Kevin C. Mills – Sidelined

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Sidelined

The book provides a look at sports journalism in a unique way. I write about many of my own adventures and experiences with some of New England’s top newspapers. They’re strange but true episodes from a career that has spanned two decades. I use humor and wit to recall some of my favorite incidents while including the finished product – the story that was ultimately written. It’s kind of a story behind the story.

Examples include chasing hockey legend Wayne Gretzky down the hall of the Fleet Center in Boston or showing up at pro baseball player Mike Bordick’s doorstep. Readers get to relive the stop the presses moment that I missed when Mike Tyson was knocked out by Buster Douglass. They learn the back-story to some of my greatest articles and can laugh along as I endured faulty stadium lights and gates that locked me inside the football stadium. I write about the story that accidentally won an award and about how I went from reporter to rescuer while on the sailing beat. People can see the job of a journalist in a brand new way.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’ve been a sports writer for about 20 years. Originally from Gorham, Maine, I’ve worked for the Boston Globe, Lynn Daily Evening Item, the Portland Newspapers and the Lewiston Sun Journal. I’ve also done freelance work for a number of newspapers and magazines.

I’ve been recognized by the Maine Press Association and the New England Press Association. I’ve also been honored by the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches and the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

What inspired you to write this book?

It really was an attempt at a reality show long before reality shows were created. I had the idea of writing a book about my career. It would cover the ins and outs and daily experiences of a sports journalist. I’d sprinkle in a variety of essay’s and adventures. It would be a humorous look at my job and career while providing readers an insight most don’t get about this profession.

My first attempt at it was years ago. I tried writing about my first day at hockey practice with the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates. I realized there was nothing all that exciting about my work that day and kind of scrapped the whole idea. Years later, I started thinking about the book again. I still had a number of experiences that I thought made good stories and had even had new adventures since the initial idea. So I began compiling potential experiences and book began to evolve.

How did you choose the title?

Obviously, I wanted something that was sports-related. Since I spend most of my days on the sidelines of various sporting events it fit nicely.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

As I wrote some of the chapters and chronicled some of the experiences I had, I thought it would be fun and informative to run the article that I eventually wrote. Lots of times readers will see the game story or feature in the newspaper but won’t know the story behind it. With some of these articles, my story was as interesting, if not better, than the one I was able to tell in the newspaper. So I decided to include those stories when I could. To do that, I had to do a lot of digging around to find them. Between finding my old clippings from the Boston Globe or Lynn Daily Evening Item or researching through various archives at the Lewiston Sun Journal, it was a bit of a chore finding all the stories I wanted. I even had to go through the microfilm machine to find some of my very early articles from the Sun Journal, and I hadn’t used the microfilm machine in years.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I’ve actually been writing and telling stories since I was a kid. I used to stand up in front of classmates in first grade and tell stories off the top of my head. I always loved to write and felt I had a God-given ability to put my thoughts into words. So writing and telling stories has always been something I’ve aspired to. One of my goals as a young adult was to write a book. So I spent a few years writing my first novel, Sons and Daughters of the Ocean. It is the first historical novel in a three-part series based loosely on my family history. After publishing that novel, I decided to finish up Sidelined before continuing on with the trilogy.

Do you have any writing rituals?

It has been hard writing as an author when my full-time job is as a sports journalist. Sometimes the last thing I want to do in my spare time is to write after writing stories regularly at work.
Eventually, I was able to find space and create time for myself to write. I’d spend spare time mulling over what I’d want to write next and then sit down and let it flow when I had the chance. Still, sometimes I’d have no time to think it over and would just write from scratch. That would often be a fun experience because I’d never know where it might lead.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

It wasn’t an issue in this book. But it is always fun to try and create names that are memorable, likeable and still fit the personality of the character that you are creating. Typically, I just toss around ideas and names until one seems to fit just right.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

This was an enjoyable experience because it was kind of a retrospective of my career. Some of the articles that are included are some of my best and favorite work. While some of the funny stories and interesting occurrences have been significant parts of my work experience. It is part of the job most people never see or even know exists, but it was nice to reflect back on my career and compile all those memories.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I can’t really think of anything I’d do differently. My fear was that I would finish the book and then recall a great story that I left out. But that didn’t happen. I’ve had experiences since the book was completed that would have fit in well. Maybe I’ll just save those for another volume some day.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I like all kinds of books: sports books, historical books, historical novels. I really enjoyed reading and studying Russian literature in college. I haven’t read a lot of multiple works by authors. I’ve really liked Michael and Jeffrey Shaara’s books. It was their Civil War trilogy that helped inspire my novel. I happened to pick up Richard Russo’s Empire Falls and really liked it. I’ve read a couple of others of his as a result. I really enjoyed my colleague Mark LaFlamme’s novel The Pink Room.

What I really liked about those novels is the way the author’s created characters and developed a story based on simple actions. I like stories with exciting plots and plenty of action, but great story telling is more than just an exciting plot. I appreciate an author’s ability to tell a story and write a story through its characters and personalities.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I’m finishing up the first draft of my novel Breakwater. It is a sequel to my novel Sons and Daughters of the Ocean. It doesn’t really continue the story of the first novel per se. It picks up the same family a generation or two later. It features two main characters, decades apart. One character is looking back upon the tragedy and adversity of his live while trying to make sense of it all. The other character finds himself in a challenging relationship after finding a long lost love. His past struggles with relationships follow him as his reconnection with a high school sweetheart begins to unravel. It’s a story about understanding love, trust and faith.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

When I first thought of writing a book and publishing a novel, it seemed like a very daunting task. It still is not easy to get a book done and trying to market, especially by self-publishing. It still takes a lot of work to produce the book, get it published and trying to sell it. But I think the increase in self-publishing options gives new writers a chance to write and publish like never before. So, if I were an aspiring writer, I’d be encouraged about the opportunities that are out there. Writing and publishing is very doable in this day and age. All it takes is a writer’s idea, desire, discipline and work ethic to make it happen.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Sports fans would certainly have interest in this book. People that have an interest in media and journalism would also find this book worthwhile. I also think people that don’t have a great interest in sports can read this and enjoy it because it has as much to do with the character that is me and following the life and experiences of my job. I think anybody that reads this will have a greater understanding and learn something about journalism.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

My website www.kevincmills.com has sample chapters and a contact form, if someone wanted to order it directly from me. It is available on Amazon.com in both book and Kindle formats. It is also available as a Nook Book at Barnes and Noble. It is also available in a variety of Maine bookstores.