A fellow writer Heather Haven interviewed me for her blog in 2012. I updated this email interview with my thoughts today. Here are my answers to eleven interview questions for the Next Big Thing:
What is your working title of your book? Working the Glass: A Novel
Where did the idea come from for the book? This is my alternate past…what could have been. My brother had an offer to play professional basketball in Australia and the Czech Republic in the summer of 1993. He decided to go to Australia and he asked me to go in his place to play for a team up in the Krakonce Mountains (near the Polish border) in Bohemia. So that was the inciting incident. I didn’t go but wrote this story about what might happen.
What genre does your book fall under? Fiction. A brothers story of connection and basketball. And romance for the main character with a Slovakian woman with definite ideas of her own.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? The main character Frank Savek would be an up-and-coming actor. Somebody 6-5″ or at least tall who can rebound believably in the paint. This film would put him on the map. Then I would have Liam Neeson. He would be a natural; he played a German Nazi in Schindler’s List. Why not an avuncular Czech basketball coach who is a legend in the Republic? For the love foreign interest of Frank, I would have Mila Kunis. She would work well. As for other characters I’d employ many of the actors from the Czech movie Kolya.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A 31-year old Chicagoan takes his brother’s identity to live in a glass factory where he plays in the 10-team Czech Superliga just after the Russians pull out and Czechoslovakia breaks into two.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? This has now changed. Everything has changed in the publishing world since this interview. Self-publishing is the way to go.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 13 years with interruptions for relocation, marriage, new jobs and the birth of two lovely daughters; I finished the first draft in March 2011. Looking to finish the whole thing by the end of 2014 now.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Playing the Pizza by John Grisham has been the closest in the fiction category. I read that and learned a great deal about what to keep in and avoid. Working the Glass has more sports/basketball action and a real foreign love interest in a pretty exciting Central European locale.
I would also add the non-fiction book Expatriate Games was another great that inspired me. I read that book earlier this year. The author Dave Fromm did a great job on this book about playing semi-professional basketball in Prague in 1994. So the timeframe is pretty similar to my novel. He’s got a love story, coming of age for the main character, skinheads and gypsies in there. I loved it.
What about films, any movies that impacted you, and influence your story? I’d say a lot of sports films, Hoosiers, Rudy, the Gridiron Gang, the Boxer were certainly influential.
But one unlikely one that struck me was the Christmas Card. Okay, it’s a Hallmark movie starring Ed Asner. I saw it last Christmas. There is a love story in it that I thought was rendered very well. Basically, a stranger enters a small town in Nevada City, California. That stranger is Sgt. Cody Cullen on leave from the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. He and Faith Spelman hit it off very well from the beginning but she has a long time successful boyfriend, who is taking his time to commit. By the end of the movie, the boyfriend, prompted by this Cody being around, asks Faith to marry him. She says yes, but it’s not that simple. She can’t marry the boyfriend when this Cody was really the one all along. As the viewer you know Faith and Cody belong together. But the screenwriter doesn’t have it happen when you expect it. It’s only until the last scene in the movie, Cody and Faith finally come together.
A few weeks before seeing the Christmas Card I read somewhere they you have to frustrate the reader. Don’t give them what they want so easily. That adds to the tension and keeps the reader engaged in the story. I couldn’t see how that could work until I saw this movie. This movie and my novel are great examples of this principle of delayed closure in action. If you have two characters that like each other like Faith and Cody or Frank and Shantelina in my forthcoming novel Working the Glass, you don’t want that to consummate their attraction for each other too early. Otherwise you don’t have a story.
See the Christmas Card, I highly recommend it. Even though Christmas is four months away, it’s worth watching this movie now. Plus, it’s just an enjoyable, spirit-filled story. My favorite to date because it demonstrates the love interest stuff in a dynamic way. I rolled that into the novel.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? This book has been my destiny. Many leading lights inflamed the path. Vaclav Havel, the great playwright and politician who led the Velvet Revolution in Wenceslas Square, is one. He died in 2011. His death greatly touched me and while I never met him, I felt like he’s been always with me. All these years and even now after he’s gone. Then there have been creative writing teachers at Stanford Doug Dorst and Skip Horack. They helped me see the dynamic possibility of this novel that I have on my hands. Finally, Heather Haven, a great mystery writer, who has been churning out great books in the last few years. A wonderful writer and person.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Flash forward a year from today. A CBS news reporter is outside the Presidential vacation spot in Martha’s Vineyard. She says, “It’s no secret that President Barrack Obama is a voracious reader, loves basketball and all things Chicago. While the President may be enjoying what many describe as a working vacation, a White House official says he did take time to buy precisely two books for himself today during a visit to a local bookstore. Three more books were brought to the island from home. Some are books are on economics that Mr. Obama expects to brush up on in advance of next month’s economic summit at Camp David. Those are expected. But one intriguing book in this presidential reading list is Working the Glass, a coming-of-age-basketball novel by a Czech-American writer, who set his book in the Chicago neighborhoods known as Czech-ago and the Czech Republic in the early 1990’s.”