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I think this is the first novel I've read that focuses on baseball. I was scared at first - Do I know enough about baseball? Will I like a female character who does zany things to get over a man or two? Is there enough time in the baseball season for a novel to take place? The answer to all of the above is yes.
I like baseball, but I have to admit, I don't know much about how it works in other cities. I've lived in Northeast Ohio my entire life, so, I suppose I am a Cleveland Indians fan. I've only been to Cleveland Indians games, so it was fun to learn about the traditions and quirks of the various stadiums and towns Laurie visits. I was a little sad, however, that the characters' visit to Cleveland was so lackluster. The stadium was unremarkable, the "drumming guy" (who I have always found sweet in an idiosyncratic way) was annoying, their trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was tainted by an unwanted guest. I'm kidding, of course. I can't blame Laurie - I'd rather be in New York too.
Knowing enough about baseball to watch a game with enthusiasm, I sometimes found Laurie's confusion about the rules of the game monotonous. I didn't need the rules explained to me, so I was frustrated at times, but I can see how these scenes are beneficial to readers who are unfamiliar with baseball. Rose does a nice job of explaining baseball simply. I wish she would write an explanation of the rules of football, because I still do not understand that sport. As the book progresses, Laurie develops a firm grasp on the game and readers are able to enjoy the characters enjoying the game.
I appreciated how Laurie takes what should have been a horrible time in her life and makes it into something remarkable. She never despairs for long, even though she probably should. She loses her job, but it ends up being a great thing. Her boyfriend cheats on her, but she can do better. She is able to pursue her new passion without the constraints of a schedule and, unlike most of us, is aware of her opportunities before they have passed. She is reckless in her self-discovery - it's refreshing.
The characters of Eric, Peter, and Kirk were especially resonant for me. The banter between Eric and Peter
is witty and sweet. Everyone has friends like them - those two that make every outing into a show and, while they're ridiculous and verge on the embarrassing, you can't help but smile. Kirk is the quintessential ex-boyfriend. I feel sorry for him, but I also want to give him a stern talking to. I think I've dated him.
A Whole New Ballgame is a nice late summer read and I recommend it to baseball and non-baseball fans alike.
A Whole New Ballgame is the story of a 20-something woman who finds comfort and solace in baseball as her carefully ordered world starts to unravel. 26-year-old Laurie Nicholson thinks she’s beginning to sort things out when it comes to life, work, and love. When a sudden declaration from an on-again, off-again boyfriend inspires her to take a risk, only to meet with crushing heartbreak instead, Laurie finds herself searching for refuge.
A chance encounter with Eric Morris and Peter Ellis, two friends spending their summer visiting every ballpark in America, offers Laurie an unexpected way to salve her wounds. Despite growing up in Boston surrounded by Red Sox fans, she wasn’t a fan of the game–until Eric and Peter’s enthusiasm turn that around and she falls in love…with baseball.
Read quotes that introduce you to characters and the author’s perspective on those characters!
“Laurie had been sure that she didn’t want and didn’t have time for a serious relationship, the need to account to someone for where you were and what you were doing, the time suck of weeknight dinner dates, losing weekends to brunches and football games or movies.”
I am always looking to create female lead characters that a reader can relate to. She can’t be so perfect that the reader is suspect, and she can’t be so flawed that the reader loses sympathy. I want her to make mistakes that the reader has made (or at least can identify with), and I want her to grow in a way that isn’t too Lifetime daytime movie-like.
So far, my female leads spend a lot of time questioning the status quo, and not accepting a set path based on societal expectations. I’m not writing anarchist Freegans, but even in 2014, women are second-guessed on small decisions, like not taking their husband’s last name, for postponing children or marriage. And I’ve watched friends and acquaintances get railroaded into a decision or a path that they didn’t choose. So, I like to write about options, and I like to write about characters who are figuring things out.
I am also proud that all of my books pass the Bechdel Test. (The Bechdel Test asks if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man).
Meet Eric & Peter:
“After the next player swung at balls and sat down again (‘He struck out,’ Eric explained, showing her notations on his scorecard), Peter excused himself and jogged up the aisle. Just as the next inning was about to begin, he returned with a magazine-sized book and handed it to Laurie. ‘Here you go,’ he said. ‘This will help.’”
I am a big fan of “nice guys” and I like to let them win. I put the phrase in quotation marks because this is a hot topic these days. Guys who “act” nice to try to get a girl vs. guys who just genuinely are nice, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. I also wanted to write about a close male friendship and pay tribute to that.
Eric and Peter are fun, smart, handsome guys who aren’t jerks and who genuinely like women. I got tired of the jerks winning, so I wrote a story in which the good guys did — but they’re not SO good that they’re not believable.
“Marilyn glared at Ryan, who was smoking a cigarette despite the large (SERIOUSLY) NO SMOKING *ANYTHING AT ALL signs taped to the walls around the reception area, and despite his pregnant ex-wife sitting directly in range of his second-hand smoke.”
You think you know who he is, but you really don’t, because he’s an amalgamation of dozens of musicians I have known over the years. (This was also a problem with my first novel, where even close friends insisted they knew which particular musician I had based a character on. They were wrong). The aspect of their characters that allows artists to take chances and be creative can also give them license to be a total jerks. I’ve watched people be blinded by this, both in romantic and platonic relationships.
“The other thing that had changed since Kirk had moved back to Atlanta were his politics. After six years in Boston, he had gone from a wide-eyed kid from the South who didn’t know much about politics, period, to volunteering for John Kerry in the 2004 election. Laurie blamed his friends, and sheer laziness, for the political reversion.
It was fun to write a villain, although I will confess I had to tone it down over the course of various drafts. He is an amalgamation of exes I have known, seen, and watched, whether in my own life or that of friends and people around me. Like Laurie, he is also struggling with what he thinks he’s “supposed” to be doing, instead of just doing what makes sense to him.
In one of the various drafts of the novel, I had an epilogue in which Laurie goes off to Spring Training with Eric and Peter and runs into Kirk, who’s there with his fiancée, a war widow with a young child. It was an interesting scene, but I ended up going to the end of the 2007 baseball season because, well, you write what you know.
Caryn Rose is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer who documents rock and roll, baseball and urban life. From 2006-2011, she authored the groundbreaking blog metsgrrl.com, covering baseball and the New York Mets. A Whole New Ballgame is her second novel. You can find her at jukeboxgraduate.com and on Twitter at @carynrose and at @metsgrrl during the season. Purchase A Whole New Ballgame HERE!