Monday, July 5, 2010

Author Interview with Linda Gould

Today we're excited to talk with Linda Gould, author of Let's Play Ball.

FQ: - First the obvious, you must be a huge baseball fan. It certainly shows in the scenes where games are being played but also, in many other spots where antics on and off the field are described. Tell us about your baseball background.

I fell in love with baseball at about the age of seven, when my father took me to my first game at Griffith Stadium. I saw the Yankees clobber the Senators, 11-2, but at least I got to see Mickey Mantle in his prime. My dad was a huge fan who remembered the Senators' last appearance in the World Series in 1933.

Washington baseball fans have been through the ringer since then. We lost that Senators team to Minnesota in 1961, just as they were improving. A bad expansion team took their place, and quite a few Washington fans never returned to the sport. In my family, interest started to revive when Frank Howard arrived with his tape-measure home runs. Still, there was only one respectable season for that team, Ted Williams' first year of managing in 1969. That team decamped to Texas in 1971, and we were bereft for the next 34 years. As two-time losers, most of us lost all hope of ever getting another team, although we were often teased by other teams threatening to move to D.C. if they didn't get new stadiums in their cities. Many of us adopted the Baltimore Orioles temporarily. Major League Baseball finally relented and moved a dying franchise, the Montreal Expos, to Washington in 2005. (My dad lived to see it, and was able to attend two games that year.) Our Nationals continue to struggle in their sixth season here, but I still pinch myself sometimes to realize that the sport has returned to our city.

FQ: Many female authors would shy away from using a male dominated sport as the backdrop for their books. Did you consider other sports/topics first or did you know from the start that it had to be baseball?

I'm just a huge sports fan! My first novel, Secretarial Wars, featured pro football, and my second, The Rock Star's Homecoming, dealt with college football. However, baseball has always been my favorite sport. In Washington, the Redskins tend to dominate all sports talk, even during their off-season. I'm a Redskins fan, but I'd like to see more balanced coverage. Many football fans in D.C. are so obsessed with their team that sometimes I wonder if they've noticed we have a baseball team.

FQ: Miranda and Jessica have some issues that could easily tear sisters apart. Yet their bond remains strong. Was it important to show a strong sister bond?

I don't have a sister, so for the most part I had to imagine the relationship. I did watch my mother interact with her two older sisters. I remember jabs being thrown about her being the youngest and prettiest when they were growing up (and their dad's favorite). Yet the three of them were close. I made Miranda and Jessica fraternal twins as an extra assurance that their essential bond could never be broken, no matter how much they fought.

FQ: You touch on a very hot, and very emotional, topic in your book, that of racism and in particular, of hatred towards Hispanics. Was this topic hard to write about and what do you want your readers to take away from reading about such blind hatred?

The immigrant issue has become even more sensitive since I started writing Let's Play Ball. I would like to see less attention given to tracking down and punishing illegals, and more to addressing the forces that brought them here in the first place. It can only be desperation that causes people to leave their homes, often risk their lives to get to the U.S., and once here, perform the kinds of jobs that are too "dirty" for most of us. Some form of amnesty must be offered to those who are established here.

If anyone wants examples of how well immigrants can succeed, through talent, hard work, and dedication, they have only to look at Major League Baseball. The Hispanic presence there is strong and growing all the time. It takes tremendous skill and discipline to play the sport at that level. Some of them are among the most talented players in the game, and others are struggling to find their place. But it seems to me that even those with limited English skills are striving to assimilate and play the game the right way.

FQ: Whether good or bad, the women characters in your novel all had very strong personalities while some of the men, like Petie Jansen, were wishy-washy at best. As a woman, I found this refreshing as so many authors do the reverse. Was it important for you, as a woman writer, to create very strong female characters?

I have a guilty pleasure. I'm a big fan of the four Real Housewives franchises on Bravo TV, and am now eagerly awaiting the D.C. version. I admit to loving a good catfight! Most of the women featured on those shows are admittedly shallow, petty, and dependent on men to fund their extravagant lifestyles. Let's Play Ball features a few catfights as well, but I hope the fighting women in my book come across as strong personalities who wield real power, and are in fact driving forces behind their men. I also intended to show that men are not above engaging in their own petty fights.

FQ: As mentioned in the review, Guadalupe Ramirez was a character the reader will love to hate. Was she fun to write? Which character did you most enjoy?

You're not the first reader who liked Guadalupe the best! My critique group tended to have the same reaction. I'm glad she came across as three-dimensional, despite being a villainess. When I imagine a possible sequel to Let's Play Ball, Guadalupe is the character I tend to focus on most. She did not totally disappear at the end of the book, but is presumed to be still lurking in the background, capable of causing more mischief. She has paid a high price to become the first lady of Cuba and live in what she calls a "gilded prison," when she could have had a prosperous life in the U.S. as the wife of a successful ballplayer. Her new husband mostly expects her to keep producing children in support of his political dynasty, despite her lack of maternal instincts. That will never be enough to satisfy Guadalupe, who is ambitious for political power of her own. Her jealousy and bitterness will continue to grow, maybe provoking another international incident or two!

To learn more about Let's Play Ball, please read the review at Feathered Quill Book Reviews.