Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Interview with non-fiction writer Jonathan Weeks

Today’s guest loves baseball – including writing about it. Jonathan Weeks is here as just one stop along a virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions for his newest book, Mudville Madness.

As part of his tour, Jonathan will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one randomly chosen commenter. To be entered for a chance to win, leave a comment below.  To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and leave comments there, too.

Weeks spent thirty-eight years in the Capital District region of New York State. He obtained a degree in psychology from SUNY Albany. In 2004, he migrated to Malone, New York, and has continued to gripe about the frigid winter temperatures ever since. A member of the Society for American Baseball Research, he has authored two non-fiction books on the topic of baseball: Cellar Dwellers and Gallery of Rogues. His first novel, The Bridgeport Hammer, (a baseball story set during the WWII era) is being released in the summer of 2014. He writes about the game because he lacked the skills to play it professionally. He still can’t hit a curveball or lay off the high heat.

Check out his “Cellar Dwellers” blog at:

Welcome, Jonathan. Please tell us about your current release.
Mudville Madness spans three centuries of baseball history and includes some of the most unusual events that have happened on the field. Some of those events are dark and disturbing, such as the stadium collapse in Philadelphia that killed twelve people in 1903 and the murder by sniper fire that occurred before a New York Giants game in 1950. Other events are more on the amusing side, like the story of Kitty Burke—a burlesque dancer who became the first woman to log a plate appearance in the majors after she wandered onto the field during a game in Cincinnati. Though some of the material in Mudville Madness will be familiar to hardcore fans, there’s a little something for everyone here.       

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve published two other non-fiction books on the topic of baseball and, during the course of my research, I acquired more interesting anecdotes than I knew what to do with. Eventually, I came up with the idea of dedicating a volume entirely to baseball’s odd occurrences. I started looking at boxscores around the age of seven or eight and began to realize that every game has a story behind it, no matter how great or small. There are so many fascinating stories worth sharing. The people who have played the game are just as interesting as the sport itself. In Mudville Madness, I have tried to highlight the personalities and events that make baseball unique and wonderful.     

June 12, 1970

Dock Ellis was an occasionally dominant presence on the mound, winning at least 15 games three times and making one All-Star appearance during his 12-year career. During the 1970 campaign, he carved a small niche in baseball history when he tossed a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. It wasn’t pretty as he fell behind hitters all evening, walking 8 and hitting one. But the performance became quite remarkable fourteen years later when Ellis admitted to being under the influence of LSD at the time.

A free spirit, Ellis allegedly ingested the drug around noon believing he was not scheduled to start that day. About an hour later, his girlfriend was perusing a newspaper when she discovered that Ellis was listed as a probable starter for the first game of a twi-night doubleheader against the Padres. She escorted the Pirates’ hurler, who was now feeling the effects of a powerful hallucinogen known as “Purple Haze,” to the airport, where he caught a flight to San Diego. 

Ellis remembered very little of the game, which started at 6:05 pm. He described his mood as euphoric and reported various hallucinations. “The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes. Sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn’t,” he alleged. Years later, he embellished the story even further, claiming that he saw Jimi Hendrix and Richard Nixon at different points in the game. He said that Hendrix was using his famous Stratocaster guitar as a bat and Nixon was the home plate umpire.—a website that prides itself on debunking urban myths—posted the story’s status as “true” though from a guarded perspective. Ellis’s behavior was normal enough not to arouse suspicion from players or umpires. He was lucid during post-game interviews. But what would his motivation be for making such a claim? It only served to tarnish the crowning achievement of his career.

After his playing days were over, Ellis sought help for his substance abuse. He later worked as a counselor to help others combat drug problems. He died in 2008.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have another nonfiction baseball project completed though I haven’t submitted it yet. Since I don’t want to jinx my chances of publication (I’m a bit superstitious), I prefer to keep specific details to myself. So far, 2014 has been a big year for me. In addition to Mudville Madness, my first novel is being released. Entitled The Bridgeport Hammer, it’s a fantasy baseball memoir set in World War II amidst a backdrop of Nazi espionage. I’m really proud of it. I’ll be doing a virtual tour for that book in a couple of weeks. Right now, I’m working on a young adult novel that combines supernatural elements with baseball. Baseball is a common theme in all my books. I’ve always heard it said that you should write what you know. In the future, I have plans for a historical novel that takes place in the sixteenth century—long before the game of baseball was invented. That will be a quantum leap for me.      

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was in elementary school, I used to write and draw comic books to sell to my classmates. Most of the material was derivative superhero stuff. I think I charged five cents per issue. After that, I didn’t make another penny off of my writing until I was in my mid-forties. You don’t have to make money to be a writer (though it’s nice if you can make living off of it). I’ve tried my hand at almost every form of writing over the years—short stories, novels, poetry. I’ve even written dozens of songs on my guitar. I haven’t always shared my material with others. I went through a long period in which I didn’t have the confidence for that. I’ve always had a passion for writing though.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like?  If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don’t write full-time. I work as a counselor serving mentally ill adults. I really enjoy helping people. In my spare time, I hang out with my two daughters a lot—ages seven and eleven. They’re great kids. I try to write every day very early in the morning. I’m usually up before 6 am. That’s when I get most of my writing done. I roll out of bed and head straight for my computer without the benefit of coffee. I’m not sure how I do it.     

Thanks, Jonathan!

1 comment:

Jonathan Weeks said...

I really enjoyed doing this interview and appreciate the opportunity! Just a reminder to readers--leaving a comment gives you a chance to win a free Amazon gift card. Why not give it a shot?