What inspired you to write the A PENDALE TALE series?
Over my lifetime, a variety of inspirations played different parts. I wrote my first-ever book at ten years old, and it was a pretty nauseating riff on a misfit sports team. I won’t get into the details, but looking back on that brings a grin to my face.
In truth, I’ve been a fantasy and sci-fi fan since I could walk. Whether it was “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy or “Star Wars,” I gobbled that kind of material up and wanted more. Since that time, my desire to create a much bigger universe – a place where reality and dreams meet – was always in the back of my mind.
The creative process for this series started in the later 90’s, after I completed my degree at UMass. I had already been a sports writer for a few years and moved into the media and public relations field. Soccer (specifically, the women’s side) became my focus. The college players I worked with recommended the “Harry Potter” series and it awoke my imagination. It was at that time when I began to conceive this Young Adult fantasy series.
From the first outline, I wanted to include a girl’s soccer player as the heroine. So many players I covered as a reporter and worked with as an assistant coach inspired me. One of them unfortunately passed away in a car crash after her freshman year, before she could become the star she was destined to be. I wanted her amazing life spirit to remain forever young. In this series, which character serves as her inspiration will be up to the reader to decide!
Over the years, outlines were brought back to life in fits and bursts, but nothing more than a few chapters were ever written. In 2017, I ruminated on those projects in my life that had been put on the back burner. This series was at the top of the list. It was finally the right time to write it and the words have been flowing ever since!
You’ve mentioned that you’re a lifelong fantasy and sci-fi fan. But what made you such a big fan of soccer?
I played soccer for a few years in my early teen years. The kicker from the New England Patriots had soccer camps in my local area which got a lot of attention. But baseball and hockey really took up my time, so the sport never stuck with me.
When I got to UMass in the early 90s, however, I truly fell in love with the sport. I went on a year-long exchange to the University of Manchester in England and was quickly indoctrinated into fandom. My first night there, I stumbled into a wedding reception at the airport hotel and got into a lively conversation with a group of guys over a few pints.
To fully experience English culture, they insisted I pick a soccer club to support. And to do it there and then, right on the spot. Pick a club and then support them to the day I died. Five guys who supported five different clubs gave me their pitch on why I should become a fan of their team.
At the end of the discussion, I chose Manchester United and haven’t regretted the decision. My first game at Old Trafford – and seeing United legend Eric Cantona take the pitch to the fevered chants of the fans – will forever be ingrained in my mind.
What were your biggest obstacles you encountered in trying to write the first book in this series?
Time and energy. After I began my first outline of “Wild As The Wind,” I contracted Lyme Disease. Twenty-plus years ago, this insidious disease was much more mysterious. Thankfully, awareness and treatment of it is much more precise today.
It took me years to get a grip on how to deal with the major changes it made to my body. Eastern medicine came to the rescue but by that juncture, the Lyme had progressed into a chronic condition. It severely affected my neurological and digestive capabilities and my energy bottomed out as a result.
While all this was happening, I also needed to pay the bills! I was forced to make an arduous balance between rest and work. For many years, the energy for any side project was simply not there. Years of acupuncture and supplementation combined with meeting the love of my life kicked my inspiration and work rate back into high gear.
Through the help of some patrons, I was able to make the balance between work and writing happen. And… here we are!
What makes Western Massachusetts such a good setting for your series?
I fell in love with the area when I came to college. I was raised in the central part of Massachusetts and while I cherish the people and places I grew up with, this region feels like home. It is home.
The topography and landscape appeals very much to my Finnish heritage. Against traditional conception, the Finns are very social creatures. They get naked in public saunas with total strangers, for Pete’s sake. Yet they enjoy their alone time even more. And it isn’t too hard to write about the place that you love!
Western Massachusetts and the Berkshires also have a great combination of nature and civilization, education and mystery. Its multicultural to the core with the Five Colleges, as well as the many other fine universities. Throw in all of the world-famous art museums and you have an intoxicating mix of varying perceptions on life as a whole. Did I mention the great farm-fresh food?
When you drive around the hill towns, there are these little nooks and crannies that tweak the creative mind. Does anyone live down that narrow, tree-covered trail? What did I just see scamper through that open field? In the darkness of the forest, I can see the light in its eyes staring back at me. Can anyone (or anything, for that matter) break through the thick barrier of woods in that valley over there?
There were stories I heard in my younger days about hidden communes in the rolling hills. They even did an X-File episode about one of them. It wasn’t a very good one, by the way, which was odd for the first season. All of these factors serve as compelling background material, if you ask me!
A few of my favorite quotes…
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.Walt Disney
It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.J. K. Rowling
These are the days that must happen to you.Walt Whitman