Thursday, March 7, 2013

A View from Darrel Nelson's Window! The Return of Cassandra Todd

Darrel Nelson's latest novel,The Return of Cassandra Todd, is a powerful and poignant story that is going to  touch many, many lives.  The story-line is relevant and people of all ages will relate to the characters in a variety of ways that I feel will transform lives for all eternity.

It is a privilege to share some time with you and Darrel as we discuss the nuances of this wonderful novel! Please welcome Darrel Nelson to my window!

The Return of Cassandra Todd is a very poignant look into the reality of abuse and the consequences of wrong choices. 

  What drew you to this subject and how did writing Cassandra’s story impact your life?

I read a newspaper article one day about spousal abuse. While reading, a story line idea occurred to me: What if the girl whose friends bullied you unmercifully in high school came back into your life, asking for help? And then to complicate the situation, what if she was fleeing her abusive husband and had a young child with her? Would you help her? The answer, of course, is yes. But what complications might occur and how might the moral dilemma ultimately be resolved for the good? So I took that idea and placed my main character, Turner Caldwell, in the middle of it. I gave him the voice of one who was bullied, and Cassandra Todd the voice of one who has been abused. Then I let the plot unfold into a story of forgiveness, courage, and love. The story impacted me by serving as a reminder to be kind and never resort to violence or force in my daily interactions with others. Especially with my wife, who has been my dear companion for forty wonderful years.

Dealing with our actions and reactions from our days in high school may seem far-fetched to some, but your story realistically deals with the life-long impact that our words and actions have on the lives of others.  Why did you choose to combine this aspect of the human experience with the trauma of spousal abuse?

I have been a schoolteacher all my life and have seen bullying in all of its manifestations. I wanted to raise awareness of the important subject by giving my protagonist, Turner, a chance to take a journey of healing of his own. Because he was bullied in high school and his wounds never completely healed, he was part of the “walking wounded.” I felt that many people could identify with him. But I wanted the journey to have a twist. Cassandra was associated with making his life miserable in high school. How fitting then that she would be the one to come back into his life in her greatest hour of need, and end up helping him as much as he helped her. I wanted them both to take the journey toward healing together, but I also wanted to make sure the complications created dramatic tension. I hope their shared journey toward healing is inspiring to readers.

In your research for this story, was there one particular thing that you discovered that affected you in a way that either surprised or amazed you? Or both?

In the novel, Mary Sweet is the voice of facts and statistics. I used her to convey accurate (but such unfortunate) information. Over 200,000 women are physically abused by their husbands or significant others every year in America. That’s more than 600 women every day! But in reality it’s more than that. A large number of incidents are never reported. Less than 20% of battered women ever seek medical help. Wives make excuses for their husbands, and many others won’t report abuse because they think the police won’t do anything about it. This is heartbreaking information. One of the things that amazed me the most in my research was the fact that many women make excuses for their husband’s actions. They think they deserve the punishment! If they just did more laundry or kept the house cleaner or prepared better meals, the abuse would stop. But to me, the saddest cases involve the ones who endure the abuse because they have nowhere else to go. They feel trapped and helpless, and so they stay in the marriage . . . and suffer.

The Return of Cassandra Todd stands in stark contrast to The Anniversary Waltz.  How difficult was it to make such a drastic transition as a writer? Why?

I wrote The Return of Cassandra Todd as a different genre for a specific reason. If The Anniversary Waltz failed to “click” with readers, I wanted to have another offering. So the novel was originally written in the first person from Turner’s point of view exclusively, and it dealt more with his world and his perceptions. I spent more time explaining how his college classes, especially his psychology ones, related to his life and to his nighttime dreams. When my publisher picked up The Return of Cassandra Todd as part of a two-book deal, I felt I needed to rewrite it to bring it more in line with the format of The Anniversary Waltz, so readers would know what to expect in a Darrel Nelson novel. I spent three months and rewrote the story, adding all the chapters that are from Cassandra’s point of view. I wanted her voice to be heard from her own mouth, not from Turner’s perception of her story. In the process, out went much of the “college stuff” and in came Cassandra’s voice. In the end, I feel it made the book much better.

What reaction do you expect from your readers?  Do you enjoy interacting with readers concerning your writing?

I LOVE interacting with readers regarding my writing. It is rewarding to learn that my books were entertaining and uplifting. Even the negative reviews are appreciated because I know someone at least took the time to read my writing. I am committed to keeping my books clean from offensive actions and language, and hope readers will appreciate the fact that they can recommend my books to anyone without reservation. Finally, I hope readers will feel that the time spent with my writing was worthwhile.

I know that Cassandra Todd has just released, but I’d like to know what you are working on next?  Can you give us a sneak peek?

I’m excited about this one. It’s entitled Following Rain and is a story about the saving power of truth and love. When Paul Blakely, a successful investigative reporter, visits a Seattle homeless shelter on assignment and meets Rain MacFarlane, a mysterious young woman who is living with a painful past, he could never imagine the challenging and life-changing experience it will become for both of them. As he uncovers the secrets of her past, he makes an important discovery about his own life. And so begins an unexpected journey that will challenge what they think they know about life and love.

What words of encouragement would you like to share with your readers?

First, keep reading. Second, love is the most amazing power on earth. And third, carry on in the face of adversity. My novels deal with the theme of love overcoming adversity in the face of overwhelming odds. And I hope in some small way my writing encourages and reinforces all three. 

1 comment:

Darrel Nelson said...

Kim, a big thanks for the interview. I loved your questions. They were well-thought out, and I hope I did them justice. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to tell everyone a little about me and my novel. Hopefully, we can do it again in the near future when my next novel, Following Rain, comes out.