Tell us a bit about your books
So far there’s only one, a memoir entitled Incomplete Passes: Reflections on Life, Love, and Football (self-published through iUniverse, August 2011). It’s my story about growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, during the 1960s when Vince Lombardi coached the Packers to five NFL championships in nine years. I made three close girlfriends during this period, and our interest in the Packers was the bond that held us together. Just as we were coming of age and getting interested in boys, we discovered the Packer players—handsome, healthy, young men who had found a recipe for success. While other teenage girls were mooning over Elvis Presley or the Beatles, we had the Packers—and the whole thing was so much better because they were right there in town where we could meet them. Incomplete Passes is a coming-of-age story, a 1960s baby-boomer story, but it’s more. There’s a section about my midlife crisis, which was unusual because it also involved football—plus, believe it or not, musical comedy. The book also shows the four of us in the present day. Each autumn since the late ‘90s (we’ve missed only two years), we reunite in Green Bay to renew our ties and see a game. We’re in our sixties now, coping with aging and the loss of some of our heroes, but our remarkable friendship inspires us to keep going. Incomplete Passes is my first book, but I didn’t start off so badly. My book was a finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
What inspired you?
Before we had the Internet, my BFF Pam and I would schedule monthly phone calls, on the first Sunday night of each month. We’d bring up the old memories, and Pam would say over and over, “We’re so lucky to have grown up in that special time and place.” There were lots of funny stories, from our teenage years and eventually from our trips together, and I wanted to write them down and share them. The Green Bay Packers franchise is extremely popular because it’s unique. It’s the only major-league sports franchise that is based in a small town and owned by the community. So I thought my stories would appeal to a wider audience, not just to people who grew up in Green Bay or knew me.
Are your characters based on people that you know?
I guess I’ve answered that one already—they’re real. I wrote about my girlfriends as I saw them, but I did change their names, even though they said I didn’t have to. They’ve been very supportive of the endeavour, all along. “I’d better give you some deniability,” I told them. Each of the pseudonyms I gave them has a meaning. For example, Pam was adopted as a baby, and her adoptive parents gave her a new name they preferred, but she came to them as Pamela.
What hardships have you had to face since you started your writing journey?
I had read, before my book came out, that marketing a book was a lot harder than writing one. I have found that to be true. I guess I thought that as soon as my book went up on Amazon.com, the sales would start flooding in—well, that’s hardly automatic if you’re not Nora Roberts or Stephen King! In the first year after Incomplete Passes came out, it seemed as if all my free time was going into marketing the book, and it still wasn’t nearly enough. I’m fascinated with the Internet, but I didn’t grow up with computers, and I don’t know enough. I’m still trying to sort out whether I should be blogging, tweeting, or discussing books on Goodreads and Facebook for the best exposure. I chose iUniverse over other self-publishing companies because they offered a social media start-up package. That has helped, but I have so much to learn. I hope that by the time I have a second book ready, I’ll have a better idea of what works.
One of the reasons I wanted to write Incomplete Passes was that I love my hometown, and marketing the book would give me more excuses to visit. But I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, now, about 500 miles away, and the travel expenses are so high that I can’t sell enough books to make a profit when I visit. I hadn’t taken that into consideration. So I could—I should—be doing more marketing in Green Bay and all over Wisconsin, but I just don’t have the time and money for an all-out campaign. One reviewer said about Incomplete Passes, “The hardest thing to do with this book is classify it. It doesn’t fall into any one genre solidly. It is part memoir, part sports story, part history of Green Bay, and a large part the tale of friendship and where it will take you.” I have to admit she’s right—this has been an obstacle. I know there are a lot of women readers who would relate to the friendship and nostalgia aspects of the book but will never pick it up because they think it’s about football. It sounds like I’m complaining, but marketing my book has actually been an amazing experience. I’ve made some wonderful friends, both among “book people” and among fellow Packer fans, even though we may never meet face-to-face.
What research do you undertake to help you write?
Most of Incomplete Passes came from my memory, and from conversations with Pam, Del, and Carla, the other members of the group. To confirm my memories and get specific dates and statistics, I checked facts on line, with the Green Bay Packers’ website and other sites that deal with professional football. A surprising number of books have been written about the Packers, and I consulted some of them (notably Distant Replay by Jerry Kramer with Dick Schaap and When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss). I didn’t do this to borrow material but rather to confirm that someone else remembered the same things that I did.
Any information on upcoming books?
I’m just getting started on something new. This one’s going to be a novel—I’m finished with writing about real people and wondering if they’re going to sue me for something I said. (I consulted a lawyer who really put the fear of God into me, and I think my book lost some of its appeal because I ended up being too careful and not mentioning names.) When I’m not writing, I volunteer in a no-kill animal shelter; I’ve done this for twenty-three years. I’d like to set my next book in a shelter, but it won’t be a series of tear-jerker stories about the animals. That has already been done many times, and often very well. Instead I’d like to focus on the people who work at the shelter. A lot of us have chosen to work with animals because we don’t get along that well with people, which occasionally makes for a lot of dramatic conflict. I’d also like to dispel some misconceptions about what goes on at a shelter. People bring us an unwanted animal, thinking that these wonderful, saintly people will take care of him and find him a good home within a few weeks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. We do our best, but there isn’t enough money, time, or staffing in the world to fix the problem. The numbers of homeless animals are staggering. My own shelter is seriously overcrowded, and unfortunately we can’t get on top of every problem and solve it right away. I want my book to be entertaining, but I also want to educate. I’d be thrilled to think that somebody found a way to work with their animal and keep him instead of bringing him to a shelter because of something they read in my book. Working title is You Can’t Save ‘em All.
Anything you want to say about people who wish to get their work published?
Do your homework! Maybe you’ll be lucky and get a contract from a traditional publisher, but if you don’t—or prefer not to—there are so many alternatives today. I didn’t know about some of them when I self-published, and I could have produced and marketed my book more cost-effectively. I also could—and should—have started my promotion much earlier than I did. Take some time to find the plan that works for you, and find your audience. Then go for it!