Monday, October 8, 2007

In Detail with Steve Reilly

Tell us the book title and your author name.

The Fat Lady Never Sings: How a High School Football Team Found Redemption on the Baseball Diamond

Steven M. Reilly

What inspired the book?

I always thought the story of the team should be told. I think all of us have unique experiences we want to share and say to ourselves “I should write a book.” After fourteen years of thinking about these remarkable young men and their coaches and what they went through, I decided to do write the book.

The book is about redemption sought by three high school baseball players, their team, their coaches and the City they live in. In 1991, high school football was everything in Derby which is the smallest city in Connecticut. The team had a streak of twenty-eight straight years without having a losing season. The streak ended on Thanksgiving Day, 1991. Three seniors including the quarterback also played on the school’s baseball team. One of the seniors was the Mayor’s son and almost all of the other players on the baseball team played football. The head coach of the baseball team was also an assistant football coach who was also battling his own difficulty.

After blowing the streak, the football players, especially the three seniors, were labeled losers forever in the City. Their last chance at redemption was playing on the baseball team. Two of the Seniors were pitchers. The smallest school in the league, Derby battles for and makes the state tournament and ultimately, as the late North Carolina State basketball coach Jimmy Valvano would say, "survives and advances" to a state championship game.

But the game turns into a nightmare after an early lead disintegrates. We end up down by two runs with two outs in the last inning. With two runners in scoring position, the quarterback comes to the plate and ultimately gets a base hit to tie the game and send it into extras. The excitement builds as each extra inning results in Derby scoring and their adversary tying the game. Complicating matters, a pitching limitation rule forces one of the senior pitchers to return to the mound several innings after being removed. In the eleventh inning(the fourth extra inning) another Derby senior fouls off seven pitches in a row with a three-balls two-strikes two-out count until he ultimately drives in the winning runs. In the bottom of the last inning, Derby's senior pitcher hangs on despite barely being able to pitch.

What makes this book special to you?

It describes events that I played a part in as well as the relationships I was able to establish as a result. Take a look at what happened the moment the game ended on my web site: and you'll feel why I consider the team and coaches were so special.

What makes this a book that other people MUST read and WHY?

No other book in this genre has the amount of game excitement that the final game in this story has. The characters in this book are unmatched for their zaniness, tenacity and love for one another as well as the game of baseball. It's the baseball equivalent of Hoosiers, if Gene Hackman's game went into triple overtime.

Many of the people who know the characters in the book voted for who should play Coach D(the head coach in the book) in any movie version of the book on one of my web site polls. Danny DeVito bested Jack Nicholson, Jim Belushi, Jason Alexander and Kelsey Grammar in the voting. What does that tell you when the people that are familiar with the characters think Danny DeVito should play a head coach of a high school baseball team! Some thought Coach D should play himself since they felt nobody could duplicate him. Many sports books speak about the concept of never giving up, but if you read this book you'll feel as if you are in the dugout each step of the way.

What people NEED to read this book and WHY?

Anyone who is caught up with the concept of winning and losing needs to read this book to see what exactly we should be admiring about the young people who face it whenever they play competitive sports.

What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

Coaching sparks it as every game I'm involved in requires me to adapt to what's happening no matter how I hoped to script the outcome. I think the way to spark creativity is to find the time to just relax. It's like being up at the plate, the more you can relax, the more you can stay focused and concentrate on hitting the ball. It's like doing a crossword puzzle and you can't think of the word that fits, but the next morning you pick it up again and wonder how you ever could have missed the word the day before.

What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?

I had a hard time being patient enough to keep on revising the book over and over and over again. I wanted to make it as good as it could. The editing was frustrating as it seemed to go in circles; one editor telling me to do one thing, another telling me to go in a different direction and finally a proofreader who injected his own thoughts.

My solution was simply to read as much as I could about the editing process and to trust and consider what I was being told to work on. In other words, I had to put my faith in the people who do this for a living.

My suggestion would be that after you have got your edit back, put the book down for a few days. Since I wrote my book, I became more interested in sports writing and have read numerous baseball books. I think in retrospect, I would have been better off if I had read those books before diving into writing a book in that same arena. So, I would say being an avid reader of books, especially of books in the area you wish to write in, is extremely helpful.

What do you think motivates people to become authors? What motivated you to get into this unusual industry?

I think we all thrive on stories; we get enjoyment out of listening to them, telling them and sometimes just making them up. Everybody's life is a story. What motivated me was the opportunity to tell a story that noone else had told.

Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote any books?

I purchased a giant baseball glove from a company called Akadema and I use it as a prop at all my events. It's an instant conversation piece to lead into the subject of the book.

NON FICTION - Why are you the BEST person to write this book? What in your background or in your research makes you qualified to do justice to this topic?

I had the best seat in the house as the story unfolded as I was the third base coach on the team. I was also as frightened as them about winning or losing the championship game. I have been coaching high school baseball players for about thirty years, so through all my experience I learned what makes them as well as their coaches tick.

NON FICTION - If a potential reader thinks that your book wouldn't interest them, what would you say to convince them to buy? I'm thinking something better than "Its the greatest book ever." Give me something more specific :)

Imagine a high school baseball coach's elderly mother adjacent a dugout in a stadium filled with 3,500 people trying to convince her son the best way to win a state championship game was to cheat!

NON FICTION - Why does the topic of your book interest you? Why would it interest potential readers? Give us a hook to reel in new readers.

Because I live it every spring, summer and fall.

Here's my hook:

Once school starts in the fall, Friday nights are typically reserved for one thing high school football games. The Fat Lady Never Sings tells the true story of Derby, Connecticut's 1992 Red Raider baseball team as told by then-assistant coach, Steven M. Reilly. When the town's remarkable 28-year football winning streak comes to an end, three seniors on the team are branded losers. Determined to seek redemption by playing on the baseball team, these multi-sport athletes forever leave their mark on this small Connecticut town after helping the team advance to the championship game of the state baseball tournament.

NON FICTION Is there a way to tie your book topic to current events? If so, tell us about how you could do that. I have a blog to feature information and examples about tying books into current events that might be a good place for you to promote your book.

Presumably the story could be tied into any sports topic as the book deals with how players, especially young players, deal with winning and losing and persevering against the odds.

If there's anything else you would like to share, this is the time and place.

Nearly all of the players and coaches have told me they read the book. At least one player's wife has told me I am responsible for the inability of her husband to get his head through their front door.

Learn more about the book and read the first three chapters for free at the book's website: You can also read numerous reviews of the book, listen to podcast interviews, see current photographs of some of the players and the coaches at book events, and learn about the current lives of the book's characters. If you have a Myspace site, feel free to visit me.

Thank you for visiting with me and in closing, give us your website address and a link to order your book.

The book can be ordered at:;;;; and a host of others listed on the website.


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