Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Interview With Laurie Koozer: Author of What Happens On Sunday

Laurie Koozer is the founder of YinzR Readin and recently published her first book, What Happens on Sunday available on Kindle and at Smashwords. She is also a fellow Steelers fan and competition in one of my fantasy football leagues. Laurie was kind enough to answer some questions about her new book. Enjoy!

Sean: Let's start with the standard question. Tell us about What Happens on Sunday. (Yes, I realize that this technically is not a question.)

Laurie: What Happens on Sunday chronicles the lives and relationships of six women - Patty is a divorced mother of two who sends panties to a player each week, Angela is a high school senior who hates the Steelers and wants to get away from Pittsburgh, Megan is partying too hard and upset that her closest friend is ditching her for a boy, Shannon is in love with her sister’s boyfriend, Jen is pregnant and feeling unsure about her marriage and Desiree is a stepmom whose worried that it might be too late to have kids of her own. The book follows each of their journeys through the season and how some of them intersect.

Sean: Without reading the book yet, What Happens On Sunday seems to feature six women during the Super Bowl XL season. Why did you pick that season rather than any other season such as the most-recent Steelers' Super Bowl season?

Laurie: The A answer is that I started writing this book in 2006 so that was the obvious choice! As a Steelers fan, you probably remember the infamous guy who suffered a heart attack during Bettis’s fumble during the Colts play-off game, right? Well, that guy was my friend’s uncle and after that happened it really got me thinking about the different experiences that fans have during the season. I was in the MFA program at Pitt then so I used some of those ideas for a short story, Any Given Monday, based on three of the book’s characters (Patty, Angela and Desiree). Around the same time one of my writing professors, Cathy Day, was writing a memoir built around the 2006 Indianapolis Colts season and she gave me the idea of using the entire season instead of just writing character-based short stories which was what I was doing.

As luck would have it, the 2005 season was really interesting from a narrative perspective – coming off a 15-1 season and that heartbreaking loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game the year before, there was a definite expectation that the Steelers were going to do really well. And although they started out doing just that, the team was plagued with injuries and key players like Roethlisberger and Bettis were out for weeks at a time. Then, they suffered a late season slump, losing to 3 other AFC teams in a row and literally had to win the next four games to even get a shot at the wild card. And as you well know, they went from sixth seed to winning the Super Bowl. Now if that isn’t an exciting season then I don’t know what it is!

Sean: Do you see yourself or some of your personality/traits in any of the six woman featured in the book?

Laurie: I feel like this isn’t the professional writer answer to give, but for me part of the reason that I write is to try to make some sense of the world around me and maybe to give a voice to those things that I’ve felt that maybe I don’t like to talk about – so yeah, have I ever felt lonely and alienated like Patty, Shannon or Angela? Yes. Have I ever felt like I’m being left behind by friends like Megan does? Definitely. But would I handle any of those emotions by sending my panties to football players (Patty) or falling for my sister’s boyfriend (Shannon) or partying so hard my safety was in jeopardy (Megan)? No, but it’s very therapeutic to experience those things through the safety of my characters.

Sean: As someone who dreams about writing a book someday, how long did it take you to write What Happens on Sunday?

Laurie: It took about six years total. The first two years I was writing short stories based on the characters and once I got the structure and really started the novel in earnest it took me about a year to get my first draft and then about three years of editing and revising. That being said, I was working full-time and going through a lot of life transitions at that point so there were a lot of periods when I wasn’t working on it at all just because life was so crazy. Having already published the short stories on the characters really helped me though because a lot of people who had read those would occasionally contact me to find out what had happened to the characters and that was pretty motivating for me to actually finish the book. If you’re thinking about writing a book, all I can say is never give up!

(Sean's note: 6 years! I don't think I'm ever going to write a book.)

Sean: You're a Pittsburgher (woo hoo!) and the book seems geared to a Pittsburgh audience. Do you think the book could appeal to a wider audience or will non-Pittsburghers get lost trying to figure out what Yinz means?

Laurie: I definitely wrote this book with Pittsburghers in mind and obviously that’s kind of a risky thing to do as far as book sales go but it was also really liberating to feel like I really knew my audience. Pittsburgh’s such a special place and many of my initial readers have said that I really captured its essence and to me that feels like one of the highest compliments I could ever hope to get. That being said, even though the setting the narrative frame of the Steelers season is extremely specific, the themes of this book—love and family and friendship—are pretty universal so I feel like at the end of the day if I’ve really done my job at creating an authentic Pittsburgh experience, then other people would be able to read it and enjoy it too. They just might not get all of the Easter eggs I left for the Pittsburgh reader.

Sean: Any predictions for the 2012 Steelers season?

Laurie: Well, I’m pretty sure they’re going to win some and lose some. How’s that for a non-answer? I’m really not one for predictions, especially in a year like this when we’ve had so many changes during the off-season. But what I will say is that I definitely don’t agree with this analysis that the Steelers are going to experience to a huge drop-off this year.

Sean: Since we may be in a fantasy football league this season, do you want to share any potential sleepers?

Laurie: No, but only because I’ve been so busy this month I haven’t really had much time to even think about it but when I did an automated mock draft 5 out 6 analysts said my team would be number 1 overall. So as long as the rest of the league thinks like computers, I’m set!

Please make sure to check out What Happens on Sunday as well as Laurie's blog!

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