Where did you get the idea for this novel? Was there a particular scene that you envisioned first?
It started out with a very different story, one still stemming from the concept of “Well, I don’t have the kind of money needed to have my own Eat, Pray, Love healing experience. What do I do to get out of this sadness and confusion?” In earlier drafts, the main character made a huge mistake, and was starting from zero with absolutely everyone in her life. That story was more about trying to determine good relationships from bad. At the time I’d just started up with the Los Angeles Derby Dolls, and my agent was fascinated with what I was physically and mentally going through just to learn how to play. She’s the one who suggested that Charlotte’s story could take a similar direction. I joked, “You mean I should write Eat, Cry, Shove?” And it sort of took off from there.
How is this novel different from (or similar to) your previous novels?
It’s similar in terms of dealing with changes in your important relationships– your partner, your family, your best friend… I’m interested in the roles we take on for other people in our lives, and what happens when the power shifts, when the players in the game disobey the rules. The biggest difference between this novel and anything I’ve written before is that I’m writing about sports. I have a whole new respect for people who can describe the action in a game both accurately and passionately -- sports reporters, color commentators, J.K. Rowling. That woman invented an entire sport and we all read it and said, “Yep. Got it. Brooms and magical glowing shuttlecocks. To the Quidditch match!”
What drew you to roller derby? Are any of Charlotte’s experiences in the arena based on your own?
My sister and I used to watch roller derby on cable television when we were little. Back then it was as fake as the WWE, but we didn’t care. We didn’t understand a single thing that was going on, but we liked how fast they went on their skates, and how they’d knock the crap out of each other.
My introduction to real roller derby happened just like any other derby girl, I’m sure: at the opening weekend of the Sex and the City movie. I was there with two of my girlfriends, one of whom groaned as she took her seat. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m so sore. I just started training with the Derby Dolls last night and my thighs are killing me.” I was right there beside her at the very next practice. She somehow snuck me in without an orientation or audition (Behold the power of a Derby Wife). In fact, I didn’t see an actual bout until I was already in training for my first Baby Doll Brawl. Come to think of it, almost everything in my life that I love I somehow snuck into when nobody was paying attention. Roller derby, acting, writing, and at least half of the relationships I’ve been in.
I really did break my tailbone. I now know the meaning of the threat, “You’ll never sit right again.”