Beyond The Cover With Dr. Samuel D. Axelrad

by Nick Bailey on May 24, 2017 in Living Texas,
Texas Writers Celebration 1

May in Texas is a time for celebrating the literary contributions of those who have changed the world with their pen. From O. Henry to Katherine Anne Porter, we love our writers, and this month we’re taking the opportunity to shine some light on today’s writers who call Texas home.

Are you a native Texan?
Yes, my grandfather came to Houston in 1907 from Romania. He worked hard for 5 years in order to bring his whole family, including my father, to the states. My father met my mother in Houston and I am a native Houstonian.

Has living in Texas shaped your writing?
Yes, most definitely. I believe everything happens for a reason and the chapters of my upbringing guided me to write Peaceful Bones. As a child, I discovered stables next a local theatre I frequented and I began training horses for horse shows in secret from my parents. They discovered the truth after I let my friend take charge of a hay ride, who ended up crashing the wagon into a tree, during a rainstorm. The decision to keep secrets from my parents gave me pneumonia and I was taken out of school in order to get better. Though I returned to school as an honor student, my parents offered me a chance to go to military school, which I accepted. That decision led me down the path to writing my memoir.

What inspired you to pursue writing as a career?
Writing was not a career move for me, but I was inspired to write my memoir because in 2012 I decided to take my two sons and grandson Owen to Vietnam to tour the country where I served there war from 1966 to 1967. We were staying at a famous hotel in Hanoi and when the tour guide visited with us, I shared my story. The tour guide was also a journalist and shared my story in Vietnam newspapers. This led us to finding Charlie in the same town I had left him in after saving him.

Tell us a bit about your latest book. Where did you get the idea for it?
After my experiences in Vietnam 40 years after the war as an army surgeon, I was inspired to write a book about how everything was integrated; my past led me to find an old friend from the war and return his arm bone to him. When I came back to Vietnam for the second time, a Vietnamese journalist asked why I would save a Vietnamese soldier, as they were seen as our enemy during the war, and I told them I was raised to always show love and kindness in any situation, and as a doctor, I am trained to heal. That’s the message I hope to give people through my book. It’s an amazing story; sometimes it’s hard for me to believe what I experienced was my own life.

Are there any works of yours that you would want to be adapted for the screen?
I’ve only written Peaceful Bones but I would love to see it become a movie because there are so many incredible stories and experiences I had that I couldn’t possibly fit into one book, but I believe a movie could encapsulate.

Which books or authors have inspired you the most?
For my own writing, I wasn’t inspired by other books or authors; my experience was the only inspiration.

What are you reading at the moment?
I am currently not reading anything at the moment.

Where are some of your favorite writing spots around Texas? How do these places help you create?
I have been a teacher of meditation so there are many places I could say helped my writing process, but for me, my favorite place to write is in my own home in Houston. My wife and I built the house ourselves and had an artist hand paint the walls. It’s my personal sanctuary and a place where I can reflect.

What do you find most difficult about your writing process? Why?
Editing because it was hard to keep a sequence of all my thoughts, memories and their interconnection. Thankfully, my co-authors were gifted writers and helped me through this. This also helped me look back into the past and my writing became a relief; it was therapeutic to release those memories.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors looking to give writing a shot, but don’t know what to do?
It never dawned on me that I’d end up writing a book, but if someone else asked about writing a story about what they’ve experienced, I’d tell them to focus on the sequence of events so that it is well organized for the reader. They should also focus on how those events are interwoven. I’d also tell them that it’s very important to have partners to edit or review your work so that they can help you piece those things together. My story was unique and it made it easier to have people around me to ask questions about things I may have forgotten about, etc.