Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Interview Wednesday: Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson

Writer, teacher, and VCFA graduate Sarah Aronson's new novel, Beyond Lucky, launches this month from Dial. It's a soccer story, a friendship story, a story that crosses from funny to tense to heartful and back again. It was my pleasure to see parts of it in draft form when I was phasing out of teaching on and Sarah was phasing in.

Congratulations to Sarah on this engaging new book, of which Publisher's Weekly says:
Aronson skillfully dodges the predictability of sports-themed books by creating multilayered characters and an intriguing whodunit involving a valuable missing rookie card....includes a lot of fun on-field action, but the off-field story is just as interesting....Aronson's graceful storytelling will keep even nonsoccer buffs turning pages.

[Uma] Why luck? What is there about luck and the condition of being lucky or unlucky that makes such a wonderful thematic element for a middle grade novel?

[Sarah] Well, in a global way, what could be a more fun theme than luck? It’s unpredictable, and yet, don’t we all believe in karma? That what comes around goes around? Don’t we always want the good guy to get the girl? When I was a middle grade reader, I also believed that luck could be earned. As I got older, I was drawn to stories about the ironic nature of luck.

Even now, I am a little bit superstitious. I’m still obsessed with justice. There is an episode of The Twilight Zone—the one where the guy breaks his glasses after organizing all the books he wants to read—that still find their way into my dreams.

[Uma] Oh I know that episode. It's the ultimate reader's nightmare, just when the poor man is coming to terms with the terrible world he's in. A telling portrayal of a ritualistic reader and of the hope that underlies all ritual. Now talk about the ritualistic athlete. Don't sports superstitions exist in their own strange universe?

[Sarah] When you are talking about sports, you cannot deny the importance of superstition. Athletes are some of the most ritualistic people there are.  Sports experts talk about pre-game rituals as the only things the athlete can truly control. At one point, Ari discusses the “sine wave” of luck. How sometimes you have it, and sometimes you don’t. This is something I think about a lot, too.

I guess that is what drew me to the theme. It’s funny—as a writer I have a lot of rituals, too. Every morning, when I sit down to write, I start by making coffee. I take a yoga class most mornings. I keep a stack of notecards by my desk. These notecards contain writerly inspiration. Every day I read one. 

Today’s card contained a quote from Vince Lombardi:

"The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."

But getting back to your question….when I understood Ari’s need for rituals, I also began to know him better.  Ari is a goalie—the ultimate position when it comes to a lack of control. And his brother is a fire fighter.  I thought about his hero, Wayne Timcoe, and how important his trading card would be to him, and that made me think about one of my favorite books, John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. In The Pearl, Steinbeck deals with luck and the aftermath of finding the very thing the family thinks will make them lucky. I remember reading this book—especially the ending. Rereading that book helped me rethink about Ari and his friends about how we overcome our dependence on luck.

[Uma] I read The Pearl in one big gulp, many years ago. What a great example of how texts speak to us. In our own way, as writers, what we're really doing is speaking back. Thanks, Sarah.

Tomorrow, character development and the role of friendship in Beyond Lucky.

Meanwhile, here's the trailer:

Today's Interview Wednesday portal from Kidlitosphere is at Tales From the Rushmore Kid.

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