Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why do you use magical realism when you write?
A: It is the great tradition of my childhood. I grew up in a Mexican American community. I lived for long stretches in a Mexican American home with my best friend's family when my family would struggle. So with that, plus the loss of my mother when I was so young, it became normal for me to see the spiritual side of life. Later I infused my writing with the styles of such magical realists as Gabriel García Márquez. In fact, Dillontown with its 100-year-old ballpark was patterned after Márquez's great book, Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude).
Q: Why are your books so political?
A: As Bob Dylan wrote, "We live in a Political World." If you trace what's right with our world or wrong with it, you always come down to past political decisions. Since my stories always deal with right and wrong, the politics of the situation becomes paramount.
Q: How many books have you written?
A: I’ve written and published five novels. Before that, I wrote two other novels that have never been published because the stories were not strong enough.
Q: Of the books you’ve written, which one is your favorite?
A: I always think my best book is the last one published, and that the next one is going to be better than that. Last year, my personal favorite was Under the Baseball Moon because I dreamed of being a rock star when I was Andy’s age and because I coached my daughter’s fastpitch softball teams for 9 years. But right now it's The Desperado Who Stole Baseball. I grew up in the Wild West where we built our baseball fields by hand, carving them out of the canyonsides. We rode horses into the mountains, just like Jack Dillon does when he sets out to track down the famous baseball man, Long John Dillon. We'd dream of the days when you could ride a horse forever. We would always wonder what would happen if an outlaw crossed our path. We never saw any, but the old timers in those parts had a lot of stories. In fact, my best friend's grandmother told great stories of the days when her brother rode with Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution.
Q: Who’s your favorite author?
A: Mark Twain and Bob Dylan are neck and neck.
Q: Why are your books always about baseball?
A: One reason is that baseball is a thinking man’s game, and I love to think. It’s also the most literary-friendly of all sports, lending itself to drama and metaphor, such as the angst and heroics of a bottom-of-the-ninth comeback attempt. And since a pro athlete’s career can last much longer in baseball than in any other team sport, thinking—or brainpower— becomes a genuine asset. Ballplayers are rewarded for their accumulated knowledge and wiles—not simply for height, weight, or brute strength. In fact, there is so much to learn in baseball that most great pitchers and hitters don’t reach their prime until they’re into their thirties and they can excel well past age forty.
Q: Who’s your favorite baseball team?
A: My hometown team, the San Diego Padres, simply because I know the stories of the players so well.
Q: How many times do you revise your books?
A: I usually write 14 or 15 drafts of each novel, although I rework Chapter 1 probably 25 or 30 times and I revise the opening page of each novel at least 50 times.
Q: How old were you when you became a writer?
A: I started writing fiction seriously in my mid-thirties, and I published my first novel in my mid-forties.
Q: Are you left-handed?
A: Only when I bat or swing an ax. I’m primarily right-handed; however, as a shortstop and a guitar player, I do a lot of things with my left hand which I can’t do with my right.
Q: Are you writing a book right now?
A: I always have a book in progress. Currently, I’m writing the final book in the Cruz de la Cruz trilogy.
Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: It usually takes me two or three years to complete a novel.
Q: Did you play baseball when you were growing up?
A: I played baseball all the way to the college level and played amateur baseball until I was almost 50 years old, primarily as a shortstop.
Q: What gave you the idea to write your first novel Choosing Up Sides?
A: Although on one level this is a novel about a left-handed future baseball star, it’s really about the larger issue of discrimination—religious-based discrimination, to be specific. That’s the hardest prejudice to defeat, since it is delivered bearing a religious righteousness. I remember, as a boy, hearing segregation and racism being justified from the pulpit and I could not comprehend this glaring hypocrisy, totally contrary to what Jesus taught. Only later did I realize that the Bible often gets interpreted and reinterpreted in such a way as to reinforce one’s own bigotry and social bias. So I wrote Choosing Up Sides because I think it’s important for young readers to recognize this practice as soon as possible, since it certainly continues today.
Q: Who or what inspired you to write books?
A: I’ve always wanted to use my writing to examine, explore, and expand my own understanding of life ala Bob Dylan and Mark Twain, two of my heroes who did the same thing.
Q: Which one of your characters do you relate to the most?
A: I think Tyler in Over the Wall is closest to who I was at age 13. And I was a lot like Andy Ramos in Under the Baseball Moon when I was 15. But there are parts of me in almost every character I write.