeared in Writer’s Digest, Lowestoft Chronicle, Hemlock Journal, Jewish Literary Journal, and The Jewish Magazine.

Welcome, Chuck. Please tell us about your current release.
Well, A Cottonwood Stand tells two stories simultaneously. There’s an ancient story of a young Sioux woman called Lark who rebels against her people’s traditions and sets out to save her adopted sister from a bad marriage proposal and return her to the Pawnee village from which she was abducted in childhood. And the modern story of Janet Hinderson, who runs a small town newspaper and crusades against a proposed slaughterhouse that will destroy the fabric of the town along with its landmark cottonwoods. Two stories, four hundred years apart, wound into one by a very unusual narrator, who brings to life the theme of the environment, the theme of personal freedom, and the women who take a stand against the powers that continue to threaten those values.

What inspired you to write this book?
Part of the idea for the book came from the town where I live, in southern California. It’s a town that is committed to protecting its native oak trees. I started to think about the possibility that someday these stately oaks might all be chopped down to make way for more freeways, malls or luxury residential tracts. I thought about these things but I realized that Nebraska was the place that I really wanted to write about, so instead of the oak tree, it’s the cottonwood.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Most of the stuff I write comes out satire, for some reason. But, yeah, I guess a healthy jaundiced skepticism about our fellow human beings can be pretty exciting. This next story is set in California, not Nebraska. It’s about a retired couple confronted with the loneliness of too much togetherness. They begin to realize that, sometimes, two’s not company, it’s a crowd. She wants to make new friends, but he has grander ideas. So one half of this retired couple goes off the deep end with a certain guilty promise he makes and an obsession to keep that promise. I just have to figure out, as the story unfolds, whether he sinks or swims when he cannonballs off that diving board.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In the 11th grade every kid in the class had to write their autobiography. You would think that 17 is not old enough to have much of a life to write about. But I really worked hard on mine, and naturally, it mostly turned out satirical. I think it may have been the best thing I’ve ever written. Downhill since then. The school said they would keep all our autobiographies in their records. My rough draft is sitting inside an old box somewhere in my closet, which I haven’t opened since the early ‘70’s (the box, not the closet).

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Since the end of December I’ve been a full-time lazy bum—er, retired person. Believe it or not, most of my time now goes to promoting A Cottonwood Stand. But I’m trying to write when I find the time, or make the time. Retirement comes with certain responsibilities, like housework, paperwork, so forth. Also comes with fringe benefits, like going to yoga class with my wife, spend more time with my kids, catch a matinee if we feel like it. Lots of reading. Sounds like a pretty soft life, now that I reflect on it!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
So far, my quirkiest thing is that I write very slowly and painstakingly, constantly revising as I go along. Then, when I get to THE END, that’s pretty much my final draft. It’s silly, it’s wrong, it goes against everything I’ve ever heard about the writing and revision process. I really need to work on my craft, as they say.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Always wanted to be a lawyer. The only time I wavered at all was my senior year of college when I thought about becoming an English professor. But I knew I’d regret abandoning my original dream, so I went full steam ahead to law school and I really don’t have any regrets. The Law’s been a worthy master.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I worry that technology is robbing us of our human nature, our humanity. Some aspects of science and technology are beneficial and beautiful (I’m kind of partial to modern plumbing). But I’m not so sure that cars and television haven’t done way more harm than good. Don’t get me started on those sinister gadgets you put on your kitchen counter and you call them by name and ask them who invented mouthwash or to tell you a joke about St. Patrick’s Day. I wouldn’t want my kids to end up having a best friend that you plug in, instead of one you can play hide and seek with in the park. Sorry to end on a preachy note, but this sort of goes back to the reason I wrote the book in the first place: trees and nature, good. Big screens and pollution, bad.


Thank you for joining me today, Chuck!


Anonymous said...

Soft life doesn't sound so bad. Where can this book be purchased?

Unknown said...

I have some of the same worries about technology in relation to kids. Sometimes I feel like I'm being carried along the technology trail kicking and screaming (mostly screaming). So, I love the theme of your book. Satire, good. Preachy, bad.

Chuck Redman said...

Dear "Anonymous",
The book is on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Thanks for asking!

Dear "Unknown",
I like your comment, we're on the same wave length. . .

Thank you, Lisa, for giving me the opportunity to be interviewed and to ponder some questions that were definitely worth pondering. Take care, Chuck (Redman)