Posts Tagged ‘local’
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!
If you don’t live under a rock, I’m sure you know that a very large number of Borders bookstores have closed in the past several months. One of the targeted stores was the Borders located in East Liberty (in Pittsburgh, PA, if you’re not from around these parts). A local woman came up with the idea to open a temporary bookstore in the empty space that would focus primarily on local authors or indie authors rather than the mainsteam authors and books that the “big box” bookstores carry. The store will also hold evening events such as documentary screenings, author readings, et cetera.
Check out this article that was in the Pittsburgh City Paper today about Fleeting Pages: Old East Liberty Borders gets new life as a pop-up bookstore. The new store opens on May 7th and will be open for four weeks. Will you be there? I definitely want to check it out! This is a really interesting concept and I hope she finds much success in those few weeks. Maybe that will lead to something else in the future, like a permanent storefront somewhere.
Find out more about Fleeting Pages by visiting www.fleetingpages.com.
A couple months back, I posted about a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article regarding books about/set in Pittsburgh. I had posted a link to the article on Twitter and one of my local Twitter friends (I’m sorry – I can’t remember who and I can’t find the conversation!) mentioned that they read this book and recommended it. I downloaded it to my Kindle awhile ago and just finally got around to reading it.
“American Rust” is a novel set in the fictional town of Buell, Pennsylvania in Fayette County (geographically, it’s right around here). For those who don’t know, Pittsburgh falls into a region of the country commonly referred to as the “Rust Belt“, which refers to the abandoned and rusted mills and factories that closed up in the 1970′s due to the manufacturing industry decline.
The story is about two young men in their early 20′s – Isaac, an intelligent but quiet kid who desperately wants to get out of Buell and make a life for himself elsewhere, like his sister did by leaving and going to Yale, and Poe (that’s his last name), who was a football star in high school but opted not to go to college (when he could have) and is basically stuck in the little town with no future ahead of him. One night, Isaac and Poe visit an abandoned plant and get into an altercation with some squatters and one of them ends up dead at the hands of, surprisingly, Isaac.
The local police captain, who also happens to have a “personal” relationship with Poe’s mother, suspects that Isaac and Poe has something to do with it, but a witness fingers Poe as the suspect in the man’s death. Isaac decides it’s finally time for him to leave town so they don’t get caught, but Poe stays behind and is taken to jail for a crime that he did not commit (this occurs after Isaac takes off). As Isaac makes his journey to California to start his life over, he encounters some difficult situations (and people) along the way. Poe is put in jail and struggles with the decision about whether or not he’ll admit to anyone that it wasn’t him that killed the man.
While I did like the story and think it was interesting, I did have a few issues with this book. First, I feel like it took me FOREVER to read. The Kindle tells you what percentage of the book you’ve read and it just felt like it took me a lot longer than most books do. Second, I’m not sure if this was done on purpose or if it was just a thing with the electronic version of the book, but the punctuation was horrible. That leads into my third issue, that I felt like the characters were so stereotypical and I found it a tiny bit offensive. By stereotypical, I mean that they were presented as fairly poor, not very intelligent (except Isaac, but he had some other issues), lazy, unsophisticated, and just very blue-collar. I have nothing against people from Fayette or any of the other outlying, rural areas around Pittsburgh and I’m not saying that stereotype is true, and I understand that they may not be like someone like me, who works in downtown in a corporate environment and is used to the city/suburban environment, but I just don’t want readers from outside of Pittsburgh to think that all Pittsburghers are like that. We’re not. This isn’t me bashing the author or how he chose to create the characters, but I’m just sayin’. Do yinz guys know what I mean n’at?
On the other hand, I love stuff about Pittsburgh and liked being able to picture the areas that they referenced in the book. Some of the towns mentioned were Donora, Charleroi, Elizabeth, Uniontown, and probably a few more that I can’t remember.
Philipp Meyer actually is NOT from Pittsburgh, but from Baltimore, but apparently has friends and family who live in the area and that’s why he chose to base it here. He says he had similar experiences in the area where he grew up. This is his only book so far.
There was recently an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette titled “25 novels use Western Pennsylvania as a setting in 2009” that caught my eye. I’ve never read any novels that used Pittsburgh as a setting, although I’ve seen a bunch of movies that have (I’m on a kick – my Netflix queue is filled with Pittsburgh movies right now). When I put this link out on Twitter, I was informed that one of the ones on the list, “American Rust“, was definitely worth a read. Some of the others on the list look interesting to me, especially the ones written by local doctors. If you’re a local music fan, you may be interested in the two novels written by singer-songwriter Bill Deasy.
There have been popular books in the past that were based in Pittsburgh, such as “Mysteries of Pittsburgh“, which became more well known when the actress Sienna Miller came to Pittsburgh to film the movie and said some lovely things about the town. I haven’t read the book (or seen the movie), but someday would like to.
If you just type the word “Pittsburgh” into the Amazon book search bar, over 144,000 results come up (many are about Pittsburgh history or are photo books, but there is definitely something for everybody). I’m sure that there are so many good books in that list that have gone under the radar. What books have you read that are either by a Pittsburgh author or are set in the Western Pennsylvania area? If it’s something you liked, pass the word along… support your local authors and read local!