…we're keeping our name but expanding our offerings!
First off, thank you so much to Shelley for inviting me to Boys in Our Books! When I got her invitation I had to read it twice to make sure she sent it to the right person.
Telling people about The Foxhole Court has always been an awkward process. I’m never quite sure what to say when people ask “What’s it about?” If I tried to be honest, I’d say it’s about a runaway teen with a violent past whose obsession with a fictional sport gives him his first real chance at life and love. That tends to get weird looks, though, so I generally opt for a vague and non-helpful “It’s self-indulgent fiction.” Foxhole is, for better or worse, what happens when you put every plot point you want to one day write about into one tiny space.
It didn’t used to be this complicated; it started as a wannabe boys-love manga on notebook paper. 400+ pages later I realized it had no plot and threw it away. Transitioning it to novel format took a couple failed attempts, and when it was finally done I became that person agents warn you not to be: I went straight from The End! To Dear Agent. I was (deservedly) rejected, and that despair triggered a decade of rewrites.
Every couple of years I attempted the query-go-round game again. I watched agent blogs and author twitter feeds obsessively, saw my best friend sign with an agent, and hinged everything on the publishing world’s elusive validation. I told myself Foxhole was a failure if I couldn’t get someone to notice it. 60+ rejections later I started compromising. What was I willing to do to make it more acceptable and market-friendly? I considered changing it to a real sport, even if that meant gender-swapping half the cast, and I even moved the main characters to an entirely different story to “save” them from being trunked.
Partway through the new story I began hating the compromises more than I hated the feeling of failure. Foxhole is a mess of a story, but that mess is what makes it so important to me. Making it more logical or realistic betrayed what I wanted to write in the first place. I finally remembered that success in writing isn’t measured by contracts and book deals but by the chance of being happy with what one creates. At that point I turned to an avenue I’d never considered: self-publishing.
The Foxhole Court has been a major part of my life and my writing for the last fifteen years now. Putting it out there is my way of finally letting it go and getting some closure. I want readers to like the story; I know not everyone who reads it will. But every time someone takes a chance on Neil and spends a little time with the Foxes, I know the uphill fight was worth every setback and disappointment. So thank you, all of you, for helping me believe again.”
Nora gives those new to the series an intimate look at my two favourite characters, Neil and Andrew with an excerpt from The Foxhole Court. And for those of DYING to know what’s become of both of them Nora teases with a (mostly) spoiler free excerpt from Book 3 The Kings Men.
“The Foxhole Court”:
Nora Says: “The Foxhole Court has a lot of characters to keep track of; it has to, seeing how it centers on a collegiate team. The Foxes all have something to offer Neil, but it doesn’t take long to realize the one Neil came to Palmetto State University for isn’t the one who’ll have the most influence on his life. Andrew is determined to oust Neil from the Foxes, no matter what, and the ongoing power struggle between the two of them has always been my favorite part of the books. Neil and Andrew are a lot alike, which means they’re very good at finding each other’s weak spots and cutting deep.”
This touches on Neil’s obsession & fear and the early power struggle between him and Andrew.
“Why do you hate this game so much?”
Andrew sighed as if Neil was being purposefully obtuse. “I don’t care enough about Exy to hate it. It’s just slightly less boring than living is, so I put up with it for now.”
“I don’t understand.”
“That’s not my problem.”
“Isn’t it fun?” Neil asked.
“Someone else asked me that same thing two years ago. Should I tell you what I told him? I said no. Something as pointless as this game is can never be fun.”
“Pointless,” Neil echoed. “But you have real talent.”
“Flattery is uninteresting and gets you nowhere.”
“I’m just stating facts. You’re selling yourself short. You could be something if only you’d try.”
Andrew’s smile was small and cold. “You be something. Kevin says you’ll be a champion. Four years and you’ll go pro. Five years and you’ll be Court. He promised Coach. He promised the school board. He argued until they signed off on you.”
“He—what?” Neil stared at him, blood rushing in his ears as he tried to make sense of Andrew’s words. Andrew had to be lying to him; Kevin couldn’t have said such things about him. Kevin could barely stand to be on the same court with him as far as Neil could tell. What good did it do Andrew to say such obvious lies? Was he trying to rile Neil up?
“Then Kevin finally got the okay to sign you and you hit the ground running,” Andrew said. “Curious that a man with so much potential, who has so much fun, who could ‘be something’ wouldn’t want any of it. Why is that?”
If Andrew was telling the truth, then Kevin had definitely lied to all of them, and Neil could only guess at one reason why he’d go to such great lengths. Maybe Kevin remembered him after all and was saying whatever he had to in order to recruit Neil. But if that was so, how much did Kevin know? How much did he understand or remember about what happened eight years ago? Did he know Neil’s name? Did he know what that name meant?
“You’re lying,” Neil said at last, because he needed that to be the truth. “Kevin hates me.”
“Or you hate him,” Andrew said. “I can’t decide. Your loose ends aren’t adding up.”
“I’m not a math problem.”
“But I’ll still solve you.”
Neil turned away without another word. Kevin was gathering his balls, finished with practice. When Kevin started for the door, Andrew moved behind Neil. Neil heard cloth rustle as Andrew stood, and Andrew’s shoes tapped quietly on the stairs as he came down to inner court.
“You are a conundrum,” Andrew said.
“No, thank you,” Andrew said as he slipped past Neil without a look back. “I need a new toy to play with.”
“I’m not a toy.”
“I guess we’ll see.”
EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM Book 3: “The Kings Men”.
Nora Says: “The Foxhole Court taught Neil what ‘hope’ is, but by The King’s Men Neil has pretty much given up on it. Uncovering the full truth of his past and seeing firsthand the wretched consequences of his presence at Palmetto State have left him—fragile? It’s a strange thing to say, seeing how Neil’s always been a survivor. Neil’s always known he was going to die, no matter how good he is at running and no matter how well he hides. He knew what it meant when he agreed to stay with the Foxes this year. But he’s never before cared about the people around him, and he’s never before realized what he’s going to miss out on when he goes. Andrew shouldn’t be the glue keeping Neil together, but… hey, desperate times.”
Neil wanted to keep arguing, but there was nothing he could say. He got to his feet and threw his breakfast trash away. Andrew stepped into the lounge just long enough to make sure Neil was coming, then did an about-face and left again. Neil followed him outside with Wymack’s words ringing in his ears.
Andrew’s voice was almost enough to drown it out. “Aaron came back this morning to pack.” He stopped on the sidewalk to light a cigarette. Neil sat on the edge of the hood and propped his shoes against the curb. He sent Andrew a questioning look, but Andrew didn’t elaborate until he’d put his pack and lighter away. “He’s moving in with Matt. You’ll stay with us for the time being.”
“You’re letting him go?” Neil asked.
“He isn’t going anywhere except outside of choking range. It will be easier to keep an eye on you this way, anyway.” Andrew came to stand in front of Neil. He put a finger in Neil’s face and said, “Do not mistake this for forgiveness. You pull another stupid stunt like this and I will break every finger in your right hand. Do you understand?”
“You’re welcome,” Neil said, just to see the violence flash across Andrew’s expression. It wasn’t safe or smart to test Andrew’s self-control, but it was oddly satisfying. Neil stole the cigarette from Andrew’s hand and turned it over between his fingers. He watched smoke twist and dissipate in the air between them, then dropped the cigarette to the sidewalk. He ground it out beneath one shoe.
“Your left hand, too,” Andrew said. “Possibly your neck.”
Andrew started to turn away, but Neil put a hand out. “Don’t.”
Andrew turned a cool look on him. “What do you want?”
“Talk to me,” Neil said. “I want to remember why I stayed.”
Andrew gestured over his shoulder at the stadium. “Take a picture and get in the car.”
“Exy’s why I came. It’s not why I stayed.” Neil turned his left hand over and traced the outline of a key into his palm. He’d toyed with it so many times he knew every dip and ridge by heart. “Everyone else has always said ‘go’. You’re the first one who told me I could stay. You gave me a key and called it home. I trusted you. I still do. You should know that by now.”
Frustration pulled Andrew’s mouth into a hard line. “I should know better, you mean. Don’t look at me like that. I am not your fucking answer, and you sure as fuck aren’t mine.”
“I’m not looking for an answer,” Neil said. “I just want—”
He gestured helplessly, unable to finish that plea. He didn’t know what he wanted; he didn’t know what he needed. In three months championships would be over. In four months he’d be dead. In five months the Foxes would be right back here for summer practices with six new faces. Neil could count his life on one hand now.
On the other hand was the future he couldn’t have: vice-captain, captain, Court. Neil had no right to mourn these missed chances. He’d gotten more than he deserved this year; it was unthinkable to ask for more. That didn’t ease the empty ache in his gut any.
“I don’t want to be nothing anymore,” Neil said.
Quick Q & A
Shelley: Do you have a release day for book #3.
Nora: Book 3 was supposed to come out in mid-December, around the 13th, but that hinged on me getting the book to my betas in September. There’ve been a couple major setbacks as far as edits go, so I haven’t even been able to contact my betas to see if they’re all still on-board. Unfortunately that means I no longer have a definitive date, but I’m trying to pull everything together as fast as I can.
Shelley: What about a title? And labels, gah… what can you possibly tag this as?
Nora: Book 3 was originally All The King’s Men, but I’m probably going to shorten it to The King’s Men once it comes out. Not sure what label to give it, either. When book 1 went up on Smashwords I just tagged it as new adult & sports, but.. Yeah…
Shelley: Okay last thing. What happens after? It can’t be easy, letting go after so many years with of sharing head space with these guys and the team. Do you have any other projects in the works?
Nora: It’s going to be so strange! But it’s kind of a relief being able to close the lid and stop the obsessive rewrites and tweaks. I have a pile of stories I’ve been working on between rounds of Fox edits, mostly urban fantasy with a stray sci-fi or two. Next up is probably going to be Monochrome, a young-adult book about witches in San Francisco. It’s the story Foxhole Court almost became when I was trying to ‘save’ Neil and Andrew from getting trunked. It’s fun to work on and, since it’s a stand-alone, will be a nice break from this year’s madness.
Shelley: Nora, you are amazing and I am thrilled to have met your crazy characters and experienced your skewed reality – lol. But if you kill anyone off (that doesn’t deserve to die by fire) in The Kings Men I will hunt you down. Just saying J Like the Oracle says you have something special and I am so glad you can share it with us. Thank you!
Nora: Thank you for having me!
Nora Sakavic can be found at: http://courtingmadness.blogspot.com/