Welcome to another edition of Sports Sunday! Today we have an interview with author Kate McMurray. I’ve read quite a few of her baseball books, and I am thrilled to have her here to talk to us about baseball and her writing!
Do you have a usual setup where you write? Any rituals that get you “in the zone?”
Sort of? I live in a, let’s say, “cosy” New York apartment. I have a desk set up in the corner of my living room, but lately, it’s mostly a thing on which I keep books. (I have so many books.) So I often write while sitting on my couch, or in cafes. I don’t really have any rituals; I think about my story ideas a lot when I’m not writing, so it’s pretty easy to slip right into it.
What are your favorite places to set your books? What inspires you?
I’ve lived in New York City for fifteen years, and it is my favorite place and a great place to set stories. It gives me a lot of room to tell stories, too; New York is a huge city with varied neighborhoods and a long history. Lots to work with there.
Let’s get more into the sports side of things. What is it about baseball that inspires you to write about it?
I became a baseball fan when I was 12, when my dad brought me to my first major league game. I just like baseball; I like the history of it, the weird statistics, the rivalries. The game is easy to follow and it’s not violent. Sitting in a big stadium with friends or family, with beer and a hot dog, watching a game, is a tremendous amount of fun.
Some “lightning round” questions: What’s your favorite part of the game?
I love stats. This is silly, but seriously, one of my favorite things is when the sportscasters have to fill time between lulls in the game and they start giving really arcane, meaningless statistics, like, “This is only the second time this year a batter from the visiting team has scored a run from a walk-off home run…” or whatever. Nobody cares, but I’m weirdly happy people actually keep track of this stuff. And the baseball blogs are really something else; they track every pitch, every player movement, every tiny part of every game. It’s fascinating!
Favorite baseball team?
Of all time? Probably Derek Jeter, although I find some of the old Yankees (Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio) really interesting in their own right. I really like some of the younger guys on the Yankees now, too; Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez can sure hit home runs.
Last game you attended in person?
Baltimore at Yankee Stadium this June.
You’ve written quite a few baseball related romances. What inspired you to start writing these and how are these different to write than your other books?
A number of years ago, I picked up a few sports romances and was surprised by the fact that they contained very little sports. As a sports fan generally, I wanted to read about the sports themselves in addition to the romance. So I decided I should write a sports romance that was really steeped in the sport. That’s what Out in the Field grew out of. And I was really obsessive when I wrote that; I had baseball on my TV almost constantly, I listened to baseball podcasts, I did a ton of research on the game. I really wanted the book to feel like an authentic part of that world.
Here’s how the Rainbow League books came about: at my first RWA national conference in 2013, I went to a workshop on how to plan and write a series, and I walked out of it thinking, “I really want to write a series now.” I ran into Damon Suede in the hotel bar right then, and I told him I wanted to write a series but wasn’t sure what it should be about. And he just said, “Baseball. It has to be about baseball. You’re the baseball girl.” When I protested that I found it unlikely that enough gay men would be on a baseball team to populate a whole series, Damon said, “Who said they had to be professional?” So I went home and started planning out a series about an amateur baseball league. Around the same time, there was an article in the LA Times about LGBT sports leagues being the new hot way for gay guys to meet each other, and the Rainbow League was born.
I don’t know that I approach baseball any different than anything else. I really love research, and I like books with really vivid settings, so I take that approach with everything, if I’m writing about baseball players or opera singers or historical figures.
“A number of years ago, I picked up a few sports romances and was surprised by the fact that they contained very little sports.” I had the same exact frustration. No shade to these books but I really prefer more sports heavy romances. Your research and “ER” approach really pays off.
Have you gotten good feedback from Non-Sports people about your sports books?
I have! I’ve seen quite a few reviews of Out in the Field from people who were like, “I don’t know anything about baseball, but I loved this book!” which is awesome. I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do. (I’ve also gotten emails from readers who are baseball superfans who called out my little factual errors. I tried to fix these when Dreamspinner reissued the Out in the Field, though!)
A question I like to ask our sports authors: How do you balance writing detailed sports scenes when you know some of your readers won’t know much or be interested in baseball?
I always think about the 90s TV show ER. The whole gimmick with that show is that it was heavy on medical jargon, and it was aware that most of its viewers wouldn’t know what the words meant, but that didn’t mean the show wasn’t still compelling. I thought about what I, as a sports fan, would want to see, but also made sure that the romance itself was still an important part of the story. I viewed baseball as a setting, the same way New York City or a firehouse or the rock music scene would be a setting, and I figured, if you do understand all the baseball jargon, awesome. If you don’t, there’s still a good story here.
Are you working on any more baseball romances? Any other upcoming projects you want to let our readers know about?
I’ve been playing with the idea of writing another Rainbow League book, but that’s still a ways off. I’m sure I will always return to baseball. I am working on a series set at the Olympics, so that’s next in my sports romance world.
I’m working on a bunch of things all at once right now. I just finished a romantic suspense/murder mystery (a dead body turns up in the apartment of a conservative senate candidate, so he hires the best lawyer in town… who happens to be his ex-boyfriend). I’m also currently working on another historical set in the same universe as Ten Days in August and a new contemporary about a fashion designer.
What’s a question you don’t get asked but want to answer?
Hmm. Well, I will say, I appreciate this interview because it will probably be a little while before I have a new book out. (I moved last year and didn’t write for a few months, and that hole in the schedule is catching up with me now.) But I do have many things in the works that will hopefully be coming your way in 2018!
We are SUPER happy to have you interview with us during your “down time.” Your murder mystery romance sounds exciting! I can’t wait to see what else you come up with for us (especially that Olympics Series!).
It’s a ways in the distance. My agent is working her magic still, so I don’t have pub dates for anything yet.
One last question before I let you go… Any sports book recommendations (romance or otherwise) for our readers??
I will be honest that I don’t read a ton of sports romance (I know too much about baseball, so I get really distracted when authors get the facts wrong.) I loved Amy Lane’s The Locker Room, though. On the nonfiction front, if you like statistics, Moneyball is a must read (I like the movie, too, although it has too much Brad Pitt staring plaintively into the distance and not enough baseball, IMHO). The late Stephen Jay Gould wrote a memoir about his life as a baseball fan called Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville that I like. And one non-baseball rec: Dvora Meyers’ book The End of the Perfect Ten is about scoring in gymnastics, which probably seems obscure, but the book is fascinating! Highly recommended.
I’m going to second your recommendation for Moneyball. The book was a fascinating look into sabermetrics (stats for our non-sports people).
Hee, I could talk about sabermetrics all day. My personal opinion is that the truth is somewhere between statistics and less rational factors, but there’s a minor league team out in California that took an all-sabermetrics approach to drafting and wound up with openly LGBT players and a couple of women, even. (Basically, they made a computer program that picked players for them based entirely on their stats. It’s an independent team not affiliated with any MLB franchises, so they have some room to do what they want.) I really want to write a book based on that team someday! (The guys who ran team operations that year wrote a book called The Only Rule Is It Has To Work, which I haven’t read yet but is on my TBR list.)
Thank you so much for talking with us today!
Kate McMurray writes smart romantic fiction. She likes creating stories that are brainy, funny, and of course sexy, with regular guy characters and urban sensibilities. She advocates for romance stories by and for everyone. When she’s not writing, she edits textbooks, watches baseball, plays violin, crafts things out of yarn, and wears a lot of cute dresses. She’s active in Romance Writers of America, serving for two years on the board of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter, and three—including two as president—on the board of the New York City chapter. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with two cats and too many books.