This interview was done a while ago in preparation for Sports Sunday and I am super excited to finally share it with you all. Avon Gale is the author of the Scoring Chances series, which follow young hockey players and their coaches as they find love and family on and off the rink!
Avon was kind enough to grant me an interview about her latest work, Empty Net, so please join me in giving Avon a wonderful welcome to Just Love. And don’t forget to check out the exciting giveaway at the bottom of the post!
Empty Net by Avon Gale
Series: Scoring Chances, Book #4
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: September 2, 2016
(You can find more about the book following the interview!)
DMac: How do you balance writing detailed sports scenes with the knowledge that some of your readers may be unfamiliar with hockey?
Avon: I try to think about what you’d notice if you were watching a game despite not being a fan – flashy saves, fights, things that are obviously entertaining even if you’re not into the specifics. I also do try and put some specifics, if only for people who are legit fans. This sometimes comes back to bite me, though, as I had neglected to address a rule change in the 2013 season that impacted a pivotal scene in Breakaway (which I actually wrote in 2012). Several hockey fans caught that one (covering the puck is a penalty now, instead of an offensive zone faceoff, which is how I initially wrote it), which is kind of why hockey fans are awesome. I love how dedicated we are!
I’ve also had the experience of explaining hockey to people while watching it, and it’s pretty clear to me what the things are you need to know to enjoy the game at a basic level, so I try to incorporate that into the story and the descriptions as well. I like specifics and statistics as much as the next fan, but what I love is the breathlessness of it, the fast pace and the rapid momentum switches. That’s sort of what I want to convey in the narratives of the games I write.
DMac: Your bio says that you are a southerner, so how did you get into hockey?
Avon: My husband took me to my first hockey game, when we were young’uns dating back when we were in college. He grew up outside of St. Louis and has been a Blues fan his whole life. When we were there, I asked him what happened if the ice broke and the players “fell in”. He looked at me and said, “You think there’s a swimming pool under there, don’t you?” Yes, yes I did. I’d never even been ice skating until I was 19, so this was all a new thing to me. I really enjoyed it, though, as the quick pace appealed to me.
But it really wasn’t until my Canadian bestie got me hooked that I started watching it religiously. I grew up in a family that takes sports seriously (they’re all Kentucky Wildcat basketball fans, which is like a religion in Kentucky) and I came by my over-investment honestly, haha.
There’s something about hockey and the focus on the team that reminds me of college sports – where the players come and go so often you really are cheering for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. Not that I don’t have my favorite players (and not that you’ll hear me weeping from Missouri if the Bruins trade David Krejci) but that aspect of the game really appeals to me, and it’s another reason I like writing hockey romance so much.
DMac: What is your favorite position in hockey to watch? Is it different than your favorite one to write?
Avon: My favorite position to watch is probably goalie, but I also do love playmaking forwards (like David Krejci). They set up plays (or try to – sorry we didn’t give you much to work with, Krejci) and there’s this really sexy intelligence behind it. Or at least, if the rest of your team isn’t a bunch of failbots like the Boston Bruins have been lately. Anyway. But I have a huge soft spot for fourth line grinders, players who are enforcers or agitators, who don’t get all the goal-scoring glory. I might be the only person in the world who owns a Scott Nichol jersey. He was this guy in his early forties who played for the Blues a few years ago, and he’s since retired. He was shorter than most hockey guys, and played on the fourth line and was just tough and no-nonsense. I also have a Shawn Thornton Bruins jersey, and he was an enforcer on the Bruins. I cried a little when they traded him, I won’t lie.
When it comes to writing, it’s definitely goalies. I love goalies because there’s something fascinating to me about the idea that they’re part of the team and yet so separate from it – they spend a lot of time watching, anticipating, reading body language. They really do seem to have a fantastic brotherhood with each other, since they don’t come into direct contact with one another on the ice (I guess unless you’re Patrick Roy?). And they’re usually weird, which is immediately endearing to me.
DMac: Do you find that a lot of non-sports people are enjoying your work?
Avon: I do get a lot of nice feedback from readers who aren’t sports fans, which I find to be a wonderful compliment! Especially when people start watching hockey because they’ve enjoyed my books – I can’t even express how awesome that is! I’m so enthusiastic about the game and I’m thrilled when that comes across and interests people. Also, I appreciate that the non-sports people enjoy the books because it means I’m doing a good job getting the story across. Part of what I love about sports, honestly, is the narrative of it – take the whole thing with John Scott in the All Star Game this year for the NHL. Nominated as kind of a joke, the NHL wanted to disallow him from participating because of this idea he was nothing but an aging, outdated “goon” player.
Well, here John Scott gets other NHL players and fans behind him, writes this amazing article for the Players Tribune, and suddenly he’s not only on the All Star Team – he’s a Captain. Then he scores two goals, and gets named MVP. I wept oceans of tears during this entire thing, because it was so wonderful. It felt like I was watching Jared Shore’s story come to life, in fact, but better because it was real! That kind of narrative is what I love – the passion, the zeal, the enthusiasm, the idea that beneath the rivalries and factions and whatever else, we’re all fans and players and a community. I think that’s something that can translate beyond the mechanics of the sport itself, and that’s what I try to bring to the stories I write. I love when readers connect to that despite not sharing my sports obsession.
DMac: Do you like any other sports? If so do you think you’ll ever write about that in your work?
Avon: I love all sports, really – I grew up watching college basketball, college football, and baseball so I’m still a fan of all of those. I’d definitely like to write a college basketball and/or football story someday!
I’m working on a story right now about a ballerina who falls for a professional women’s hockey player, which is a lot of fun. I think the world definitely needs more f/f sports romance!
DMac: What prompted you to write a demisexual character? How do you feel about the growing presence of asexual characters in M/M romances?
Avon: I’m thrilled about the growing presence of asexual characters in M/M. I’m very outspoken about wanting to write positive, affirming and joyful narratives for bisexual characters since I myself am bisexual, and I know how much I love reading about someone who has similar experiences to my own. I think everyone should have happy narratives, basically.
With Laurent, I knew that he was conflicted about his sexuality for a variety of reasons and I didn’t want to imply that his being demi was in any way because of his father’s abuse. The abuse made it harder for Laurent to examine and explore his sexuality, certainly, but I wanted to make sure that his sexuality wasn’t equated with negative experiences, even if it was influenced, to an extent, by those experiences. When he finds himself drawn to Isaac, it’s one of the first times in his life he’s had a legitimate connection with someone – and consequently, the first time he’s ever felt attraction to another person. I imagine that this is very confusing even without the baggage Laurent is carrying around, which is why Laurent goes through a lot of soul-searching to work out exactly what his sexuality is, now that he’s safe enough to do so. I was happy he was able to come to the realization and find a label that worked for him, because a lot of Laurent’s story involves him learning who he really is beneath the defense mechanisms he so understandably crafted to survive. I know that labels aren’t always helpful and some people don’t like them, but in my own experience they can be pretty powerful and help you realize you’re not alone. I think finding that label was an important part of Laurent’s character arc.
My first book, Let the Wrong Light In (which isn’t a sports romance, though the MCs are hockey fans because I’m obsessed), one of the MCs, Malin, is demi. His POV isn’t included in the story and he probably would be the person who didn’t need that label, since his struggle was less accepting he was attracted to man and more the idea of being emotionally invested in anyone again, regardless of gender.
DMac: What type of characters are your favorites to write? (For example my favorite type to read are quiet ones with a spine).
Avon: I unapologetically love writing the extrovert/introvert trope, that’s for sure. I also love writing quirky characters of all kinds, and the strong, broody silent type is always a favorite. I love writing characters who appear to be very different, but who complement each other regardless. Basically I like writing people who become friends, is what it comes down to. And I love writing people who aren’t perfect finding friendship and happiness, because, well, that’s sort of everyone, isn’t it?
DMac: Do you have any more books planned for Scoring Chances?
Avon: I do! There are two more books planned for the series, and both will feature the Asheville Ravens. I don’t want to spoil anything from the fourth book, but at the end there’s a shake-up and the Ravens get a whole new staff. The fifth book, “Coach’s Challenge”, is finished – though I should clarify it’s a draft, and I’m about halfway through editing it to send to Dreamspinner for submission consideration. It’s a bit different in tone than the fourth one, but I had a blast writing it. The sixth book will be about Xavier Matthews, who you’ll see more of in book five as well.
I’m also co-writing a hockey series with Piper Vaughn, which has been so much fun. It’s set in the NHL instead of the minor leagues, and we’ve plotted out a trilogy so far with a few more ideas — the advantages of writing with another hockey fan, LOL!
DMac: One last question before I let you go… Any sports book recommendations (romance or otherwise) for our readers??
Avon: Sports Recommendations! I’m probably going to kick myself when I send this for forgetting a million of them, but here are a few off the top of my head:
- Winging It by Ashlyn Kane and Morgan James
- To Arizona by Meg Harding (OMG SHIFTER HOCKEY PLAYERS, the goalie is a red panda and !!!!)
- Two Man Advantage by V.L. Locey (and the other two books in the Point Shot series)
- Glasgow Lads series by Avery Cockburn
- Journeyman, by Sean Pronger (this book inspired me to write the Scoring Chances series, as it deals with a “journeyman” player moving from the NHL to the lower, minor leagues)
- Beyond the Crease by Martin Brodeur (this is great because Brodeur — a goalie — is so bitchy and hilarious about generally everything LOL)
- The Best of Down Goes Brown by Sean McIndoe (one of my favorite hockey writers and this book made me laugh until I cried)
D: Thank you again for your time!!
Avon: Thanks so much for having me! I love talking sports romance, anytime 😀
Check out my five star review of Empty Net here!
Spartanburg Spitfires’ goalie and captain Isaac Drake ended last season with an unexpected trip to the playoffs. He’s found a home and family with his coach and mentor, Misha Samarin, and he’s looking forward to making a serious run for the Kelly Cup. But things take an interesting turn when Isaac’s archnemesis, Laurent St. Savoy, is traded to the Spitfires. After Laurent’s despicable behavior in the playoffs last year, Isaac wants nothing to do with him – no matter how gorgeous he is. But that changes when Isaac discovers the reason for Laurent’s attitude.
Laurent St. Savoy grew up the only son of a legendary NHL goalie in a household rife with abuse, constantly treated like a disappointment on and off the ice. When a desperate attempt to escape his father’s tyranny sends him to the Spitfires, the last thing Laurent wants is to make friends. But there’s something about Isaac Drake that he can’t resist, and Laurent has an opportunity to explore his sexuality for the first time, but he’s cracking under end-of-the season pressures. When facing the playoffs and a rivalry turned personal vendetta, Isaac’s not sure he’s enough to hold Laurent—or their relationship—together.
Please be advised: This book does contain some non-graphic references to past childhood physical/emotional abuse as well as issues relating to ED (bulimia and restricted eating, disordered thoughts about eating).
You can purchase Empty Net from:
Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and she never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.
To find out more about Gale and her books head over to her website (click here!).
Maybe you’re a long-time fan of Avon’s work, or maybe you’re brand new to the Scoring Chances series… or to sports romance entirely! Either way, we have an awesome giveaway for you:
Click on the image below to enter for your chance to win a $10 gift certificate from Dreamspinner Press!
This giveaway is open worldwide to anyone 18 years or older. Contest ends on October 8 at 11:59pm EST.