Inkpop Blog

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Boys Eye View: Inside the Mind of Gordon Korman

Posted by cat eyes & skinny jeans on December 29, 2010

Author Gordon Korman was born to write, as evident by the more than sixty novels he has penned over the course of his lifetime – including the bestselling No More Dead Dogs, The Juvie Three, Son of the Mob, and, most recently Pop. But while many books on the market nowadays feature male protagonists, Korman’s novels go a little deeper – actually focusing on issues that plague the male species. Join us today – Wednesday, December 29th at 5 p.m. EST – on the inkpop forums to speak with author Gordon Korman about his experience in tackling tough guy issues – and what it takes to write them yourself!

While most topics in young adult literature seem to center on day to day life or a paranormal life, what made you decide to write a book that focuses on football?

I’m a big sports fan, but I’ve always felt there’s something special about football in particular. It just seems larger somehow. Yes, it’s an athletic contest, but it’s also a chess match between coaches, a territory war, and a gladiatorial competition. Also, since football is a once-a-week thing, each game seems rarer and more meaningful.

Football occupies a unique place in the culture of a high school. The team belongs to the larger community as much as to the school itself – especially in smaller towns. Locals with no ties to the student body can still be fans. And the players enjoy a status unmatched by athletes in other sports. A basketball star is just some guy who can put a ball through a hoop. But a varsity quarterback is almost royalty, even off season.

What’s interesting is that I wasn’t an athlete at all in high school, so my personal perspective has always been that of somebody on the outside looking in. I didn’t even grow up in football country – I’m Canadian originally, so hockey was the big thing when I was a kid. That might be why the football culture fascinates me so much.

Sports are an incredibly visual medium. What does it take to translate a sport like football into a narrative?

Because sports fans are not always the most literary people in the world, great sports writing doesn’t usually get the credit it deserves. I think it’s amazing how some writers have the ability to take a game that’s basically identical to tens of thousands that have come before, and frame it in such a way as to create heroes, villains, and drama that often borders on transcendent.

Re: description – this may seem a little cheesy, but I believe it – we’re used to instant replay from TV. So rather than envision sports scenes unfolding in real time, it’s natural to “see” them in slow motion. That makes it easy to break down a split-second burst of play into a detailed sequence of actions and reactions. When I wrote the football scenes in POP, I imagined them all in slo-mo.

Alzheimer’s is also a topic not often addressed in young adult novels. What made you take on this topic? How do you feel teens will relate to this subject?

The football connection was already there. CTE, the condition afflicting athletes who have suffered repeated concussions and head trauma during their playing careers, is identical to Alzheimer’s Disease. It struck a personal chord with me, because, in the nineties, I watched my grandmother’s deterioration from Alzheimer’s.

It affected her oddly at first. She mixed up generations. She thought I was her brother, even though I was 19 and she was over 80. She did this with everybody. She had the relation essentially correct – but it was almost as if she had become unstuck in time. That’s what gave me the idea for POP: What if an NFL veteran, suffering from head-trauma-induced Alzheimer’s, begins to confuse a teenage quarterback with his old high school football buddy?

Will teens relate to this? Just open a newspaper. This current NFL season, the league has been changing the rules governing legal contact practically every week, as the latest research continues to pour in. It’s the hottest topic in sports.

Want to ask Gordon a question yourself? Join us for our live chat with Gordon Korman today – Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 – at 5 p.m. EST on the inkpop forums.

Erika (aka inkpoperika)

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