Getting to Know One of the Greatest Sports Writers
Interviewed by: Grace Corcoran
29 September 2020
Mike Lupica is an author well known among sports-loving teenage boys and the athletic world. Not only is he the author of many successful books, like Miracle on 49th Street and Travel Team, but he has also written for newspapers and magazines, like New York Daily News and Esquire. He also hosted The Mike Lupica Show on ESPN2. This interview was conducted to get to know this prominent author and how he came to be one of the United States’ most famous sportswriters.
Why did you start writing?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I used to write mystery stories in the blue books they used to give us at St. Patrick’s School, with myself as the main character. I wrote for the school paper in high school and then at Boston College, worked nights at The Boston Globe, and eventually began writing for them, The Boston Phoenix, and Boston Magazine when I was still at BC. When I go around and talk to kids at schools about my books now, I encourage them to have their parents buy them, telling them I have no other skills. To quote my dear, late friend William Goldman, who wrote The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid, all I ever wanted to do was tell my stories.
How many books have you written?
I should know the exact count by now, but I don’t. I believe I have written about 45 books at this point, almost all of them fiction. In addition to writing for young readers, I’ve gone back to writing mysteries for adults about Sunny Randall and Jesse Stone, two great characters created by my friend, the late Robert B. Parker.
What is your favorite genre to write in?
I love writing my books about young readers, because those books changed my career. My first novels, about a New York City television reporter named Peter Finley, were mysteries, so I love that I’ve returned to that genre. I just finished working on my third Sunny Randall novel this afternoon and have a book about elite show jumpers in the horse world, with the great James Patterson, that will be out in late 2021.
What is your favorite part of writing?
I love surprising myself. Alan Bennett, the great English playwright, once said the fun of being a writer is finding out you know things you didn’t know you knew. It happens all the time. I’ll be writing along and something will happen in my story that I didn’t know was going to happen. It’s as if the characters really do have minds and lives of their own. On days like that, I feel as if I have the greatest job in the world.
What book are you most proud of?
Travel Team was my first novel for young readers. I had no plan to write books like that, but then my middle son, Alex, got cut from his seventh-grade basketball team, along with another boy, for being too small. I was talking to my friend Jeff Van Gundy, the former Knicks and Rockets coach who now does games for ESPN and ABC. He said, “You know, if this were the movies, you’d take all the kids who got cut and start a team of your own.” And I did. It was one of the great experiences of my life. When it was over, I wrote a novel about it. Within two weeks it was No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Is there a certain process you undergo when writing a book? What do you do to overcome writer's block?
I actually write longhand before I type. I’ll go along, sometimes for a whole week writing longhand, because I still think better with a pen in my hand, writing on my blank yellow pads. So when I do start typing, it’s like a second draft. I know it sounds odd, but it works for me. And one of my heroes, Elmore Leonard, wrote longhand on the same kind of pads.
As for writer’s block? I will give you a line from another friend, Joe Ide, who writes dazzling crime novels about a LA character named Isaiah Quintabe, who has been called the Sherlock Holmes of the “hood.” When I asked Joe one time about writer’s block, this is what he said: “That means you just got up from the desk.”