|Q. Who do you see as the audience for CRACKBACK?
A. The audience for CRACKBACK is wide. The obvious audience is people who love football. This is a book they will connect with in a strong way. The second audience is those people who have friends, boyfriends, or relatives who love football, but who have never really understood the game. I want the passion for the game to be clear to them. And the third group is those people who hate football. I don’t expect them to love football after reading CRACKBACK, but I do expect them to understand why Miles loves it and to have a stronger sense of the appeal of the game. The character of Lucia is very important to this story, and Lucia doesn’t have a connection to football when she first meets Miles. Many readers will connect with Lucia in a strong way.
Q. How does football define Miles Manning? You played football as a teen—did it play a role in defining you as well?
A. At the beginning of CRACKBACK, Miles Manning is football, and football is Miles Manning. His sense of self is defined through football. I think it is impossible to overemphasize how large a part of identification sports can be for many teens. When this is taken away, the crisis of identity is fundamental.
Yes, I played football in high school and it was an enormous part of my identity. It connected me to something larger and made me part of the school in a way I had not been before. Football was a ticket into groups and places I had not been invited before.
Q. What research did you do for this book?
A. I talked with high school students about football, school, jobs, and life. I interviewed football players about pressures to perform, weight lifting, and steroid use. I attended football practices, weight training, film sessions and games. Coaches and players were welcoming and willing to answer my questions, no matter how unusual. I enjoyed being back on the football field on Friday nights and had moments of wishing I could be in the middle of the play.
I also asked football players about favorite numbers and plays that haunted them. Most players had one of each.