This is a pretty big day for me. Today is the official publication date for my 25th book. I’m actually kind of proud of that. The book is my fourth kids book—known in the trade as ‘Young Adult,’—called, “Change-Up—Mystery at The World Series.” It’s a continuation of the series I started four years ago with two teen-age heroes, Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson. They were 13-year-old aspiring reporters in the first book, “Last Shot,”—which was set at The Final Four.
Now they’re 14 and they’ve cracked mysteries at The Final Four, The U.S. Open tennis tournament and The Super Bowl. This one is a little different. They know something isn’t right about the seemingly made-for Hollywood story of a career minor leaguer who suddenly emerges as a star at The World Series, but they aren’t quite sure what it is or if there’s really a story to be told.
I have great fun writing these mysteries and I’m extremely happy that they’ve done so well and been so well received because my son Danny, who is now 15 and my daughter Brigid, who’s 11, have helped me with some of the research and writing—partly by being themselves but also by letting me know what makes sense for 14-year-olds and what doesn’t. Danny has frequently said to me after reading some of the dialogue, “dad, kids don’t talk that way.” And Brigid has pointed out that people shouldn’t be so surprised nowadays that a girl knows as much about sports as Susan Carol does.
The thing about writing books is that you have to promote them and that is frequently the least fun part about the process. I’ve often joked that someday I’m going to write a book about book tours and then refuse to go on a tour to promote it.
Of course it’s a lot easier logistically now than it was when “A Season on the Brink,” came out in 1986. Back then, if you wanted to be on TV someplace, you had to be in the city in order to get on. Believe it or not there were NO all sports radio stations—WFAN in New York was the first in 1987—so even radio opportunities were limited.
My first book tour was supposed to be two days long—exclusively in Indiana. I remember one of my first TV interviews in Indiana. It was one of those noon news deals and the first thing the anchor who was supposed to do the interview did was hit on me—for books.
“I need extras for my nephews,” she said. “Did you bring extras?”
Fortunately, I hadn’t. First lesson of book tours: Always bring one book—so you can get the cover on camera if they don’t have one in the studio—but never more than one book. Let the anchors BUY books for their nephews.
This same anchor told me she’d read the book. Then her first question—remember this was live—was, “Have you ever met Bob Knight?”
“Well yes, I spent an entire season with him.”
“Oh yes, of course. Did he know you were there?”
I couldn’t resist. “I weigh close to 200 pounds. It would have been hard for me to hide for an entire season.”
I don’t think she liked me after that.
Nowadays tours are much easier thanks to satellite TV and radio. This morning, I will go into a New York studio and do 16 TV interviews. For non-fiction books the TV satellite tours are usually 25 to 30 interviews because they tend to be more on the news. Obviously when “Are You Kidding Me,” came out in June there were lots of people who wanted to talk to Rocco Mediate and to me about last year’s U.S Open and this year’s too.
The challenge sometimes is keeping people on topic. I’m sure I’m going to get plenty of steroid questions this morning, especially since the Red Sox are one of the teams in my fictional World Series. (To prove it really IS fiction I made The Washington Nationals the other team).
When the steroid questions come I’ll just say something like, “you know it’s an issue that isn’t going away soon, but I’d like to think we can still find some innocence in the playing of a World Series—even a fictional one like the one in “Change-Up.” (throw in the title whenever possible).
Of course inevitably there’s one interviewer who, even though the publisher is paying for the satellite time and they’ve been told in advance that the interview should stick to the book, will just ignore all that. I remember when, “The Last Amateurs,” my book on The Patriot League came out a guy in Providence started the interview this way: “I’m not really interested in The Patriot League but I’d like to know what you think about the Friars.”
If we’d been live, I’d have finessed the answer, saying something like, “Well you know Holy Cross, which is in The Patriot League opened the season when I was working on ‘The Last Amateurs,’ by beating Providence.” Since the interview as taped I just said, “I’m not interesting in Providence basketball this morning so you can ask me about The Patriot League or we can just say goodbye right now.”
When “A Good Walk Spoiled,” came out one interviewer got very indignant about the title. “You stole that from Mark Twain,” he said. “Don’t you think people who actually read books will figure that out?”
To which I answered, “Well, I guess you didn’t read THIS book because the first line of the introduction says, “It was Mark Twain who famously said, “Golf is a Good Walk Spoiled…”
We’ll see how it goes this morning. I love baseball and this book was lots of fun because, as always, I included many of my friends—using their real names—throughout. Tony Kornheiser, of course, makes an appearance if only so he can scream and yell at me about it.
In ‘Last Shot,’ one of my friends who made an appearance was Bill Hancock, who in spite of working for both the NCAA and now the BCS, is one of the best people I’ve ever known. When I told Bill he was in the book he laughed and said, “Will I recognize myself when I read it?
“I hope so,” I said. “Since the character’s name is Bill Hancock.”
Bill looked stunned for a second. Then he said, “When you said I was in the book I didn’t realize you meant I was IN the book.”
I’ll report back tomorrow on today’s silliest question.