Harper Duquaine, the main character of First & Goal, finds herself spending more and more of her time managing a fantasy football team with hopes of making it to the playoffs so she can win back the hefty entry fee she had to pay to participate. The more time she devotes to managing her team, the more she connects with one of her fellow league members: Brook MacLaughlin, the kind and friendly high school teacher and football coach.
Early in their friendship they discover a mutual fondness (and that’s using the word conservatively) for Bon Jovi. Their admiration for the band becomes a recurring element in their relationship. As a result, I ended up listening to a lot of Bon Jovi while I was planning and writing this novel. And, so many of the band’s songs are mentioned in the book I created a playlist to accompany it.
But how did this even come about? I mean, why did I feature an actual band when I avoided using any actual football players or linking them to specific teams?
Let’s say I was inspired. On October 20, with less than two weeks to go until National Novel Writing Month 2013 commenced, I had the opportunity to see Bon Jovi perform thanks to my Aunt Brenda, who surprised me with two tickets the day before the concert. I was excited. Thrilled. In disbelief until the moment the boys took stage. Like Harper and Brook, I love the band.
|Keeping the texts all in the family.|
I've had a thing for Bon Jovi since I was little. My parents have video footage of 3-year-old me dancing around in my underwear and a shirt that says "If You Think I'm Cute, You Should See My Grandpa" singing my own mash-up of Bon Jovi's "Lay Your Hands on Me" and New Kids on the Block's "Hanging Tough" in the fake microphone my dad made and attached to one of his cymbal stands.
In my early 20s, "It's My Life" was one of the songs I used to listen to when I was frustrated while on long business trips. And “Livin’ on a Prayer” has been a staple in my life forever. One of my fondest travel memories involves me singing that diddy with a group of agricultural salesmen in a piano bar on the Riverwalk in San Antonio.
During the concert when I wasn’t singing and dancing along with Jon, inspiration was spinning in my head. I had to work this band into the book, because well… I wanted to have them in the book. Though some writers shy away from making pop culture references in their books to avoid dating the stories, I like to work some in – within reason. And as far as any fears of dating the book, well, the whole story is told amidst the background of a fantasy football season. If I was worried about dating myself, I should’ve picked a different book to write.
|Bon Jovi on stage at Pinnacle Bank Arena.|
Based on how friendly and charming the band seemed, I firmly believed they’d be fine with me mentioning them in my novel. Particularly in the context of a budding friendship.
My initial instinct was to send Harper and Brook to a wedding together where they slow-danced to “Always” during the reception. But… there are pivotal dance scenes in my first two books, and I needed to branch out and use some other plot development. Then, I considered having Bon Jovi pop on the radio while they’re in the car together. But that didn’t seem sexy enough.
I needed another way for my characters to bond. Based on the development I’d already done for both characters, sharing an interest in Bon Jovi was a natural and believable way to create a connection. And though I don’t want to share the specifics of how the band is involved in the story for those of you who haven’t read it, I’m pleased with the way it turned out.
And as a writer, it was fun for me to incorporate. It constantly forced me to consider how the music would fit into a certain scene and how that song would push it forward. In addition to being a challenge for me, it also gave me a ready-made playlist to inspire me while I wrote.
Thank you, Tracie, for featuring me on your blog. I hope all of you enjoy reading First & Goal.
When Harper Duquaine’s no-nonsense approach to work unintentionally ruffles the wrong feathers at her new job, she joins her co-workers’ fantasy football league to prove she can hang with the guys. Only problem: she doesn’t know a sleeper from a keeper (or any of the other lingo thrown her way).
Embroiled in a world of lineups, stats, and trades, Harper’s quest to make nice topples when her competitive streak emerges. And her promise to herself that she’ll be a strong, independent woman and leave the drama and heartache behind is seriously tested when she catches the attention of her two biggest competitors: J.J., a local celebrity determined to win a fantasy championship, and Brook, the mild-mannered coach who seems too good to be true. Both threaten her resolve to remain single… and, more importantly, her chances at winning the prize pool.
With a slew of conflicting advice in her real and fantasy worlds, Harper must figure out how to play the game and come out a winner.
Laura Chapman is the author of First & Goal, The Marrying Type, and Hard Hats and Doormats. Her work appears in Merry & Bright, A Kind of Mad Courage, and a forthcoming Christmas anthology from Marching Ink. A native Nebraskan, she loves Huskers and Packers football, Netflix marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Laura is currently in pursuit of a fantasy football championship while penning her next novel.
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