I know an author! Well, technically we’ve never met in real life, but I know her via Twitter. It still counts! Laurie Koozer just published her first novel, “What Happens on Sunday“, and I’m so excited to share my thoughts AND a special Q&A with Laurie!
In Pittsburgh, what happens on football Sundays is more than just a game and for six women during the 2005 Steelers season their complicated relationships with the team provides solace, distraction and occasionally frustration.
Jen is a very young and very pregnant newlywed who worries that getting married on the same day as a Steelers loss will doom her marriage.
Megan never met a tailgate or a man she couldn’t conquer but is scared of losing her best friend to a relationship.
Desiree is a brash professional struggling to deal with her husband’s ex-wife and children and beginning to wonder if it’s the right time to start a family of her own.
Angela is a high school senior long ago branded bad luck for the Steelers and all she wants to do is get the hell out of Pittsburgh even if it means leaving behind her best friend Robbie.
Patty, a mom who sends a pair of sexy panties to a different player every week, hasn’t been on a date since her divorce five years ago.
And then there’s Shannon, thirty-four and single she spends the majority of her days navigating Pittsburgh traffic and her evenings tending bar and pining after her sister’s boyfriend.
As the Steelers make what seems to be an impossible run to the Super Bowl, their lives will intersect, each of them finding connections in the most unexpected places.
I love books set in or about Pittsburgh, you know that. ”What Happens on Sunday” is no exception. As a lifelong Pittsburgher and a Steelers fan (duh), I could totally relate to the characters in this book and I think most other people could, too. Maybe not all of them in all situations, but I feel like I could see little bits of myself in almost all of the ladies. I could picture the characters as regular women walking around town, someone I might run into at Target or Primanti’s. The story took me back to the ups and downs of the 2005 football season.
And if you love Pittsburgh, you’ll get your fill with a ton of Pittsburgh references, similes, and metaphors. I felt like I was “in on the secret” because I knew all of the things and places that were in the story. Laurie did a great job of capturing the spirit of the city, both good and bad parts and stereotypes. This was a fun, easy read that I didn’t want to put down, and if you’re local, used to be local, like Pittsburgh for no reason, are a Steelers fan, are a female, or just need something fun to read, get it! It’s only $3.99 on Amazon – about half the price of a Primanti’s Capicola and Cheese. Save yourself some calories and buy this instead.
If you want to hear more about the book or follow Laurie’s other adventures in reading and in the ‘Burgh, check out her blog at Yinz R Readin and you can also find her on Twitter at @yinzrreadin. The ebook is available for sale on Amazon and if you’re not into the ebook thing, you’re in luck! You can buy a print copy at the following locations: Caliban Books in Oakland, East End Book Exchange at the Pittsburgh Public Market and Eljay’s Used Books in Dormont. Support local authors and bookstores!
Laurie was also nice enough to answer some of my questions about her book (my questions in bold). Enjoy!
I know you’re a native Pittsburgher. Why did you choose to write your first book about Pittsburghers and the Steelers instead of something else?
I was actually born in Central PA so even though my family moved to Western PA when I was 11, I don’t know if I can claim to be a native Pittsburgher. J I have lived in the city for the past 11 years though and I think that the number one reason I wrote this book was selfishness. Like you, I love to read and as many books as I’ve read, I’ve never really found one that captured the world or the people that I know, so this was my attempt to do that.
Do you think that readers not familiar with Pittsburgh would understand and enjoy this book as much as someone from Pittsburgh?
I would hope so, but with the specific nature of the book, right now I’m not worrying too much about what Jane Smith from Kansas would think about the book and just hoping that Pittsburghers like it! Still, I think that the specific characters in the book are struggling with the sorts of conflicts that all sorts of women can relate to – love, loneliness, growing up, etc – so I definitely wouldn’t rule it out from finding a wider audience.
Where did you come up with the characters?
The original two characters – Patty and Angela – developed from a Post-Gazette article I read about sports rituals and superstitions. The article talked about women mailing underwear to different players and it really got me wondering what type of person would do that. And I think we’ve all heard of (or maybe been) the person who has to stay out of the room during a sports game because their family thinks that they’re bad luck. Usually the person is a sports fan and in on the joke but I started wondering how it would play out if the person being removed from the games wasn’t a fan at all. Jen and Dave were inspired by a couple I saw in Detroit during Super Bowl XL – a husband proudly showing off the Steelers helmet he’d painted on his pregnant wife’s belly. Shannon’s character was inspired by a neighborhood bar where I used to hang out. Megan and Desiree were more of an amalgam of different types of people that I’ve known or observed over the years.
Was it as hard as I think it would be to intertwine their stories and relationships?
It actually wasn’t because I had that vision from the very beginning so I kind of worked out various scenarios in my head and then worked backwards from there. I wanted their lives to connect or even collide but I also wanted to have character arcs that stood on their own. More than anything, I wanted it to be reflective of the very real “it’s a small world” thing that is always at play in Pittsburgh where you almost always have a mutual connection to strangers if you dig deep enough. I have to say that some of my favorite scenes to write were the ones where we see the same incident from multiple points of view – like that infamous night at The Locker Room and especially at Jen’s wedding.
Which one of your characters would you most and least like to be friends with and why?
I feel like I could be friends with all of my characters, but if I have to choose I would say that I probably have the least in common with Jen and that if Patty could ever see fit to leave her desk and take a lunch out sometime, I would love to be her office lady lunch buddy!
How much studying did you have to do on the Steelers’ 2005 season to get all of the facts right?
I don’t know if studying is the right word but I have a binder with recaps of every game and all kinds of articles about different storylines that were going on that year, so yeah I definitely did my homework, even down to researching what weather Pittsburgh was having during specific games that year. And it wasn’t just the Steelers season I had to research – I started writing in 2006 so everything was very fresh to me but as the years went by I started adding a lot of pop culture and current event facts to my 2005 binder so that I could stay accurate. It’s funny to me that there’s a MySpace reference in the book because that seems pretty quaint now but back then it was pretty big.
Hines Ward or Troy Polamalu?
Do you have any plans to write a sequel? I would love to know what happens to all of the characters after the Super Bowl!
I’m glad you asked that question. A lot of people are asking me that and I will take that as a very good sign about the success of these characters and the book itself. I’m definitely not done with these women – how that is going to play out I’m not sure yet because with working full-time and kids I don’t get as much writing time as I used to but yeah, there’s definitely a lot more that happens to these characters after Super Bowl XL.
What is your second favorite (assuming yours is your favorite) book set in Pittsburgh?
Ah, I can’t narrow it down so I will say that my second favorite Pittsburgh-set book is a three-way tie between An American Childhood (Annie Dillard), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) and Wonder Boys (Michael Chabon).
Lastly, is that your butt on the cover?
No, but I’m flattered that you think it is. The identity of that front cover butt is supposed to be top-secret but unfortunately I think we messed up when we took my three-year-old on the photo shoot because as soon as she saw the cover she yelled “That’s XX!!!” So yeah, if you really want to know who that butt belongs to you’ll have to ask her, because I swore I’d never tell.
Thanks again to Laurie for the interview and for writing a great book n’at!
Alright folks. After a way-too-long hiatus from blogging, I’m [hopefully] back. And with some wonderful books that I must tell you about!
First, “After the Fog” by Kathleen Shoop. One day recently, I was in the mood to read something Pittsburgh-y. Wasn’t sure what. I thought I’d just type “Pittsburgh” into Amazon’s book search and see what came up. That’s how I found this gem.
The sins of the mother… In the mill town of Donora, Pennsylvania, site of the infamous 1948 “killing smog,” headstrong nurse Rose Pavlesic tends to her family and neighbors. Controlling and demanding, she’s created a life that reflects everything she missed growing up as an orphan. She’s even managed to keep her painful secrets hidden from her loving husband, dutiful children, and large extended family. When a stagnant weather pattern traps poisonous mill gasses in the valley, neighbors grow sicker and Rose’s nursing obligations thrust her into conflict she never could have fathomed. Consequences from her past collide with her present life, making her once clear decisions as gray as the suffocating smog. As pressure mounts, Rose finds she’s not the only one harboring lies. When the deadly fog finally clears, the loss of trust and faith leaves the Pavlesic family—and the whole town—splintered and shocked. With her new perspective, can Rose finally forgive herself and let her family’s healing begin?
I’ll just come right out and say it – I LOVED this book. So many things about it. First of all, I don’t know if I’ve actually ever been in Donora before. It’s a town south of the city of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River, for those not familiar. But there are SO many other little towns like that around here that I could picture it anyway. Heck, for the past three years, I lived right across the river from a coke plant and saw the smoke and flame every day (most air-polluted borough, not FTW!). I have ancestors on both sides of my family that worked in the local steel and tin mills. So I was thinking of what my family members may have gone through as I was reading this book.
Second, I feel like I KNEW Rose and her family. They could be anyone around here. Early yinzers, perhaps. Even though the story took place in the 1940s, I felt like I could really put myself in the story and feel like it was happening “now”. I also learned a lot about the history of the mills around here. I had no idea about this “fog” (what we’d now refer to as smog) that happened when this story occurred. That part is real even though the story is fiction, but some parts of the story and some characters are based on some historical records and stories that Kathleen Shoop was able to dig up.
This book seemed long compared to other books I’ve read recently on my Kindle, but that’s a good thing because I didn’t want it to end! I can’t say enough good things about this book. I honestly think it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The story, the characters, everything just came together. I’ve already recommended it to a few people and am now telling YOU to go buy/download it if you’re interested in reading Pittsburgh historical fiction. Kathleen Shoop also has another book out that I can’t wait to read. I don’t think it’s based in Pittsburgh, but still sounds really good. Check it ‘aht!
I spot a theme here recently with me and books about Vegas. When I was contacted to read and review this book, I knew it was something that I’d be interested in doing – especially since it seems to take a bit of a different path than the other Vegas-related book that I reviewed a few months ago.
“What Stays in Vegas” is about a young woman named Tessa who is an administrative assistant at a New England architectural and design firm. You could say that she isn’t really happy with her life – she’s in a dead-end job, she has a major crush on a dreamy coworker named Nick (who is married), and the weather sucks. When she gets the opportunity to temporarily transfer to the Las Vegas branch of her company to fill in for someone on maternity leave, she jumps at the chance.
In Vegas, she works as an admin for Kendra, daughter of the owner of the company and a crazy (in a fun way) chick who has become slightly crazier after her husband leaves her and she decides to really take advantage of Vegas’ crazy nightlife. Tessa starts to really enjoy herself in Vegas and Kendra becomes a friend (and Tessa becomes her confidante and the one who tries to keep her focused). Tessa does miss Nick, but they still talk quite a bit and he seems to not be happy in his marriage. Tessa also begins to hang out with some of the guys in her office, sweet but kinda nerdy ones who treat her like a buddy or a sister. But when Nick decides to take a little trip to Vegas to visit Tessa, will she finally get the chance to go after her dream guy?
I really enjoyed reading this book and really liked some of the characters. Only some, because I ended up changing my mind about others as the book went on! Intended, I’m sure. Tessa seemed like a girl who could be a friend of mine. And Kendra, even though she seemed a little off-the-rails at some points, was very likable as well. The story wasn’t as much a story about Vegas as it was a story about friends and relationships.
This was author Beth Labonte’s second book, and the first one, “Coffee Breath”, is one I definitely want to read too even though it’s in a little bit of a different genre. And if you want a good laugh about office life, check out her blog, Secretary 4 Life. As a huge fan of “The Office” and a corporate worker myself, her posts and observations crack me up.
P.S. “What Stays in Vegas” is only 99 cents for the Kindle! Go! Now!