All YA Love: Interview with Gene Fehler

Filed in All YA Love , Gene Fehler , Interview Posted on April 14, 2010 @ 8:37 am 0 comments

Recently I had the chance to read Never Blame the Umpire and loved it. It is a Christian fiction book that provides comfort as Kate & her family deal with with her mom’s cancer. I think this book has so much to offer: the importance of love and living life to the fullest. I know this is a book that will be staying on my shelf and being pulled out when needed …hopefully not for a long time though!

I was also lucky enough to have a chance to chat with Gene about the book, I hope you enjoy!

The Monster Lover: Can you tell us about Never Blame the Umpire?

Gene Fehler: In Never Blame the Umpire, eleven-year-old Kate is having a happy and busy summer, playing baseball and tennis. She’s also taking a three-week poetry writing class. Then, with no previous hint that anything is wrong, she learns that her mother has unoperable cancer. As Kate goes through various stages of grief, it is her mother’s deep faith that helps her realize that God is good, in spite of life’s tragedies.

I’ve also admired people who face with humor or courage the prospect of their own death by illness. I’ve wondered if I would be able to handle such a situation as courageously. I tried to write a novel that had characters facing this situation in the way I hope I would be able to. I also hope the novel can serve as an inspiration to people of all ages who are facing illness or loss, either in their own life or in the lives of friends or family.

Because of my lifelong experience with baseball — as a player, coach, and fan — I drew on the metaphor of God as umpire that Kate’s mother uses to try to comfort Kate.

The Monster Lover: Being a parent yourself, was this a tough topic to write about? (I must say as a parent, it was hard to read without crying!)

Gene Fehler: It wasn’t that tough writing as a parent, because I’ve been blessed by having two healthy sons and three healthy granddaughters. What I thought about throughout the writing of the novel, though, were the deaths by cancer of my father (when he was 71) and my sister (at 65), My sister was diagnosed in August 2004 and died two days before Christmas the same year. In those three short months she was never bitter. She faced her impending death with the humor and courage I would like to possess if I were ever faced with what she was.

The Monster Lover: The month of April is National Poetry Month. In Never Blame the Umpire, Kate enjoys writing poetry and eventually uses it as a way to cope. Many great poems where included in the book, is poetry also a passion of yours?

Gene Fehler: Before any of my ten books were published, I had been writing poems for years. I’ve had about 1,800 poems published in more than 500 magazines — literary, children’s, regional, and religious — as well as in numerous anthologies. My published books include four collections of baseball poems, a children’s book of goblin poems, a free verse novel for young adults, and a textbook on how to write poems. Never Blame the Umpire is actually my first prose novel.

The Monster Lover: You have written many books involving baseball & obviously love the sport. Do you feel that including baseball in the story makes it more relatable to kids?

Gene Fehler: I hope so. That’s not why she plays, though. Because baseball is such an important part of my life, I often tend to have my characters share the same love of the game. And because I know more about baseball than I know about other topics, I feel more comfortable writing poems and stories and books about baseball. I do, however, hope that the book might have an even broader appeal because of wide-ranging influences in Kates life — including baseball, tennis, poetry, family, and God.

The Monster Lover: Though the book is technically considered juvenile fiction, this is definitely a book that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is also such an emotional book, what responses have you been getting?

Gene Fehler: I’ve been pleased with its reception among readers of all ages. Here are excerpts from a few of the many nice reviews and comments the novel has received:

“The book will help pre-teens and early teens to see past the obvious pain, and, instead, see the great faithfulness and love of the Lord.” (ChristianBookPreviews)

“The book is also of value to adults who understand better than the invincible young that we are all only one play away from being pulled out of the game of life. This is a book that can help those in need and those who will be in need.” (John Creighton)

“It is the courage and faith of the mother, as well as her love, that is most comforting.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“I think this book could be a great resource book for schools and churches.” (ausjenny44, Aulstralia)

“This is a beautiful book and the full focus is not on the death – but on the life they live and the valuable lessons that can be taught on how to trust God even when tragedies happen.” (myreadingroom-

“The overreaching message that love is stronger than death prevails in Fehler’s tender, engagingn story.” (Publlisher’s Weekly)

The Monster Lover: Can you tell us about what you’re working on now?

Gene Fehler: I have three current novels in various stages of revision. All are aimed for a middle grade or young adult audience. Baseball is important in one, and basketball is key in another. The third has no sports connection, but is my attempt to write a humorous novel.

The Monster Lover: Thanks for stopping by Gene!

About the book:
How do you trust God when tragedy strikes?
Kate is having the best summer a sports-loving eleven-year-old could possibly have. Baseball. Tennis. And to top it off, Kate has just started a three-week class where she’s discovering a new love: poetry.
Then comes the news that tears Kate’s world apart. In her close-knit family, Kate has always felt God’s love and protection. But how can she trust God now? Do sports or poetry matter when tragedy strikes?
In Kate’s darkest hour, her mother’s faith shines its brightest, helping Kate to see that life is still beautiful and God is still good. Always, no matter what.

About the author:
Gene Fehler, a widely published and anthologized poet, is the author of over eighteen hundred published poems, stories and articles.

In addition to continuing work on a broad assortment of writing projects, Gene spends several weeks a year with students as a visiting poet in South Carolina’s Artist-in-Education Program. Gene’s hobbies include playing tennis, golf, basketball, baseball and softball; and reading and collecting books. His collection includes more than 600 children’s poetry books and more than 3,200 sports books.

Gene grew up in Thomson, IL, a small Mississippi River town (population 500) in Northwestern Illinois. Much of his writing has been influenced by his small town experiences and by his love of baseball. He has lived, written, and taught in Illinois, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina. He and his wife Polly now live in Seneca, South Carolina, where he continues writing, teaching, and participating in sports.

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