Celebrate March Madness with Mike Pemberton (Book Giveaway!)
March 29, 2012 in Book Club Possibility, Helping Girls and Women Around the World, High School Teachers, Journal Writing, Pemberton Mike, Young Adult Novels Tags: Book giveaway, sports novel, young adult novel for boys
Congratulations to dollsstory for winning The Smiley Book of Colors in last week’s giveaway. I am excited to host another author and book giveaway today–it’s a “basketball” book in honor of March Madness (Anyone still have a good bracket?). The book is called Transcendental Basketball Blues, the author is Mike Pemberton, and it is YA/crossover historical fiction, although it’s set in the 1970s (so it’s not that far back in history!). Mike has given me a copy to giveaway, so please leave a comment below by Sunday night, April 1 for your chance to win. I’m also doing a little different post this time because I was also lucky enough to interview Mike for my Sunday Books column in The News-Gazette, (Champaign/Urbana, IL newspaper), and I am posting the feature article here. This way you get to know Mike and his book a little better. . .
When Mike Pemberton, author of Transcendental Basketball Blues and Hoopeston, IL resident, was cleaning out his garage ten years ago, he found some old creative writing notebooks and newspaper articles from when he was a sportswriter. He told his wife, “I’d forgotten I wanted to be a writer.”
But unlike many people who have the same forgotten dream, Pemberton did something about it. He decided to pursue a master’s degree in English from Illinois State University and started writing short stories, which were soon published.
While pursuing his master’s degree, completed in May 2011, he came up with the idea for his first novel, Transcendental Basketball Blues. A young adult novelist, Chris Crutcher, inspired him with his book, Whale Talk. In it, Crutcher used sports to “framework” more serious teen issues, such as child abuse, racism, and bullying.
In graduate school, Pemberton also learned about nineteenth century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, and his beliefs on transcendence. Pemberton meshed sports and philosophy together to create his basketball story.
“In the novel, athletic and musical moments of transcendence serve as common ground for the basketball playing Jack and [his mother] Mary Lou, a classically trained musician, and help them navigate through the wreckage left in the wake of her manic episodes,” he explained.
The story is set in the 1970s and focuses on main character, Jack Henderson, a “star basketball player.” Everyone thinks he has it all; but when he starts high school, his mother disappears and is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. She is often escaping her life when she doesn’t take her medication. The book jacket states, “By Jack’s senior year, love of music and basketball intertwine as mother and son seek solace within the transcendent moments yielded by their twin passions.” These would be music and basketball, respectively.
Pemberton decided to self-publish his novel after receiving rejections on the manuscript from agents and publishers. However, he also received positive feedback, but they ultimately said the time period was not working for them. They were worried about how to market and sell the book.
Then he read an article in the Wall Street Journal about some authors having a lot of success with self-publishing. He decided to stop the query process at that time, paid for a copy editor, cut ten thousand words, and rearranged some chapters. He went through Create Space to publish his book, which is now available for sale through Amazon, Barnes and Noble.com, and Google Books.
To write this novel, Pemberton had to research mental illness, basketball, and the 1970s. He grew up in a family where schizophrenia was present, and he played basketball as a kid. But he still had to discover treatment methods and prescribed drugs for that mental condition. Coach Collins in the novel is based on John Wooden, and some of the basketball plays and strategy are from Bobby Knight and Nolan Richardson.
He researched a lot of Top 40 hits from the 1970s because he stated that this was the “heyday of AM rock radio.” He said, “I tried to apply appropriate chapter titles based on the songs of the era. I purposely kept the chapters relatively short to mimic the three-minute airplay of Top 40 radio.” Examples of recognizable songs that are also chapter titles are “Hotel California,” “Dream Weaver” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
He also stated that his novel explores the themes of “finding one’s passions, the ability to laugh in the face of despair, the strength of family, love and forgiveness.” He hopes readers walk away from his novel realizing that “we must also strive to be more forgiving and gentler with one another.”
As part of his marketing, Pemberton sent books to basketball coaches. JD Gravina, head coach of women’s basketball at Western Illinois University, plans to use it as a textbook for his coaching basketball class he teaches. “I really love the style of this book. . .This is a book I will suggest my players read over the summer. . .”
Pemberton is also a State Farm agent in Hoopeston, where he lives with his wife, and his children are off to college. He also has a blog and website, which can be found at www.mikepembertonbooks.com. When he is not “forever looking forward to next year” as a season ticket holder for Illini football, he is working on his next writing project, which includes “a first person ‘autobiography’ of a fictional ‘white trash’ boxer who grew up in Southern Illinois.”
“I am grateful for the ability and the opportunity to express myself through writing,” he said. “My return to writing has opened up a world of thought that I might not otherwise ever explored.”
I want to thank, Mike, for that insight into his writing world. For anyone who is a high school teacher, you could easily use this book to start conversations about any of the themes mentioned above or do different journal writings on the themes. You could also do a compare and contrast of life now as opposed to life in the 1970s. Could this story happen in 2012? Why or why not?
Here’s the book on Amazon, and don’t forget to leave a comment or question for a chance to win!