Numbers Game follows a football coach who’s relationship with a reporter turns into something deep and changes the direction of both their lives. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
I love stories about athletes, having raised one of them and seen first hand how hard it is to truly achieve those sorts of goals. In fact, all three of my kids played sports of some kind or another in high school and I was always involved somehow — running the concession stand at football and soccer games, helping raise money as a booster, and of course driving to endless practices and attending games all over the U.S. that were necessary to get my youngest to her spot on a Division 1 Big Ten women’s soccer team. We lived in Ann Arbor at the time, and my kids’ school was located directly across the street from The Big House, where Michigan plays football. The town was utterly consumed by football on Saturdays in the fall and that sort of atmosphere was exhilarating to those of use who are sports fans (even if we weren’t Michigan fans per se, we did love living there on football weekends.) I got to meet both Harbaugh brothers (Jim is the Michigan coach) in 2016 when I helped run a fundraising auction and dinner for the high school’s athletic program that we invited them both to attend. It was a rush and meeting one of my favorite pro coaches (John, coach of the Ravens) was a highlight for me.
Desiree is an alum of the University of Michigan and we always made a point to meet up when she’d come to town from Florida to attend a game. I made sure to get her a signed commemorative football from our event and she keeps it on her inspiration shelf in her office. We’re both football fans, and we concocted our fictional Michigan football town with Ann Arbor in mind, without a doubt (even though I cheered for Michigan State …women’s soccer, anyway)!
Hatch and Olivia were intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind the development of their relationship?
We divided up the tasks of writing in their POVs. I wrote Hatch’s and Desiree wrote Olivia’s. It took us almost 2 years to complete this book since we started it as a romantic suspense but it kept turning in a more contemporary, second chances style story the more we wrote. We wanted our characters to both be older than the usual romance standards, both divorced, and having seen the puppet strings behind a marriage, somewhat disinclined to repeat that process. They are laser focused on the goals they’ve set for themselves: Hatch bringing his alma mater’s program back to prominence while leaving his gambling issues behind him. Olivia emerging from a bad marriage and re-capturing her mojo as a sports journalist. But one of the reasons I enjoy writing romance novels is the creation of characters on seemingly separate trajectories that end up colliding, and then what? It’s the “then what” that allows me to show them as people with real emotions, making mistakes, and ultimately recovering and finding happiness.
What was the writing collaboration like with author Desiree Holt?
It was a fun and learning experience. We’ve been published about the same amount of years, but Desires has a lot more books out than I do, as I’ve been working around days jobs while writing. What was amazing and satisfying to me was how well we meshed–keeping egos and pre-conceived notions about how the book should flow out of our equation.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on several things at the moment, but the next book I’m releasing is the final book in a best selling series (Stewart Realty) also set in Michigan. It’s the second generation’s turn to have their happily ever after, and so BACKUP OFFER is a book that is a “ten years later” look at a relationship that fell apart in book 8 — for good, self-care sorts of reasons — and how everything comes back full circle in a mature, gratifying way for the couple in question, as well as for their friend and family. I think “second chance” stories are among my favorite to read and write. My characters are (sometimes too) fallible. They make mistakes, do dumb, human things. But I always redeem them.
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Run Taylah Run follows a runner who must use her skills and tenacity to rescue her team from disaster while avoiding danger herself. What were some sources that informed this novel’s development?
After many years working in schools and officiating at athletics meets, I had the background to engage the characters in the competitive sections of the story. The story takes place in Queensland, Australia, and the vehicle accident takes place on the Atherton Tablelands of North Queensland which is a “local area” for me. By keeping the content and context local I believed I could add authenticity to the story.
Taylah is an inspirational and invigorating character. What were some ideas that were important to personify in her character?
The key attribute I wanted Taylah to show was humility. Individuals are good at different things and excelling in a field of endeavour should not take away the level approach one needs to navigate life. Because Taylah is the “best” does not distract from her ability to see good in, and encourage, others. With determination comes achievement. With achievement comes confidence. It is that confidence that guides Taylah in all she experiences in the story.
I enjoyed the authenticity of the story. What experience do you have with school sports?
As noted above, I have worked in schools for many years and officiated at many athletics meets. I have seen the high and the lows of students’ participation in interschool sports.
What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?
I hope readers will gain an insight into the everyday world of a group of high school students and a chance to relate to the characters. I also hope readers will gain a sense of perseverance when face with adversity whether you are young or old.
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Driven follows a young man who fights to achieve his dreams while trying to pull his dad out of his depression. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
I was asked to participate in the Legacy Series of teen sports novels by my publisher and gladly accepted. At that same time, my wife and I were on the phone with my stepson who had played high school sports, and I asked him to help me develop a theme. He had gone through what Gabe had to go through with the rich kids in school getting playing time over those who had played hard for their four years and felt thrust aside because of wealthy parents. The theme was established.
The depression arc with Gabe’s father was based on my depression and the struggle I encountered to even get up off of the couch some days. Even though I didn’t drink my way through it, the struggle is very hard. Whenever I get the opportunity to talk about it or help others through it, I do. The white fleece jacket that Gabe’s father wore was the same one I wore each and every day of my depression. It was my security blanket, keeping me mentally safe.
Gabe is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Every story has to have conflict and a hero to fight through it. Realizing what was going on in his town and that he was the only one who could help himself achieve his dreams, I wanted to use Gabe to bring focus to teenagers the concept that life isn’t handed to them, they have to go out and get it on their own through hard work and tenacity. In today’s world where so many young kids fall into that “me” mentality, I also wanted to stress the importance of family. No one is more important than family. And although I realize that not everyone has the same core family of mother and father, they still have parental role models. And, good or bad, we all need to be there for our families and friends.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
The fact that money can’t buy you everything, the importance of family and helping those in need, and the possibility that life can be lived and conflict can be resolved with “No Hate in the Heart”. Those were the main themes.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have written a series of mid-grade books called The Gazore Series, which is an older kid’s tribute to Dr. Seuss, and am currently working on turning that into a podcast with 9 episodes completed so far. My current sports book is a hockey book entitled Blindsided. The Gazore Series and Podcast are available now and Blindsided I hope to get finished soon. I am approximately two-thirds of the way through that.
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Driven by Will Hallwell is the first novel in The Legacy Series. Set in a small US town, the young adult novel uses sports to explore themes and life lessons. Hallewell’s descriptions of the small town are detailed. He describes the physical and geographical aspects of the town, such as the creek, and the quaintness of the village with vividness. Hallewell also describes the makeup of the population and the divide among the community. The setting of Falls Creek is integral to the story, and Hallewell sets the scene for the novel well.
The main character in Driven is Gabe “Honus” Wagner, a senior at Falls Creek High school. Gabe is a star baseball player, but feels he is being held back by the coach who appears to be favoring another student – whose father makes significant financial contributions to the school and other community ventures. This student – Nate Shaw also has a significant role in the novel. Both of these characters are well defined by their speech and actions, as well as physical descriptions, and because of this the characters feel real as well as authentic. Both of these characters are supported by a host of intriguing minor characters, that either side with Gabe or the Shaw’s. The characters are were grounded and I found that it was easy to differentiate between them.
Throughout the novel Gabe repeats the mantra “no hate in the heart”. It was given to him by his coach, and this mantra helps Gabe reflect on situations and ensure he doesn’t react in a hateful way. I thought that these were fantastic lessons for a teenager who encounters some difficult situations. I really appreciated that this young adult novel delivers some thoughtful ideas on morality; this sets it apart from other young adult novels out recently. The novel also delves into themes of depression and corruption; heavy issues but they are handled deftly. Hallewell broaches the theme of depression through Gabe’s father. Having recently lost his job, he slowly sinks into a pattern of drinking and sleeping and losing sight of his goals and his self-esteem. Driven shows the effect this has on both the person themselves, and other family members. The novel also delves into the age old question of money – can it truly make us happy? All of these ideas are explore in a thoughtful and engaging way, with family and sports as the backdrop.
Driven is easy to read and is consistently entertaining. I really enjoyed how Driven uses relatable characters to explore serious themes such as loyalty, depression, and the power of money are addressed. This is a novel that will teach you something while it’s entertaining you.
Pages: 91 | ASIN: B08KRKVG1M
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Reading a sports-themed inspirational novel is one of the best things about literature. You get to learn a lot about particular sports and your heart is filled with hope and aspirations at the same time. ‘The Backwards K’ is a great book simply because the author wrote it with enthusiasm and deep feelings. The book is nothing but entertaining, exciting, fun to read and educative. There is so much one can learn from Jet Brine’s life; everything from his struggles, achievements, goals, personal life, general work and contribution to the baseball community. Reading about Jet Brine’s love for baseball was a wonderful experience. I learned how passion and dedication can make you move mountains through his life. Each one of us wants to be a winner and achieve set goals at the end. Jet Brine made me clearly visualize this.
Jet Brine’s end game was to be the best at baseball. He loved slot machines too and enjoyed playing the games. I loved that about him because they made the story cheerful and happy. I loved reading Jet’s story up until things started falling apart. I must admit that I did not see the troubles in his marriage coming, as he seemed so much in love. Linda is among the characters I loved in the book. I had so much faith in her as she seemed to turn things around. She rarely disappointed and was incredible throughout. She was one of the engaging characters whom I could feel connected to. I loved how she reasoned and how she brought the best in everyone. I appreciate her because her encounter with Jet Brine made the plot interesting and fun to read.
The Backwards K is a fictional inspiration book which apart from being entertaining, offers lessons that can help the reader in real life. It is great when a work of fiction blends with the real world, making the reader relate better to the events and the characters in the book. There are some things that most of us did in the past and would love to forget or overcome them. Jet Briner struggled with such things and got to be in situations where he needed to forgive self to move forward. Through Jet Brine, one gets to see how imperfect humans are. You may excel in everything else but one thing comes between you and your success. I am glad the author helped me examine myself when he wrote about Jet. The major theme in the book may have been sports but the author sure explored a lot of issues through the main character.
J. J. Hebert is an excellent writer. His way of storytelling is great and his execution of characters worth noting. Everything in the book flowed well; the plot, themes in the book, lessons, the diction and the general presentation of content. The author is skilled in more than one ways. I love that he made me inspired and motivated by reading Jet Brine’s story. One good thing about J. J. Hebert is his style of narration. One easily grasps what he is talking about and fully enjoys the story.
Pages: 226 | ASIN: B076B6M1RS
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