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Saturday, September 12, 2009

YA Author Spotlight Saturday Presents... Carl Deuker!!!

Carl DeukerCarl Deuker has been writing YA Sports Fiction for quite some time, with his first book having an initial printing date of 1989. Heart of a Champion was reprinted in 2007. For more on Carl Deuker [and he has a very thorough bio], check out his website.

Q. Why YA Fiction? What’s the draw for you?

A. For years I tried to write adult fiction with poor results. Then one day it struck me that, as a teacher, I spend my time with young adults. It also struck me that I constantly tell them to write about what they know. So, what did I know—teenagers and sports.

Night HoopsQ. Currently, I’ve listened to Heart of a Champion and enjoyed it very much and have just started Night Hoops and I’m already hooked. What is your target age range for your books and are you specifically targeting the male gender? If so, why?

A. I wrote On the Devil’s Court because I love the Faust legend and I thought it would be fun to do a sports twist on it. After that, I wrote a book geared toward girls—and it was rejected by the publisher. I returned to sports for Heart of a Champion, and it was accepted for publication. So, I guess I’d say that I’m a good writer with a limited range. I don’t specifically target boys, and many of my readers are girls, but I do seem to have more success with the reluctant male readers in middle school and in the early HS years than other authors.

[There's that term again, the reluctant reader. Hmmm. Maybe book content could be an issue....]

Q. Why sports?

A. I love sports; there is built in drama; people reveal themselves in games. As a boy, I ate up all sports books, so perhaps I’m writing for myself at 14.

On the Devil's CourtQ. I just have to ask: In On the Devil’s Court, the main character is named Joe Faust. Why the name Faust? Was the novel Dante’s Inferno, by Faust, influential to your writing this particular book?

A. That comes from Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and from Goethe’s Faust. The publisher thought it might be too obvious a reference at first—I assured them that 8th graders in general aren’t up on their Christopher Marlowe.

Heart of a ChampionQ. In Heart of a Champion, Seth’s father was a golfer, and I see that you golf. Do you plan on ever having golf as the main “driving” force of a story? Why or why not?

A. My golfing friend and I joke about it all the time. “John looked into his bag and then looked at the lake. Should he use his five iron or his six?” Not quite as compelling as basketball, though I do think there’s a golf/cheating story or book in me . . . somewhere.

Q. Extending the above question, are there any sports that you won’t use as a backdrop for a story? Why or why not?

A. I’d like to be able to use soccer, but I’ve never played the game. When I try to write the game scenes, I fumble around. I’ve read books where the author is clearly not comfortable with the game and they make me cringe. I don’t want to make the same mistake. So if I never played or coached the game, I won’t write about it.

Painting the BlackQ. I realize that, like all of your other books, the name has an internal connection with the sport being played as well as the overall story conveyed. For those of us non-baseball players, can you please explain the connection of the title, Painting the Black, to baseball?

A. Home plate is white, but the rubber edge of the plate is black. “Painting the black” refers to throwing pitches over the black part of home plate and hoping the umpire calls the pitch a strike. In the book, one of the characters is always right there on the edge, hoping to get the call in his direction both on the baseball field and off. He’s “painting the black.”

Q. In Night Hoops, I noticed that the themes of a missing father (Trent Dawson) and divorce (Seth’s parents) resurface [I can’t vouch for On the Devil’s Court or Painting the Black]. Why have you chosen to make these characters suffer these kinds of problems? Do you feel that broken home situations are more prevalent than situations with both the mother and father in the home and happily married, and thus more relatable to today’s youth?

A. Definitely. As a teacher for nearly 30 years, the “absent father” is depressingly common. Consider, for example, the increase in prison population. Those men have children, and those children are in our schools. How must it feel when they are asked: What's your dad do?

RunnerQ. With Runner, you appear to leave the baseball diamond and the basketball court behind and delve more into the crime/thriller genre. Was this an intentional shift in focus, or did it just sort of happen?

A. Definitely intentional. I like writing sports novels, but I wanted to have another genre to work in as well. Runner was a self challenge==break out of the mold. The book I’m working on right now is also more thriller than sports.

Gym CandyQ. With the novel Gym Candy, you continue your hiatus from the baseball diamond and the basketball court but stroll onto the football field. Is there any particular reason that you chose football over baseball or basketball as the backdrop for this story?

A. Basically the same answer as for the previous question. I played football, but not with the passion or love that I played basketball and baseball. So writing a football book was a challenge.

High HeatQ. I know that alcohol, drugs, abuse and death can add depth to any story and/or character, but why do you use these themes so heavily in your writing?

A. Tolstoy said something like: All happy families are alike, all unhappy families are unique. The unhappy teenager is most likely to be facing problems with drugs, alcohol, a parent (father, usually) or pregnancy/fatherhood. All teenagers know kids facing these problems even if they themselves are not.

Q. Do you have any plans to write about female characters? Why or why not? If not, are there any current authors of sports fiction for girls that you could recommend to our readers?

A. There’s that line: Everybody has a postage stamp on which they don’t make a fool of themselves. Get off the postage stamp and you will make a fool of yourself. I’ll let female writers delve into the minds of female athletes. As far as recommending authors—I avoid reading YA sports books. I have my voice and when I read other people’s books, I invariably start thinking: “So that’s how you do it.” Then, I copy them and lose my own voice.

Q. On your site, you put up the first couple of sentences to your latest work. How is that coming? Is there a name to go with it yet? Where are you in the writing process with it?

A. Close to publishing I hope! What else are you working on? Details, details, we want details! Hopefully, the new book is finished and will be published pretty close to as is. It is with the editor, Ann Rider, right now. Titles: Fourth and Forever or Chasing Angel. I’ve started another book which I’m calling Swagger. It deals with a charismatic head coach and his relationship with his high school team.

Q. Would you be willing to provide with a bit on a longer excerpt than you currently have on your website? I know I’m curious!

A. The contract with the publisher specifically forbids any but the most limited publication of a new work. [bummer!]

Reluctant Reader Home

6 Moonbeams (comments):

Molly Daniels said...

Great interview! Carl, your books sound amazing:)

Sheila Deeth said...

Wish my kids had had the chance to read these when they were young male reluctant readers.

Carrie said...

Hey Molly - thanks for stopping by, it's always nice to see you! Hey there's a parody for you Hello Molly! to the words of Hello Dolly!

Hey Sheila - Glad to see you here too! Well, if they're still reluctant readers, they can still read them - they're enjoyable at any age as far as I'm concerned!

Anonymous said...

Hi ;)
Thank you for the great interview Carl.
And thanks for having him on your site.
I hadn't been aware of him before now and have added him to my ToBeRead list.
My favorite girl name(s) are Chelsea & Jenna because those are the names of my daughters.
All the best,

Carrie said...

Hi RK - Thanks for stopping by! I am so glad that you liked the interview!

jeff said...

can you tell me what your personal connections with the books, runner, heart of a champion, and gym candy thanks love the books