Kid Reporters

A Chat with Mike Lupica

The writer talks to TFK Kid Reporter Max Siegel about the new book, QB 1

October 02, 2013
COURTESY SIEGEL FAMILY

TFK Kid Reporter Max Siegel meets with author Mike Lupica.

In Mike Lupica’s latest book, QB 1, Jake Cullen’s life as a high school quarterback is far from easy. Not only does he have to try to impress the people of his football-obsessed town, but he also has to escape the shadow of his dad and older brother, both football legends. Lupica recently sat down with TFK Kid Reporter Max Siegel to talk about the new book.

TFK:

I heard that this book was inspired by the real-life Manning family. What made you want to write this story?

MIKE LUPICA:

I wanted to take the Manning brothers and sort of filter it through my own imagination. As a father of three sons and one daughter, I’m always fascinated how all of your children want to be your favorite. My kids used to joke with me and say, “Dad, you can tell me, I’m your favorite.” Jake in this book has accepted that his brother is his father’s favorite. And as much as he wants to be a great football player, he also just wants his father to love him the way he loves his older brother. That’s as much of the journey in the book as his becoming a really good football player.

TFK:

Why did you chose to make Jake the main character instead of his father or his brother, Wyatt?

LUPICA:

I was always more interested in Eli Manning's journey. Usually, if you're an athlete and there's a star athlete in your family, you only have to get out of that guy’s shadow. But because Jake's father had also been a quarterback, he has to get out of two shadows in this book. There's no sibling rivalry here. The brothers love each other. That’s not the problem here. The problem is getting the father to take a good look at Jake.

TFK:

What is it that you love about writing about sports?

LUPICA:

A friend of mine who used to be my boss at ESPN once was asked why sports had exploded the way it had. He said, “Because you can’t go to Blockbuster and rent tonight’s game.” Every night is different in sports. Everyday there are different heroes and villains and conversations after the game.

TFK:

You first wrote about sports for newspapers and magazines. Then you started writing sports-themed novels. Is the writing process at all similar?

LUPICA:

Kid Reporter
Max Siegel

My job as a columnist absolutely prepared me for being a novelist because good columns have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They tell a story. They have dialogue. So, they are just like little mini books. I learned a ton from being a sports columnist. You’ve got to get somebody's interest and hold their interest because there’s only one ball game for any writer, and it’s to keep you turning the pages. That’s the whole ball game. That’s what I have to do.

TFK:

Why did you decide to write books for kids?

LUPICA:

My middle son got cut from a seventh grade basketball team for being too small. A friend of mine said, “You know, you should take all the kids who got cut and make a team of your own and face the other team in town.” Well, I didn’t care about the other team in town, so I took all the kids who got cut, and I started a team of my own. I hired a coach and scheduled games. They were terrible at first, but then they got better. That became one of the greatest experiences I ever had. When it was finished, my agent suggested I write a novel about it. And so I wrote this book called Travel Team, and it changed my life. I’ve probably written at least 16 or 17 of these books in the last nine years.

TFK:

What process do you go through to create a sports novel like this?

LUPICA:

I come up with a basic idea, even though things never go according to plan. Then I do what I’ve been doing my whole book-writing life. I have these tablets of blank yellow pages, and I write 10 or 15 pages longhand, because I think better longhand. Then I type them up. When I do type them up, it’s like a second draft.

TFK:

Has it always been your dream to write about sports?

LUPICA:

By the time I was 11, I was writing stories. I was writing adventure stories. I always wanted to share my stories. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. The thing about my stories is that I’m writing the kind of book I wanted to read when I was a boy. It just took me a while to figure out these were the kind of books I was supposed to be writing

TFK:

What advice could you give to kids who aspire to be authors just like you?

LUPICA:

Read. You don’t have to read me. But just read. Read the best people. Everybody's trying to do the same thing, which is keep you turning pages. Everyone does it a different way. But we all want you to understand [our books]. When I was a boy, there was no Internet, no ESPN, no texting, so my entertainment was books. And even with the distractions I just described, kids are still reading books. But the greatest magic still is page one, chapter one of a book you want to read. Because once you open that book, it’s like you’re opening a door, not only to your imagination, but to my imagination as well. And again, that’s the whole ball game.


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