Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Q&A with Deirdre Martin!

The moment of truth!

HLOG recently corresponded with the lovely and talented Miss Deirdre Martin and fired off some questions about love, hockey, and writing. After probing the USA Today bestselling author, we asked her to mouth off on some hockey hot topics. Enjoy reading the interview. Be sure to stop by her website and sneak a peek at her novels.

1) Who is your favorite NHL team and why?

The New York Rangers. My husband is a lifelong Ranger fan and it was his interest (obsession) with them that first got me interested in hockey. Once I started paying attention, I was hooked. And as every Ranger fan knows, once a Ranger fan, always a Ranger fan.

2) Who is your favorite NHL player of all time and your favorite player-of-the-moment? Explain why.

Mark Messier is my favorite NHL player of all time. I think he was the greatest leader in team sports. For me the clincher was his guaranteeing a Rangers win in Game 6 of the semifinals against the Devils and then putting the team on his back and winning it with a hat trick. And of course, then lifting the 54 year curse.

My favorite player of the moment Jarome Iginla, because he’s a throwback to old fashioned hockey players.

3) HLOGgers are asked to complete a questionnaire to help readers get to know them a little better. If you don't mind answering some of the ones we answer, here is a short list to satisfy our curiosity.

3a) If you had to punch one hockey player or member of the NHL organization, who and why?

Gary Bettman. The rules changes are great, but they haven't been enough to overcome the damage from missing an entire season.

3b) What role do female fans play in keeping the game alive?

I’m not really sure I have an answer to that.

3c) What role do female fans play in picking heroes for the community?

Not really sure I can answer that, either. Clearly female fans are as vocal as male fans, but they obviously play a larger role in humanizing the players, because they see behind mere stats and are interested in these guys as people—and men—in a way male hockey fans aren’t. I do sometimes wonder if it’s the interest of female fans that results in some of these guys being profiled in non sports magazines and such, but no one has proved that, and I’m not sure you can.

3d) [Fill in the blank] Hockey just isn't the same without _________.

Patrick Roy. [Martin] Brodeur will probably break all his records, but Roy was amazing, and was a great character. Besides telling off Montreal management in the middle of a game, Roy's comment to [Jeremy] Roenick that he couldn't hear Jeremy's trash talk because Patrick's two Stanley Cup rings were stuck in his ears was a classic.

4) Predict who will win the 2007 Stanley Cup and why.

Buffalo Sabres. They've come back down to earth recently, but I just have a feeling about them. I also have a special fondness for them, since I went to college in Buffalo.

5) Your hockey romances appeal to a wide audience: romance fans, comedy fans, hockey fans, and so on. How have hockey fans, in particular, responded to your books?

Extremely well. Female fans obviously like the combination of romance and hockey, and I’ve even got letters from male hockey fans to say they enjoy the books, especially the on ice action. In fact, a lot of these guys said they found out about the books from their wives or girlfriends!When BODY CHECK came out, I wanted to make sure hockey fans, and not just romance fans, knew about it. I printed up bookmarks, and passed them out at AHL games all over New York State, as well at Madison Square Garden in New York, and Nassau Coliseum down on Long Island. I think that helped generate interest in both female and male fans.

6) Your descriptions of the game have a "real" feel to them. Do you draw your knowledge of hockey players, their superstitions, and the reality of game situations from personal experience, or do you rely upon research and interviews?

All of the above. For the creation of Ty Gallagher in BODY CHECK, I read a lot about [Mark] Messier and Scott Stevens, because I was interested in creating a driven, charismatic character who was passionate about winning. I also interviewed the head of PR for Rangers for that book, since doing PR for an NHL team was something I knew nothing about. He was great; he took me to Ranger practices, showed me around the Garden, and let me watch him work. Other people have been instrumental inhelping me make the hockey scenes in my book real as well: I live in Ithaca, home of Cornell hockey. Watching them play has helped me create some of the on ice scenes in the book. For THE PENALTY BOX, I went to a lot of youth hockey games here in Ithaca, and was able to see firsthand how crazy some of these parents can get. I think research is really, really important when it comes to creating authenticity in books.

7) When you were first creating the NY Blades, did you intend to write a series of books centered on this particular team?

Nope. I wrote BODY CHECK, and my editor liked it so much she asked me to write another hockey romance. This was a big gamble, since I started writing the second book before BODY CHECK was even published, and we had no idea whether readers would like BODY CHECK. My editor wanted the books to be connected, so centering a story around Janna’s roommate, Theresa, seemed a natural choice, as did pairing her with Michael Dante, who invites her to have a drink with him the first time they meet in BODY CHECK, and she rejects him.Thankfully, both books did well, but after two books set in the hockey world, I was worried about about the subject matter getting stale, so I wrote about a firefighter in TOTAL RUSH, and decided to write PENALTY BOX about an ex hockey player. But I found I missed writing about the Blades, so I pitched another hockey romance to my editor, who was thrilled with the idea. The result is CHASING STANLEY.

8)Please explain what inspired you to write hockey romances.

Well, I knew I wanted to write romances, and hockey player heroes just seemed a natural choice for me since they’re so damn sexy. I think hockey players are the perfect romantic heroes, because they're warriors on a quest: the quest for the Cup. Such figures, from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table on down, have always been attractive; they're fearless. They're willing to sacrifice, whether it's physical, mental, or spiritually, to achieve their goal. They're not afraid of physical pain; that blood running down a hockey player's face is real. And let's face it: a lot of athletes, no matter what the sport, are hot. They have great bodies. One of the things I find particularly attractive about hockey players is that they are down to earth, too. They're approachable in a way some of these mega athletes in football and baseball are not. And the sport alone is so exciting, so fast and often rough. (We'll try to ignore the sexual subtext there). It seemed the perfect world to set a romance in.

9)What obstacles did you have to overcome on the road to becoming a published author? Were any unique to writing a sports-related romance?

My first obstacle was overcoming my own fear. Despite being a freelance magazine for many years, I was very unsure of whether I could break into commercial fiction. But one of my mottos has always been “Feel the fear and do it anyway,” so I decided I has to least TRY. I did not want to be old one day, look back on my life, and regret not even trying, even if I “failed.” So that spurred me on.

I have to confess, though, that I had no idea what I was doing! Despite reading romance all my life, the first romance I wrote was a disaster! (It is now stashed in the garage, and I doubt it will ever see the light of day. In fact, I should burn it). No chemistry, no sexual tension, no subplot...luckily, a friend of mine who had published a successful romance read it, and gave me lots of constructive criticism. I then wrote BODY CHECK.

The second obstacle was trying to find an agent. It’s kind of a Catch 22 in publishing: it’s hard to sell anything without an agent, but it’s hard to get an agent if you don’t have already have some kind of a track record, so that was tough. Alot of agents turned me because BODY CHECK was a sports romance. The prevailing belief at the time was “that sports heroes don’t sell.” Finally, one agent was willing to take a chance on me; ditto my editor at Berkley.

Which brings us to my third obstacle: trying to sell a sports romance to a publisher. Over and over my agent and I were told sports heroes don’t sell. (Despite the success of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Chicago Stars series, and Rachel Gibson’s hockey books). And what we kept saying was: all it takes is one good sports romance to break through, and that won’t be true anymore. And I think that’s definitely been the case: Pamela Britton has had tremendous success with her NASCAR books, and there’s another writer whose name escapes me at the moment who was written a few successful books centered around a baseball player. Obviously, readers do enjoy sports based romances.

10) Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to become an author?

Don’t give up. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s impossible. Yes, competition can be fierce, but if you’re determined enough, you can get published. Talent counts, but so does tenacity. The writers I know who are successful are the ones who hang in there, day in, day out, year in, year out. They have faith in their talent and they don’t let anything else sway them. I also think that if you want to become an author, you need to read. Lots. Not just romance, but all different types of writing: literary fiction, essays, non fiction, etc. Study how other writers do what they do. It can be a big help.

11) Finally, talk about your latest novel Chasing Stanley, due out in February.

Well, I’m really excited about CHASING STANLEY, because it combines two of my favorite things: hockey and Newfies. It’s the story of a shy dog walker/trainer, Delilah, and a brash hockey player for the New York Blades, Jason, who is new to the team. Jason has an unruly dog, Stanley, a headstrong Newf in desperate need of obedience training. Jason seeks out Delilah, and—well, you’ll just have to read it. It was a blast to write, not only because I love the two main characters, butbecause I was able to include characters from my past books whom I adore, including Ty and Janna from BODY CHECK, Michael and Theresa from FAIR PLAY, and Gemma from TOTAL RUSH. I even managed to get former Blades player PAUL van Dorn from THE PENALTY BOX in there!

I got to do some really fun research for the book: I shadowed a Manhattan dog walker for days, and even went to the Westminster Kennel Dog Club Show at Madison Square Garden, where I got a behind the scenes peek. I didn’t have to do any research on Newfs, since I own two, Rocky and Winston! The book has plenty of humor mixed in with romance, and lots of on ice action.

12) If there's anything you'd like to add, please do so!

I just want to thank you for your interest in my books! I love knowing that there are female hockey fans out there who are as passionate about the game as I am, who also enjoy reading a good romance. I’m sorry, but no one can convince me that there’s anything sexier than a hockey player. Period.


- Rory Fitzpatrick and the All-Star voting controversy (did you vote for Rory? Did you think he should have been allowed to play?)

At first I thought it was demeaning to the game. But then I realized that it’s the fan's game. Besides, I sort of looked at it like the fan's tribute to the average hard working hockey player who just goes out, game in and game out and does his job.

- The role of fighting in the game (acceptable or not, appropriate or not, should it be ruled out or allowed to continue?)

Fighting is vital to hockey's ability to self police. I think that without fighting, cheap shots and resulting injuries would increase.

- Wayne Gretzky's ability to coach a team?

Great skill players rarely make great coaches in any sport, because they seem not to understand that the average player can't do what they did. That being said, I think Gretzky should get more time.

- Should the NHL consider altering their schedule so all teams have the opportunity to host every other team in the NHL at least once/twice a year?

No. I think encouraging rivalries does more for the game.

- Any tips on how the NHL can promote the game to increase popularity in the United States or make it more "interesting" for fans and/or increase their own revenue?

They haven't changed the way they broadcast hockey on TV since the 1960s. I hated the Fox "glow puck," but the NHL could really use some of the techniques brought to the NFL broadcasts. Do that, and then when HDTV becomes more widespread, hockey will be a great TV sport. I think that's really the key.


HG said...

Finny! This is fantastic! Thanks to you AND special thanks to Deirdre for taking the time to answer our questions. I'm so pleased!

Anonymous said...

Special thanks Finny & Deirdre Martin for this great blog.

Objectionable Conduct said...

Awesome interview. TOTALLY disagree on the unbalanced schedule though - I believe that to sell the game you have to sell the superstars and you can't sell Ovechkin and Crosby in the West or Dion Phaneuf and Ryan Getzlaf in the East if they only play there once every 3 years.

Besides - instead of the Habs playing Boston, Toronto, Ottawa and whoever else is in that division 8 times a season, they play 6. No big difference if you ask me.

Shan said...

Ew! Romance is gross! And girls are gross!

But welcome Dierdre. Would be cool if she stuck around and hlogged for the rangers.

I disagree about the schedule. I don't think you can manifest a rivalry like that. And even though I like watching Habs games, I do NOT enjoy watching them play the Leafs 8 times per season.

Objectionable Conduct said...

Shan - Thank You! Thank You! Thank YOU!

Personally I think that Laffs and Habs games are somehow less SPECIAL when they happen that often.

Jordi said...

Special thanks to Martin and Finny for putting this together, we're quite the blog now hmm? *beams proudly*

I think the schedule could have some fixes with the same problems everyone said. But it's hard to agree on the same specific thing I reckon.

Paige said...

This is so cool! Anyone is on my good side if they think the Sabres will win the cup. I never really conisdered putting hockey and romance together, it's awesome she made it work.