YA Writer Wednesdays is thrilled to welcome Dave Hendrickson, author of CRACKING THE ICE! Comment on my interview with Dave for a chance to win a signed copy! I'll draw the winner at random on Tuesday, July 24!
Follow Dave on Twitter: @DHWriter! Friend him on Facebook!
What's your book about? It's 1968 during the height of the Civil Rights struggle. Jessie Stackhouse is a fifteen-year-old black hockey player who gets recruited to break the color line at an elite, all-white prep school. Although the headmaster who recruited him is very idealistic and is trying to make changes, the coach doesn't want Jessie there and neither do most of his teammates. Jessie must overcome not only the team in the other locker room but also the one in his own.
What inspired you to write it? Over the course of many years, I've built a substantial audience for my college hockey writing and earned several awards for it. I've coached the sport and watched my son go from Learn-to-Skate all the way to becoming co-captain for his college team. Hockey is in my blood. As a result, it was natural for me to turn to the sport for a Young Adult novel. Every novel needs conflict and I thought there was no more dramatic conflict than that of an African-American athlete during the Civil Rights era playing the whitest of sports. Those years in our history have always fascinated and horrified me. Putting together those two interests (or perhaps obsessions would be a more accurate term) led me to start writing and researching Cracking the Ice. Many different sources helped make the book come to life. In particular, I'm indebted to Richard Harris, a black hockey player during that era, who spent hours talking to me about his experiences. Cracking the Ice is a novel -- Jessie Stackhouse's story -- but I'd like to think that all that research led to a book that rings true.
What's the best part of being published? Hearing those magical words, "I couldn't put it down." That puts a huge smile on my face, and I've heard it over and over with Cracking the Ice. I view myself as a storyteller over and above everything else. If my readers can't put my book down, I've done my job.
Do you write from an outline or are you a "pantser"? For me, a detailed outline would kill all creativity. I write notes to myself about where things are going, but I need my creative subconscious to provide a lot of the most interesting twists and turns. Sometimes I'll write what I call a development draft. As I write, I learn about my characters and where they need to go. Then perhaps I set that aside and armed with what I know, I start afresh. In the case of Cracking the Ice, I wrote the first draft straight through then evaluated what I had. I threw out chapters two through nine because they didn't work at all and began from scratch on a new Chapter 2 and all the rest of the material that got Jessie to Chapter 10.
Why YA as opposed to some other genre? To be honest, I'd never considered YA until I took Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith's Master Class. As part of it, each writer participated in something called The Game, which simulated the life of a full-time freelancer. Each day, in addition to our classes and other responsibilities, we had to write a specified number of novel pitches to a pretend board of publishers made up of four full-time writers. You got to stay a full-time writer if you could sell enough to pay the bills. If you're writing four or five pitches a day, you pretty soon get outside of your comfort zone, which in my case was fantasy, horror, and mystery. I needed pitches so I considered YA for the first time. Cracking the Ice came from that pitch, which the pretend board of publishers liked as did a senior New York editor who arrived near the end of the Master Class. Two weeks later, I began Jessie Stackhouse's story.
Are you a full-time writer or do you have a "day job"? What do you do in your "day job"? In my day job, I write embedded software that makes ultrasound systems work. I also have two part-time jobs, teaching in the evenings at two universities and covering college hockey for uscho.com. As a result, writing fiction would become quickly crowded out if I didn't make it a priority. But because it is a priority, I make the time, whether it's easy or not. I have little patience for people who say they want to become writers but don't follow through with a commitment to write on a regular basis. If you aren't writing, you aren't a writer.