Monday, May 31, 2010


KN: On your website Roy has a top-five baseball list and Sturgis has a top-ten music list. Did you make other contrasting lists in order to get to know your characters?

KS: I make a lot of those lists mentally, even if I don't write them down. I feel like, at least with major characters like Roy and Sturgis, authors should be able to answer the kinds of questions they'd be able to answer about their friends: what do they read or watch on TV, what kind of music do they like, what do they want to be when they grow up, and who are their heroes? But I only include those interests if they stand out or are a big part of a character's personality. Sturgis's music and books are a way for him to get to know his dad better, so they're important. Roy's taste in music isn't important so I don't mention it, but at I do know that about Roy -- he's OK with whatever's on the radio, unless it's jazz. But one thing about kids is that their tastes are always changing and they're always discovering new things. So as a writer, I have to keep that in mind. For example, Roy likes reading non-fiction better than fiction, but he tries reading something different in Mudville.

KN: I have to ask. Have you really cooked and eaten the dishes on Mr. McGuire’s favorite recipe pages? If so, have you served them to anyone else?

KS: Ha. Funny you should ask! My wife celebrated the week Mudville came out by planning a whole week of menus around Mr. McGuire's experiments. We had spinach surprise and spam manicotti and chili dog pie [] Chili dog pie is actually really good, although it's not that healthy. What's scary is that I made those recipes up for the book, but was able to find every one online when I put the website extras together. They were all real things people had done.

KN: Before the story starts, you quote Roy Hobbs from The Natural, “A father makes all the difference.” Did you make Roy’s mother be uninvolved so you could focus on Roy’s relationship with his father?

KS: Yes, that's exactly what it was. It was a book about fathers and sons and brothers, so I decided to downplay the mothers of both of the main characters in Mudville. Women (and girls) are also only a minor presence in Mamba Point, which is mainly about brothers and masculine friendships. I'm making up for it with my third novel, which is in progress. There are several important female characters of different generations (and different species!) that the hero gets to know, and they're all important to him without filling a role as his mother or his girlfriend. It's of the things that I feel really good about as I slog through the nth draft. I'm confident that boys will connect with those characters and find them appealing.

KN: Mudville is a pleasure to read. Could you please talk about what you did to make sure Roy’s voice is consistent and strong throughout the novel?

KS: Thanks for the compliment! Roy's voice is a synthesis of my voice and one of the great narrators in baseball fiction, Henry Wiggen. He's the narrator and hero of The Southpaw and Bang the Drum Slowly and two other novels by Mark Harris []. Wiggen is unpretentious and often funny, but those books are gorgeously written. Harris himself was taking a lot of cues from Ring Lardner's Jack Keefe stories. Anyway, that's how I found Roy's voice... the plot is like a W. P. Kinsella book, but I really owe a lot more to Mark Harris, and I said so in the acknowledgments.

KN: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

KS: Well, I already worked in one plug but let me work in another. I have a new book coming out this summer. It's not a baseball book, or even a sports book, but I hope people who liked Mudville will like this one, too. It's called Mamba Point, and it's about an American kid living in Monrovia, Liberia (that's in West Africa) who befriends a black mamba, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. A lot of the book is based on personal experience, because I moved to Liberia myself when I was thirteen. My dad worked at the U.S. Embassy, just like Linus's dad does in the book. I never befriended a mamba, but I did see a couple.

KN: Thanks so much for the interview.

KS: Thanks for the invitation. I really like your blog; the educational tie-ins are creative.

KN: Thanks for the compliment.

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