Interview with Novelist Wanda Adams Fischer (EMPTY SEATS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your novel about?

Wanda Adams Fischer: After being drafted by the Montreal Expos to play minor league baseball in Jamestown, NY, three young men who’d been champion ballplayers in their respective hometowns think it will be an easy ride to the big time. Little do they realize that they’ll be competing against every other talented kid who’s dreamed about becoming the next best thing in Major League Baseball. Young, inexperienced, away from home without the support from their families and friends, they find they’re faced with challenges and obstacles they hadn’t anticipated–not always on the baseball diamond.

2. What genres would you say this story is in?

This is young adult to general fiction. It’s been characterized as “sports fiction,” but some people who have reviewed it have also said that you don’t have to like baseball to enjoy the book. It’s a coming-of-age book with baseball as a backdrop is the best way I can describe it.

3. How would you describe this story in two words?

Staying alive

4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?

“A League of Their Own” and “Bull Durham,” but I also like “Ninotchka”

5. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

“Where Have All The Flowers Gone” (done by many different people) or the traditional song “Shenandoah”

6. Do you have an all-time favorite novel?

“The Edge of Sadness” by Edwin O’Connor

7. What motivated you to write this story?

When I was young, in the 1960s, I wanted to become a sportswriter. That career path wasn’t clear for women at that time. I spoke to a MLB baseball player back then, who cautioned me about how difficult it would be to break that glass ceiling back then. Then I became involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement, and had a nearly 40-year career in public relations/marketing/media relations, with a few detours along the way in broadcast journalism. I’ve also done a folk music program on a major NPR affiliate since 1982 and am a singer/songwriter. At one time, I sang the National Anthem for the Tri-City Valley Cats, a low-A minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros. As I would go on to the field, I’d see the young faces in the dugout. They often looked lost to me, but when they got out onto the baseball field, they came alive. That experience planted the seed. I began creating characters out of baseball players I’d met over the years, as well as pulling from some personal experienced I’d had in various jobs and put them together in this novel.

8. If you could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), who would that be?

Martin Luther King, Jr. or Zora Neale Hurston

9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Political and social justice, my grandchildren, baseball, folk music (singing, writing songs, my radio show), playing competitive tennis (although I only play with people my own age now), volunteering to read with elementary school kids in a local inner city school, dachshunds, the environment, Ireland, and cramming in as much as I can into the rest of my now-70-year-old life.

10. What influenced you to enter your story to get performed?

As a radio broadcaster, I have wanted to get this novel converted to an audiobook, and I didn’t know where to start. I have several listeners who are blind, and they have been asking when the book would be available in aural format. I wanted to have this performed to give me an idea as to where to start, because I don’t have a clue as to how to begin to audition potential readers. This is an amazing start.

11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

As someone who has written all my life, I can only advise people to continue to read AND write. I don’t think people can be good writers if they don’t read. A couple of years ago, I applied for a master’s degree program in creative writing, and was accepted. However, I declined, because it was too expensive (at my age), and I wondered what good it would do. Instead, I took a couple of workshops and just started writing this book. Also, get the writing done and worry about the marketing and PR later. Develop the product; it’s easy to market a good product. If you get good reviews, tell people you appreciate them. If you get bad reviews, take the criticism as constructive and not personal.  

BUY novel on Amazon

In 1972, the Montreal Expos draft three 18-year-old baseball stars, send them far from their hometowns, where they discover their dreams of becoming Major League ballplayers won’t be as easy as they once thought. Challenges call for split-second decisions–on and off the baseball diamond.

Performed by Val Cole

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