For as long as I’ve known him, Southwest Senior writer Bud Russo has talked about a book he was writing and hoped to publish. He is unabashedly in love with the main character, Anne, and felt compelled to tell her story. Over the years, he would alternately shelf the project and pull it back out for more rewriting. Finally, last month, he took the plunge and published “The Poet & The Singer” as an Amazon e-book.
Russo says the genesis of the book came decades ago with a Neil Sedaka album being played while visiting friends for a game of cards. He explains, “One of the songs was The Hungry Years, a lament by a man who — with his love — grasped at fame and fortune, shooting for the highest stars. Now they had it, they knew what they lost was better by far, and he misses the hungry years. As I did my daily commute to work, I wondered, as writers do, what would happen if…? What would the poet and the singer do if the singer’s career suddenly took off? How would they respond and how would it effect their lives? From those questions, the story grew.”
“The Poet & The Singer” is obviously a labor of love. Russo presents his characters to us, flaws and all, and shares with us their love story. We glimpse portions of their lives together: moments of quiet and tenderness as well as those times that all couples experience — often to their regret — bitter arguments and hurtful words that would have been better left unsaid. Like voyeurs, we see these moments and are privy to their ambitions and desires and what they are willing to do in order to get what they want.
In this book, Anne Melodie is the truly ambitious one. She has always seen herself as someone who could make it as a singing sensation, despite her mother’s desire that she be a doctor. Her ambition leads to a rift between her and her parents, and later a rift between her and her lover, Geof Barringer, the poet in the title. While Geof struggles with extended periods of writer’s block, Anne is going places. No wonder there’s tension in their relationship.
In fact, the characters in the book both literally “go places,” visiting locations across the American continent and Europe. Russo’s personal knowledge of many of these spots is evident in his descriptions of geography, history, art, and even restaurants. He gives us just enough to make us feel that our characters are truly there without interrupting the storyline. Those who have read Russo’s travel stories in Southwest Senior know that he enjoys bringing places he has visited to life with lots of interesting tidbits and since he has visited almost every place his characters do in the book, he is well equipped to describe them to his readers.
I found myself frustrated with the characters’ behaviors from time to time, wondering why they would act a certain way or make a particular decision. But don’t we all sometimes do things we regret or wish we had better self control? People, and characters in books, don’t have to be perfect. In fact, it is often their flaws that make them more relatable and interesting.
“The Poet & The Singer” is available as a digital download through amazon.com and can be read on a Kindle e-reader or iPad with the Kindle app. It may also be read on your computer. Russo has plans to develop the book for purchase through a print-on demand company this summer. So, I’ll let him have the last word, “Regardless of whether you read the e-book or the paper book, let me say well in advance, thank you. I hope you enjoy my story.”