Guest Post and Giveaway by Mark Koopmans to Celebrate Revival -- The Donald Braswell Story

Hello, Mark!

Mark Koopmans is on a blog tour to celebrate the release of Revival -- The Donald Braswell Story.
Scroll down for his guest post, and further down for the giveaway!

REVIVAL - The Donald Braswell Story How a Tenor Lost his Voice, but Found his Calling by Donald Braswell with Mark Koopmans

From Juilliard to jumper cables; from wasting all the talent in the world to America's Got Talent, this is the story of the Texas opera singer who lost his voice -- but found his calling.
Also available on Amazon

Five years removed from his 1990 Juilliard graduation, Donald Braswell is set to be "the next Pavarotti." Braswell's successful career ends, however, not with a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall, but alone, lying in a dirty ditch.
Following the hit-and-run accident that steals his voice and future, the "Texas Tenor" struggles with depression and despair—until the night his daughter, Aria, is born. Understanding this new and immediate life change, Braswell fights to relearn how to speak, sing -- and share this gift of second chances with others.
Working as a plasterer, a car salesman, and many jobs in-between, it takes thirteen years -- and a musical miracle -- for Braswell to battle back and sing on a professional stage. His dreams and ambitions collide with a tired and angry crowd when he auditions for America's Got Talent. For his family, his faith and his entire future, can the Rocky Balboa of the operatic world find the courage and strength to win just one more fight?

Click here to read a free chapter of Revival!

Mark Koopmans is originally from Ireland. After working in Holland, Spain, France and England, he won his U.S. Green Card in 1994, and is an American by choice since 2003. Koopmans began his writing career with a feature for a regional magazine in California. Since then, he's worked as a staff writer for newspapers in Florida and Texas. Koopmans is also a proficient blogger and is working on his next book, a novel. Koopmans lives in Virginia and is a married, stay-at-home dad to three active boys under the age of nine. He writes at night.
Find his blog at
Revival, prior to publication, won the award for Outstanding Memoir at the 2013 Southern California Writers Conference.

Happy to have you visiting the blog today, Mark!

Aloha, Thanks Deniz for having me over to your blog! You wondered about writing the uncomfortable parts of a person's story. When it comes to writing a memoir for someone else, there's a lot of ground to cover, and sensitive subjects will naturally arise. To me, as the writer, the most important thing is having the patience, communication and respect to discuss all topics with the memoir's subject.

In Revival, Donald shares a lot of personal feelings and some real low points in his life, but at first, these didn't come naturally to him (would it to anyone!).

As Donald talked about this or that, I would (happy in the knowledge my trusty digi-recorder was getting everything for later slo-mo playback) scribble down key words and phrases that piqued my interest. The worst thing I could do -- which I learnt the hard way -- was cut Donald off in mid-flow for the sake of some minor clarification. (When I did this, and then tried to get him "back on track" it was generally too hard for Donald to get back "in the zone" of the earlier topic.

Later, I would transfer my keywords to a blank Word doc. Then, I'd do a run through at normal speed, noting the recorder times on my sheet (for ease of operation). When I felt I had a sensitive subject, I would turn these into opened-ended questions that were addressed at the beginning of the following interview. (Certain questions got carried over to several meetings.)

Time passed, and more often than not, what was once a potential sensitive subject was now easier to describe, especially when it was already at least mentioned in a prior conversation.

(After that, it was rinse and repeat...)

Thanks again, Deniz!
Thanks for taking us behind the scenes, Mark, and congratulations to you and Donald on the book's release!

Revival Giveaway!

Grand prize (2 winners): Donald Braswell to sing (Happy Birthday/Anniversary) via Skype or phone call. (A unique gift idea!)
1st place prize: Signed Donald Braswell CD/Revival book combo
2nd, 3rd and 4th place prizes: Signed copies of Revival (by Donald and Mark)
5th, 6th and 7th place prizes: Signed copies of Donald Braswell CDs
8th, 9th, and 10th place prizes: Signed Donald Braswell 8x10 picture

Good luck to all who've entered!

What inspirational stories have you read lately?


Hi Deniz - good to see Mark here ... and I can quite easily see from Mark's description how difficult it was to obtain all the gritty explanations. How often in normal life do we interrupt and ask for clarification .. but then the flow of the conversation has changed. Well done on working a way round and bringing forward the question or clarification point as you have the future 'interviews' ... it must have been so difficult for Donald to open up to a person he'd only recently met ... such an interesting post - cheers to you both - Hilary
Discussing one's failings never comes easy. You found a way to coax Donald into talking about it though. Good stuff, Mark. You are a fine reporter.
~Sia McKye~ said…
Hi Deniz and Mark!

I have to say, this was an engrossing tale to read!

Mark I learned the same thing when doing one on one interviews. I figured out it was best to let them talk and then go back and ask questions. Like you, I found that interrupting the 'zone' or flow for clarification tended to stop it. I imagine once you listened to your recordings other questions came up and you went back for more clarication and there were other pieces Donald automatically offered and that would have rounded out the scene even more. :-)

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Deborah Hawkins said…
I couldn't do it. Great job, Mark!
Mark Koopmans said…
@Hilary: I would never have figured it out if I didn't have the experience of writing for several newspapers in the past. Thanks for the kind words:)

@Alex: Like I've said before, I'm just glad it all worked out and Donald's story has been told :)

@Sia: Yep, that's exactly what happened! I would mark follow up questions and add the new questions (and try to make everything flow chronologically... to help keep the Zone moving :)

@Deb: If (or when) you found your own labor of love, I bet you could - and would :)
Mark Koopmans said…
Hi Deniz:)

Many thanks for letting me hang out today!

Really appreciate it, and wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving:)
Establishing and building trust never come easily. Essential, but sometimes very delicate work. Well done you.
Mark Koopmans said…
@It took time, but Donald trusted me eventually, which made the book a better read :)
dolorah said…
Getting someone to open up can be tough, especially if interrupted once the story start to flow. Nice to have had the recording :)

Happy Thanksgiving Mark and Deniz.
Nick Wilford said…
Sounds like the work of a great journalist! Handling sensitive topics can be tough but you managed it with aplomb.
Nas said…
Congratulations Mark! Sounds like you did awesome work with the book!

I've seen Mark's book all over BloggyVille recently.
If anybody can handle such a topic, Mark-Koop is the man!
Deniz Bevan said…
Congratulations again, Mark, and thanks for dropping by!

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