But the idea for Margie and her story came to me in the 2015 Major League Playoffs, when a baseball player I love to hate—the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chase Utley—made an aggressive (some say illegal) slide into second base and fractured NY Met Reuben Tejada’s leg. I was so angry.
Laurie Boris – 31 December 2017
The Back Flap
As one of the first female umpires in the minors, Margie puts up with insults and worse from people who think women don’t belong in baseball. Forget making history—Margie just wants to do her job and be part of the game she loves.
She’s ready for the rude comments. The lousy pay. The endless traveling. But when she suspects a big-name slugger of cheating, she has to choose: let the dirty player get away with it, or blow the whistle and risk her career…and maybe her twin brother’s major-league prospects, too.
Now it’s up to Margie to make the call.
About the book
What is the book about?
As if it’s not challenging enough being one of the first female umpires in professional baseball, Margie Oblonsky faces a thorny dilemma when she suspects a big-name slugger of playing dirty. She can’t abide anything that would spoil the integrity of the game she loves, but going after this guy could mean the end of her career…and maybe ruin her twin brother’s major-league prospects, too.
When did you start writing the book?
I’ve been wanting to write a book about a female umpire for years. Originally I’d intended to write a biography of Bernice Gera, the first woman in modern history to umpire a professional game. She had experience and training and still had to sue the NY-Penn League (one of the lowest rungs in the minors) to let her officiate. She won her case in 1972, worked exactly one game, then quit. My curiosity meter flew into the red zone. Why work that hard, for so long, only to quit? But the more I researched and the more I read, especially about Pam Postema—the woman who’d come the closest to the majors before she was let go in 1989—the more I wanted to write a novel about the tough road these women chose.
How long did it take you to write it?
Start to finish, including several detours, The Call took about two years from first draft to publication.
Where did you get the idea from?
As I said, the idea for writing about a female umpire had been in my head for quite some time. But the idea for Margie and her story came to me in the 2015 Major League Playoffs, when a baseball player I love to hate—the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chase Utley—made an aggressive (some say illegal) slide into second base and fractured NY Met Reuben Tejada’s leg. I was so angry. That became the “seed” of Margie’s conflict. In the 1980s, an era when Major League Baseball was being pressured to hire a female umpire—but didn’t really want her to succeed—would Margie risk her career to call this guy on his dirty tactics? I could almost hear her screaming “YES!”
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
Aren’t there always? I sent the manuscript to a friend for a first read. I love asking for his feedback because he’s dead honest with me. There was one facet of the story in particular, a romantic element, that I was waffling on. I didn’t know if it was working, and I liked it…but I didn’t want it to take over the book. I didn’t want this to be a sports romance. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I just didn’t want it for this book.) So I shut my eyes and handed over the manuscript. His response was like, “I hate this guy. I don’t know why he’s here.” I admitted that I could have done better, and that yeah, the bit felt shoehorned in. “I’m glad we agree,” he said. So I rewrote it. I must have done something right, because a baseball blogger commented that it felt totally organic to the story.
What came easily?
The baseball, and the dialogue. I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember, so writing the on-field scenes were like a second language to me. And I’ve always loved writing dialogue.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
I borrowed a few things here and there from people I’ve met, but they’re mostly fictitious. While umpire Pam Postema was my main inspiration for Margie’s struggles, I didn’t base Margie on Pam.
Do you have a target reader for this book?
My primary target readers are women who like baseball, mainly those who’ve played before or have kids who play. (Talk about granular marketing!) The second segment is baseball fans in general, particularly those who aren’t dead-opposed to women being part of the game. Although, several readers who know nothing about baseball have commented that they really enjoyed the story.
How was writing this book different from what you’d experienced writing previous books?
Every book is different. This one at times felt like pure joy, although the multiple story lines and the many moving parts required some attention to plotting. At one point, I tossed my plot completely and just started drawing it out on my whiteboard as a flow chart. My husband walked into my writing room, took one look at the board—with its three different colors and intersecting arrows—and said, “Good luck with…that.”
What new things did you learn about writing, publishing, and/or yourself while writing and preparing this book for publication?
I learned that if the plot isn’t working, to toss it and follow the characters. It brought me back to my “pantser” days, and the freedom that gave me. I learned to have greater trust in my instincts, and for the knowledge I’ve picked up over the years. When a working umpire with almost thirty years’ experience tells me the story sounds authentic, then I guess I’m doing something right.
End of Interview: