This is going to be a great story.
The Audiobook is A Cottonwood Stand, a Historical Fiction by Chuck Redman and narrated byMichael Butler Murray.
Nebraska: not just a place on a map. It has a heart, and it has a voice. It has a then. It has a now. Several centuries ago, a young Sioux woman called Lark rebels against her people’s traditions and crosses the plains to save her adopted sister from a bad marriage proposal and return the girl to the Pawnee village from which she was abducted in childhood. At the end of her journey, Lark finds herself the center of a mysterious Pawnee ritual that undermines her plan as well as her confidence.
In this century, Janet Hinderson runs a small-town newspaper and crusades against a proposed meatpacking plant that will destroy the fabric of the town, along with its landmark stand of cottonwoods. But Janet’s hard and soft sides must grapple when the meat company’s general counsel comes to town and reveals some cryptic interest in her.
These are not two stories. They are connected, told and wound into one – each exploring social issues and themes that are vital and timeless.
Chatting with Author Chuck Redman
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.
Hi Chuck, and thank you for being here!
How did you select your narrator?
I listened to auditions of about a dozen narrators, all talented, but as soon as I heard Mike’s I knew that his voice and character were the voice that I’ve been hearing in my head ever since I started writing my first rough draft. Even the inflections and timing were perfect, better than I had even imagined! It made me smile, big time.
How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
Mike is such an amazing actor and narrator, with such sharp instincts and intuitiveness, that he needed no real “direction” from me. There were only a few Nebraska-related words or names that we needed to talk about. I hereby declare that Mike is now an honorary Nebraskan!
Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
My home town in Nebraska and my current town in California both played big roles in shaping the idea for the story (the special magic of small towns and big trees). And some of our memorable friends from my youth in Nebraska may have helped shape a character or two.
What’s your favorite:
Stranger in Paradise
A Tale of Two Cities
All in the Family
(that’s a tough one) Doctor Zhivago
My son and daughter are in bands: Cave Babies, SOAR, and Coherence. Check them out!
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Ah, that’s easy: read good literature, as much as you can get your hands on! Browse the library for forgotten classics.
What’s next for you?
The 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 he goes overboard with a certain guilty promise and an obsession to keep that promise. I just have to figure out whether he sinks or swims (so to speak).
Please list a couple books that have been published by other authors that are similar to yours in style and substance (for instance, “if you liked that book, you’ll like my book.”).
Huckleberry Finn, Little Big Man, Forrest Gump (I know this list seems pretentious, but these are the books that definitely inspired me.)
What are some of the criticisms that your book might receive?
It is not an easy read (or listen), because of the narrator’s dialect, and also because details of the plot are not always directly spelled out. The reader or listener has to do some inferring and analyzing along the way. And of course, not everyone appreciates satire.
Anything additional you want to share?
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.
Audiobooks, by and large, are a good thing, though. They represent the positive uses of technology. Blogs, too! Thanks a million for giving me the chance to be interviewed on your blog.
The Narrator: Michael Butler Murray
Michael Butler Murray is a professional actor, narrator and musician who has voiced over 58 audiobooks. His recorded titles run the spectrum from dramatic to comedic fiction and nonfiction titles varying in topics from the Middle East to understanding your dog’s olfactory senses. Born on Long Island, NY, he has been performing his entire life. Over the past few decades, he has performed in slews of musicals, dramas and improv shows across the country, has appeared in several films, and performs regularly with his guitar comedy duo, Schoolcraft & Murray. He loves stretching his legs in the great outdoors, sailing, surfing and, naturally, sitting in a quiet box reading aloud.