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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

BALLING WITH BOOKS: Author David A. Kelly

by Cyrus Webb

I have been a fan of author David A. Kelly since I read BABE RUTH AND THE BASEBALL CURSE. Most our readers know that my interest in sports has really come from the books I have read about the players involved. For me that has created a common ground that has united me with a part of the population that quite frankly I used to think I didn't have anything in common with. That has now completely changed.

With Kelly's attention to detail and his ability to tell a great story, I was hooked. When the Ballpark Mysteries series was announced, I knew it was something that I would have to read. Though targeted towards younger readers, I think adults will find the lessons and the adventure something that they can enjoy just as much as any other reading group.

In this interview for the magazine I talked with the author about inspiration and what he hopes his readers take away from his work. I also ask about what role his parents have played in his success and what he is writing today.

David, thanks for talking with Conversations again. I have had the pleasure to interview you a few times for the radio show, and the thing that comes across the most is your passion not just for baseball but for writing as well. What has it been like for you to share both of those loves with the world?

         It's been a real surprise for me to be writing children's mystery books set in baseball parks. While I played baseball as a kid, I was always more interested in other things. But then I grew up, moved to Boston, and raised (with my wife, Alice)  two boys in Red Sox country. Watching how my sons became so interested and involved in both playing and watching baseball games opened my eyes to the power of sports and activities like baseball to fire the imagination of boys and girls. At the time, I was writing lots of technical and business papers, so the opportunity to explore more creative writing and to focus on baseball and children was a real pleasure. But it's taken a lot of work, and some wonderful guidance from my editor at Random House, to realize the dream of sharing the passion for communication and connection that I achieve when writing, mixed with the passion and interest that my sons experienced through sports and activities.


This literary journey you are on has allowed you to write book that young readers and those young at heart can enjoy. Has that been one of the great by-products of your work?

          It's a great pleasure to be able to produce something creative that people of any age can enjoy. While I know the majority of my readers are elementary school-aged children, I also know that parents, grandparents, and other caregivers will be reading these books as well. That's why, when I'm writing, I try to interweave some interesting facts and some new pieces of information about a baseball team, stadium, or city.


Both of your books that we have discussed (Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse and The Fenway Foul-Up) have been dedicated to your parents. Talk to our readers about how they have influenced the way you look at life.

          My parents have both been big influences in my life, although perhaps that's always been an unstated fact. In fact, they've influenced me most by not trying to influence me. They've always been incredibly supportive and tolerant of my interests and inclinations, even if they didn't understand them or agree with them. But they've been great influences when it comes to things like ongoing curiosity, a hunger to learn, a desire to help, and an attempt to see the good in any situation and every person.


A good example of how my parents have influenced the characters and stories in my Ballpark Mysteries books might be my father, who stands out in my mind for two reasons. First, like my character Mike in the Ballpark Mysteries, he always tried to do the right thing and had a strong moral code of what was right and wrong. Second, like my character Kate, he was always resourceful—thinking up new solutions to existing problems and not afraid to speak up or take action when he thought something should happen. Kate's also a little bit like my mother—she's a font of knowledge, loves to read, and always knows something about the topic at hand.


David, let's talk a little about the Ballpark Mysteries series. You told me on the radio that they are books that are not just about sports. Will you explain that?

-          The Ballpark Mysteries are simply mystery and adventure books set in baseball stadiums. Readers certainly don't have to know anything about baseball (or other sports) to enjoy them. And because each baseball park and team is so unique there are great opportunities for even the biggest sports fan to learn something new. In each book, Mike and Kate visit a ballpark to take a tour or see a game, but lots of the action may also happen outside the ballpark. In the third book they visit a number of interesting landmarks around Los Angeles, while in the fourth book (set in Houston, and due out in Spring, 2012), they get to visit NASA and try on space suits.


 Is it your hope that readers will take away the importance of us working together to solve problems along with the entertainment that the books offer?

          Whenever I read a book, it's wonderful to find multiple layers of meaning and understanding, so yes, it's nice to be able to write stories have some depth and can convey richer lessons. However, when I'm first drafting a Ballpark Mysteries story, I have to focus on the details of the plot and the story itself. Children's books are somewhat harder to write than you might imagine, and creating a clean, compelling story that moves along at the right pace takes lots of work, the right guidance, and ruthlessness when it comes to editing. But as I'm doing that, I also think about the nuances of the situations, and how the main characters, Mike and Kate, react to them, and to the other characters. As an author, I do hope that readers will pick up on what Mike and Kate do right and how it impacts them. 



Thanks again for your time, David. Where can our readers find out more information about yourself as well as the series?

         It's always a pleasure talking with you and Conversations Live. More information on the Ballpark Mysteries series is available on the series' website, That website is run by Mike, one of main characters in the books, though he does explain how and why I'm the person writing the series. Listens may also want to visit, which provides more information on my travel writing, business and technology writing and other books. Students, teachers, and librarians should visit for details on school and library visits and workshops. I always enjoy working with students and sharing my experiences with other people.

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