Today,  Joseph Valentinetti one of Bookpleasures' reviewers is talking with Rick Niece. author of the  Fanfare for a Hometown book series. He has two new books for 2012: Side-Yard Superhero and The Band Plays On.


Rick D. Niece holds a Ph.D. He is an award-winning author and educator who has served as a classroom teacher, a public school administrator and a university professor, provost and president.
 
Here's a brief description of his two new titles. First,

 Side-Yard Superhero:

“Bernie, you’re the reason. You’re the reason I came back home…” Although life’s journey took him far from his childhood home, Rick D. Niece, Ph.D., never forgot the people he met and the lessons he learned as a young man growing up in picturesque DeGraff, Ohio, population 900. A small-town newspaper boy who became a lifelong educator himself, Dr. Niece was deeply touched by the endearing residents of DeGraff who shaped his youth—especially Bernie Jones.  Confined to a wheelchair with severe cerebral palsy, Bernie became Rickie’s friend, inspiration and superhero, opening a world of compassion, trust and adventure to them both.

The Band Plays On:


Celebrating the soul of America’s heartland, The Band Plays On is Rick Niece’s heartfelt tribute to friendship, community, and, most importantly, his father, Lewis Niece. When     DeGraff, Ohio’s beloved band director is invited to conduct an encore performance, “Lewie’s Alumni Band” gathers to celebrate with gusto. As the band practices for its final parade, Rick, his baritone in tow, reflects on treasured memories, relationships, and the legacy of a small town with indomitable spirit. The second volume in the delightful  Fanfare for a Hometown series, The Band Plays On provides an entertaining, inspirational glimpse into lives richly lived…and shared.
 
Joseph:

What is the most overrated virtue? Why?

Rick:

Temperance. When we are too temperate, we oftentimes are too much in control of ourselves and our true feelings. While we need to be mindful of the rights and needs of others, we also need to be mindful of what is right. Being too temperate can lead to being less honest.

Joseph:

What is the one thing other people always seem to get wrong about you?

Rick:

Because I am a University President, people wrongfully assume that I am a natural extrovert. That’s far from the truth. Educators are members of an extroverted profession, but many of us are more introverted than we typically project.

Joseph:

If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?

Rick:

A greater tolerance of the faith and religious beliefs of others. We seem, as a world, to be growing increasingly intolerant of beliefs that differ from our own, framing our religion as the only true religion.

Joseph:

What pet peeve do you have about other people?

Rick:

The narrow-minded, provincial nature of too many people who listen only to their favorite television “news” networks and biased radio pontificators, and who seem unable to form an original thought for themselves.

Joseph:

Is there any occasion when it’s OK to lie?

Rick:

Certainly, if it involves Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the possibility of the Chicago Cubs finally winning a World Series.

Joseph:

What’s the names and focus of your books?

Rick:

Side-Yard Superhero is the first book in my Fanfare for a Hometown Series, books about growing up in the small town of DeGraff, Ohio (population 900).


Side-Yard Superhero is on the citizens who influenced me and the life lessons I learned, especially during my nine years as a paper boy. The main character, the person who shaped my life the most, is a young man named Bernie Jones, who is confined to a wheelchair with severe cerebral palsy. Bernie was my friend, inspiration, and superhero. The book shares carefully pocketed memories about Bernie and our adventures together.

Joseph:

Who is the audience for this book?

Rick:

One reviewer said Side-Yard Superhero is for anyone age ten to one hundred and ten. I agree. But it is primarily for baby boomers, all people raised in a small town, and all others who wish they had been.

Joseph:

What benefits can a reader get from your work?

Rick:

Humor, inspiration, nostalgia, shared memories, prose in poetic language, as well as poetry.

Joseph:

What surprising things did you learn while writing this book?

Rick:

I always have known that I have a great memory, especially about the people and the seemingly insignificant events of my childhood. Through my writing, I have discovered that not only is my memory sharp, but I have an ability to describe those memories in a manner so explicit that others can experience them almost as vividly as I do.

Joseph:

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

Rick:

My “upbringing” is my writing. I was raised in a loving family surrounded by a small-town community of caring people. We respected one another and looked out for one another. My books allow me to pay tribute to those citizens and to their influence.

Everything I am today is because of the citizens of DeGraff. Some were a direct influence and knew it. Others were on the fringe and never realized I was watching. I was.

Joseph:

Where do you live and how does that influence your writing?

Rick:

My wife and I now live in a small town in Arkansas, where I am the President of a liberal arts campus. The location allows me to retain my sense of community, optimism, and commitment to caring for others during their formative years in the same way I was cared for.

Joseph:

If you have a career outside of writing, how does it fit into your life as a writer?

Rick:

I am a life-long educator as a high school English teacher, college professor and administrator, and now University President. I am not certain that I could have survived, financially and personally, only as a writer. My profession has allowed me to write without the pressures of being published and the demands of timelines.

Joseph:

Discuss your philosophy of writing.

Rick:

Words are writers’ musical notes.
Sentence sounds and rhythms are literature’s melodies.
Prose is poetry in paragraph form.
And that is the essence of my writing.
                            -- Rick Niece

The perfect word in the perfect sentence with the perfect sound and rhythm are my goals in writing.  As a writer, word combinations, rhythms, and their resonant sounds are important to me.  I think that sensation began subconsciously when I was very young.  I was born in Oberlin, Ohio, where my father was a music major at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music.  From birth to age four, the years before we moved to DeGraff, I was exposed daily to the wonders of music performed by the Conservatory’s orchestra and chorus, as well as within our small rented house from my father’s piano playing and my mother’s singing.  I sponged the sounds.

The poetry and other writings of William Carlos Williams have also shaped my writing and philosophy about writing, especially Williams’ encouragement for writing about the “local” before venturing into the universal. Williams emphasized the need to know your own backyard first, then to discover others. His poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow” is a perfect example of his writing philosophy. My books about life in a small, rural town emulate that philosophy as well.

I was also influenced by James Herriot and his books about the small, rural town of Darrowby.  My style and thematic structures are similar to his.  The central theme of a veterinary’s practice in rural England runs throughout Herriot’s series of books, but within each book most of the chapters are autonomous and able to stand on their own.  In Side-Yard Superhero, Bernie Jones is the book’s story arc, but most chapters are self-contained and can stand alone.  They are short stories written within the framework of a multi-layered book.

Follow HereTo Purchase The Band Plays on and/or Side -Yard Superhero