Jen Estes is my guest on the blog today, I recently reviewed her new book, “Curveball”, a story of baseball set on a tropical island. I asked Jen
Baseball and the colour of a tropical paradise; what prompted you to write a series with the background of baseball, and why did you select the second one to be based in ‘Santo Domingo’ rather than a more familiar surrounding?
Here’s what she had to say:
When it comes to choosing a setting, there are three popular methods. The first is choosing a location close to your heart — maybe your hometown or current city. (Not only does this familiar route give your story the ring of truth, you’ll save oodles of time on research.) But sometimes familiarity isn’t an option, so you have to choose a setting based on your story instead. (Just because you’ve never been outside of Kansas doesn’t mean your mermaid detective has to fight crime in her underground city beneath a local water treatment plant.) Now if neither of those methods tickle your toes, you can always close your eyes, give a globe a big spin and point, then throw your characters in whatever city your finger landed. For Curveball, I chose the second route. (Mostly because my finger landed in the middle of the Pacific when I spun the globe.)
While my first book in the series, Big Leagues, was set in Las Vegas, Cat McDaniel’s career as a sportswriter kept her on the move — I was constantly creating new stadiums for her to visit and new characters for her to meet. That was a lot of fun, but in the sequel, one of her obstacles is being saddled with chaperoning the general manager’s daughter, Paige Aiken. As such, I didn’t want to give Cat a way to “escape” from Paige’s antics. Putting her in the Caribbean training camps during the offseason was my way of chaining her to Paige.
Timing also played a factor in my setting. Curveball directly follows the introduction in the series, Big Leagues, which concluded as baseball season was toward its end. By the time Curveball begins, it’s late November — which is when many Latin American players return home to train in their team’s camps and aspiring ballplayers are being scouted.
Authenticity was key too. The Dominican Republic is a baseball nation and Major League Baseball has a huge presence within the city, with real-life training facilities just like the one in my book (though Cat’s team is the fictional Buffalo Soldiers.) When I visited Santo Domingo, I fell in love with the city’s passion for baseball. There’s actually a chapter where Cat goes to a local baseball game that very much echoed my experience at a Tigres del Licey game. The atmosphere is spellbinding and I knew then that I had to get Cat down to this baseball paradise.
Though I was writing an unfamiliar setting, it helped that my main character is supposed to be unfamiliar with it. She’s a tourist. She’s not expected to know local lore or regional traditions. Though an everyday citizen might not even pay attention to Catedral Primada de América, the famous landmark leaves Cat breathless. Like me, Cat saw Santo Domingo through the romantic and strange eyes of a tourist.