Here is an interview discussing the writing of Overtime: A Basketball Parable. You can get the book for free on Amazon.com until Monday by clicking here.
How did Overtime come to be written?
I really did not have it in mind to write another novel. It had been about 15 years since In The Forest of The Night was published and I had not planned another book. But I ran into Andy Spradling at a Little League game here in town. I knew he was a writer and we started talking shop. He had a new book underway and we started talking about it there and we decided that we’d start meeting now and then to go over his drafts and see his progress.
So, that was the beginning of the Shelton College Review?
Almost, but not quite. Andy and I meet for a few weeks and then we invited Joe Bird in. He’s a close neighbor of mine. I’ve known him since we were kids. We’ve gone to church together for years. I had heard that Joe’s book, The counsel of the Ungodly, had won the West Virginia Writers award for best novel in the State for the year. I mentioned to him that Andy and I were meeting and I asked him to come along. He did, and pretty soon all three of us were working on our own novels and reviewing a chapter each every week. Joe wrote a story about a man and a woman being lost in the wilderness; Andy wrote The Lost Lantern, a story set on the Grand Strand in South Carolina where Andy worked for a while. I wrote Overtime.
What happened to the other two books – Joe’s and Andy’s?
Well, you can get Andy’s book on Amazon right now. It’s been available for, I don’t know, about six months, I guess, and his sales are going pretty well. You’ve heard of beach reads, beach books. . . well, this is a book about the beach. It all happens at the beach.
I guess Joe wasn’t so happy with his book. I liked it a lot, but it seemed like he abandoned it and then wrote another one. This one about a guy who was an up and coming musician who gets injured and his ability to play is affected. That book was published under the title A Prayer for Rain, but I think it’s out of print now.
How did you decide on the Overtime story? It’s not exactly genre fiction. In fact it would be difficult to categorize really.
I know. That has created some problems for me in marketing the book. It sounds like a sports book, but it really isn’t. It is about basketball in very much the same way that Field of Dreams is about baseball. The game is an important part of the story, but it is not a story about the game. It’s much deeper than that.
So, what inspired you to write it?
There isn’t one simple answer to that question. I love basketball, for one thing. I never was a varsity player; I played a little freshman ball for my high school when I lived in Texas and that was it for my scholastic career. But when I was a kid, that was what you did in your spare time. If there wasn’t snow on the ground, you played on one of the dozen or so outdoor courts in town. Sometimes I’d play late into the night; be wet with sweat when I got home. The game was magic for me. Nothing has ever really taken its place. When I played, I was totally absorbed. Totally forgot everything else. Went all out.
There has to me more to it than that. This book is not a love poem to basketball. Not at all.
Well, the book is a serious book and it’s not all happy sunshine, but a love of the game ought to be obvious in it. There is nothing in the book that I remember that diminishes the beauty or appeal of the game itself.
Would you admit that the book suggests that some take the game too seriously?
Well, yeah. I mean, that’s a big part of the story. Basketball isn’t any different than anything else in that it can become an idol. People can give it too much attention; too much allegiance. But that can happen with anything. Even things that are good in and of themselves.
Okay, so your love of playing was a part of the inspiration for the book. But you said – or hinted – that there were other reasons or motivations for the book.
That’s right. I loved playing the game, but I loved watching it, too. When I was a kid in high school, Pete Maravich was the hottest thing in college basketball. He was on the cover of Time magazine. It didn’t matter if you liked basketball or not, you knew who Pistol Pete was. What he was able to do with the ball just mesmerized me. Totally captivated me. He was the Van Gogh or Shakespeare or Sinatra of the game. He did stuff that no one else had ever thought about doing. It was fantastic but it looked effortless. A year or so before I started writing the book, I decided to do a literary exercise that I had never done before. I decided to read a biography and then the autobiography of the same person. I chose to read about Pete. I had followed his life some, even after basketball, and I heard about all the craziness. The weird diets, the messages to space people. That kind of thing. I also heard about his conversion to Jesus Christ. I heard his testimony and I was convinced of its authenticity. That attracted me even more. So I read the sort of mainline biography of him. I can’t remember who wrote it, but he was a credentialed writer/ journalist and it was a great read. The name of the book is Pistol.
And then, the autobiography?
Yep. It was entitled Heir to A Dream.
What did you find out? How did the two books compare?
Well, that’s certainly the right question. Because that’s really what I set out to discover – how a biography might differ from an autobiography. I thought I’d find big differences, but I didn’t. Pete didn’t seem to inflate things at all in his version. There was more about his internal struggles and more about his complex relationship with his dad, but if you were using Pistol to gauge the honesty of Heir to A Dream, you’d have to say that Pete was honest about his life.