"At the heart of my novel is a song, 'Take Your Picture Off The Wall.' It is a song my father wrote when he was only nineteen years old, shortly after his father died of alcoholism. It's a song about saying good-bye, particularly to a lover, but the song feels much broader than that, too. It feels like a good-bye to an era of one's life. It's beautiful and sad and filled with love, and he sang it so often throughout my childhood that it really became a part of me. At my wedding, he sang a modified version, "Put Your Picture On The Wall." So the song has been with me through all the eras of my life, happy and sad.
I didn't tell him that his song would be a part of my novel, even though he read and edited every single draft. Before I gave a draft to him, I would simply delete his song from the pages, so that he wouldn't know. This was a secret my whole family kept from him for five years. Then, about a week before my novel came out, on Christmas Day, I gave him my first copy. It was a moment I will always cherish, when he first realized that his song was such a part of my novel, that it was so significant to both the atmosphere and the plot of the novel. His poetry has had such an influence on my life, as a person and as a writer, and it felt crucial to me that my first novel revolve around something that came from him. He and my mom are the reason that I am able to do this with my life. They have worked so hard all their lives in order to give their children the opportunities that we had, and they found such beauty in simple things, and such pleasure in that beauty. They taught us to feel it, too."
A brief essay about Mike Ruskovich's life and poetry can be found here: