Featured Fiction Author
An Interview with Ivan Scott
by Joyce Dixon
There is a quality of romance in nostalgia that captures the inner child and can create an intimacy that plots between the sheets -- miss. Ivan Scott has written such a romance in his debut novel. To understand Ivan Scott's love of baseball, family, and the aura of soulmates, you just have to listen to his passion on the subjects.
When not writing novels under the pseudonym Ivan Scott, Scott Sergent is program manager of GTCN, the campus television station of Georgia Tech. He has written and researched articles for various Atlanta Braves publications, written articles promoting events in Metro Atlanta, and has been published in The Erato, a Georgia Tech poetry magazine.
Scott graduated with a B.S. in Communications from East Tennessee State University and was a two-year starter for the University Soccer team. He came to Atlanta twelve years ago to work with Turner Sports -- from the Atlanta Braves PR department to World Championship Wrestling. Scott is active with various softball leagues around Atlanta and volunteers with the Atlanta Humane Society. Like other single young professionals, Scott lives in the suburb of Vinings, where the local grocery store is nicknamed, "The Hook Up Publix."
You used the 1955 Dodgers-Yankees World Series as a key set for the action of your novel. How has fans romance with baseball changed since that era? What qualities make baseball in the 1950's stand out for fans?
The huge thing is the advent of free agency, which has players changing teams so often fans cannot identify players with teams. The old timers would tell you Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig were Yankees, or Gil Hodges and Pee Wee Reese were Dodgers, or Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell were Pirates. Today, the players move from team to team so frequently, it is difficult to have loyalty to a player, and also for team since the makeup of the team changes every year. Of course, when you throw in the players leaving for more money, it tends to drive a wedge between the player and fans because of the perception, real or not, of the player just in it for the money and not in it for the hometown team. When a player who has spent his entire career, let’s say in Atlanta, is offered 10 million dollars, (Which, in my opinion is about 9.9 million dollars too much) and he says that’s not enough money for him, it tends to sour the fans because they feel he is choosing the money over them and the city. To regular people like us, what is the difference between 10 and 15 million dollars? How much is enough? Of course when the players decided to strike in 1994 and almost did last year -- that is a sore subject with fans.
I think baseball catering to the corporations instead of the fans and families is another thing that has changed the view we have on baseball. Due to the free agency and sky rocketing salaries, the teams have to find more lucrative sources of income, and the losers of this are the fans. For a family to go to a baseball game, the total price of the night is in the hundreds of dollars, and has deterred families from going to a baseball game. The scary thing is what will happen in the future when the kids of today become the parents of tomorrow, since they will be the ones buying tickets. With the World Series games all at night, starting at times when kids have to get to bed for school the next day, that becomes a huge piece of the puzzle missing from the kids memory of growing up with the game. These days a lot of kids are choosing to play soccer instead of baseball, so they will have grown up with a different sport than a lot of us did. When I was growing up, playing baseball was something we did from dawn to dusk. Playing soccer was unheard of.
Baseball in the 1950’s was larger than life in the towns where major league baseball was played. Similar to how college football has a hold on the South in the fall, baseball in the 50’s gripped the country much the same way. The ballparks were smaller then, but the fans liked it since they were close to the action and felt as if they were a part of the game. People say when they sat in Ebbets Field, they could see the beads of sweat on Gill Hodge’s face, or at Wrigley Field they heard the ball players talking to an umpire, or the sound of a player sliding into a base. The ballparks of today are nicer and have more amenities, but the seats are too far from the field, which takes away the sense of being in the action.
Since players stayed with teams longer, and didn’t make the money they do today, fans could identify with them easier, and they were regarded as regular guys who lived in their neighborhood. In my research, I came across stories of how the fans in Brooklyn knew where the Dodger players lived, so they would put groceries on their doorstep in appreciation, or bake them cakes for their birthday and deliver them to their wives at their home. Some players said they wanted to win for the people of their city, since they felt close to them and appreciated their support during the season. After the games, kids used to walk with the players from the exit gate of the stadium to the subway, or to the parking lot and talk baseball the entire way. Willie Mays used to play stickball with the kids in the streets where he lived.
As mentioned before, players stayed longer with teams, so people looked forward to seeing their favorite players every spring, especially in the winter months when there was no baseball. The players were icons of their teams and cities and the fans lived and died with them all season long. Much like Alabama and Auburn fans go at each other all year long, fans of baseball teams in the 50’s were the same way. I read stories about fans that didn’t eat dinner after their team lost a game (In the 50’s the majority of games were in the afternoon), and even a Dodger fan shooting a Giant fan after the Giant fan teased him too much about the Dodgers losing. Much like a college football fan feels passion for his school since he feels a pride associated with it, the fans of the 50’s felt their teams belonged to them in the same way.
Romanticism is evident in your descriptions of Wrigley Field and Ebbets Field. What makes these locales magical? Did losing Fulton County Stadium (original home of the Atlanta Braves) have the same magic and sense of loss for local fans?
With any place we grew up in, we tend to hold on to those places and memories with greater importance because of the time we spent there, and who we spent it with. As time passes, and we keep going to those places to watch games, those days becomes memories for us, and eventually, we pass the feeling on to our children, just as our parents did to us, so the circle of our livelihood continues.
In a lot of the books I read about Ebbets Field, people talked about how they would go to the games with their parents and how much fun they would have, and how those would be special memories they would keep forever. I also believe the places we went to as children on a regular basis hold a sense of innocence to them. It reminds me of the line from Field of Dreams when James Earl Jones talks about a baseball game. He says, “They’ll walk out to the bleachers on a perfect afternoon. They find, that they have reserved seats, along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children, and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it will be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they will have to brush them away from their faces.” He then adds, “Baseball has marked the times. This field, this game, it is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and could be again.” I think those words give the game a magical quality, and since those who grew up with baseball have those kinds of memories, of being a child, and being with their family on warm summer days when things were innocent and easy, it elevates the experience to something we hold dear to our hearts.
When Fulton County Stadium was leveled, it didn’t hold the same emotion as when Ebbets Field or Comisky Park fell. Maybe it is the sign of our times, or maybe it is an Atlanta thing, but here we don’t seem to honor the past here as some other cities do. What people forget are the things that shape our future come from the past, but in Atlanta, when we want to make room for something, we destroy what’s in it’s place to make room for something else. Currently, the site where the old Fulton County Stadium sat is a parking lot. There are very few things in this city that link us to the past. Maybe another reason is Atlanta is such a diverse city with people from all over the country living here, so the deep roots of tradition might not run as thick since people did not grow up here, and may have allegiances to other cities and teams. With years of bad baseball teams, plus the trend of wanting modern facilities, I don’t think too many people shed a tear when the park was demolished. Ebbets Field lasted for over 50 years, and Comisky Park for almost 90 years, so when Fulton County Stadium was demolished after only 30 years, the blood lines of tradition might not be as sacred as with other places. I know of several people who grew up in Atlanta who spent their summers there and were sad when it fell, but not in the numbers, or in the intense feelings of loss like the people felt in Brooklyn, or Chicago, or in some of the other cities where the old ball parks fell for modern structures.
Field of Dreams is one of your favorite films. An Invincible Summer mirrors that movie, in that instead of "if you build it, they will come," it has the main characters go back in time to heal their hearts. Why was it important to go back in time, to heal the memory of love?
It’s an interesting concept to think about going back in time since life moves forward, no matter where we are. I think it was important to write about going back in time since real life allows us no such luxury, so giving the reader than escape was something I wanted to do. I think it is critical to live every day to the fullest since there are no second chances to relive a moment. There is redemption for some, but we can never be sure if it will come again, so it is critical to hold on to those kinds of moments and live them to the best of our ability. One of the wonderful things about fiction is the opportunity to create a world where things like second chances and redemption happen. As creators, whether it be books, or movies, or music, or art, it is our duty to give people the opportunity to have that escape into places that do not exist in the real world.
As far as the memory of love goes, I don’t think that memory ever dies, especially if it was true love. I believe when we love something with all out heart and soul, it is there forever, whether we want it there or not. What’s important is once love fades, we don’t have that memory hinder our quest to live. I also believe second chances are part of life as well, so while we can’t go back and replay parts of our lives, there are opportunities for redemption, as long as we keep our minds open to the possibilities.
There is a Frank Capra quality to An Invincible Summer. Would you say you were inspired by It's a Wonderful Life and Hello, Mr. Jordan?
It’s neat you mentioned those movies since It’s a Wonderful Life is a great movie, and Hello Mr. Jordan is a classic, even though I have not seen it. I know it was the basis for Heaven Can Wait, which I have seen and is one of my favorites. When I think about the inspirations of An Invincible Summer, those movies do not come to mind, however, I am sure they could have been if I was thinking about them since I like the way the characters were shown that life is not always what you think it is, and when your back is to the wall, that’s the true measure of a person. I liked the fact the movies showed good triumphing over evil, even if it is not the path expected. My inspirations for the novel were easy since I was going through a broken engagement, I didn’t have a full time job and my father had passed soon after, so writing was therapeutic, but it also gave me an escape from what was going on with me. I spent a few nights at the Emory Library here in Atlanta, going through old New York Times newspapers from 1955 and it was as if I stepped into a time machine, since reading the articles, and seeing the pictures of how life was then was really a great experience, and it gave me a welcomed distraction from my usual routine.
Dating in 2003 seems to move at a faster pace than the sweet guarded intimacy and innocence of An Invincible Summer in 1955. Do you feel that intimacy is rushed today? What is being sacrificed?
Dating in this day and age is rough and not treated with the proper mindset. Being single myself, I get to see the effects of how tough it is to find someone to be with, however, I will not settle, so that is probably why I am still single! A lot of people would rather be with someone they really didn’t love, instead of being alone, and that is a dangerous path to travel down. The funny thing is I am 36, and a lot of women I meet already give me two strikes since they are thinking, “Well, you’re 36 and never married, what is wrong with you,” instead of giving me a fair shake from the beginning. These days, people put too much emphasis on material things, and pass over people with heart and character too easily. I have read many times it is best to find someone you really like, and then build from there. You have to like someone before you can love them. It reminds me of building a house; you have to have a good foundation to build on before anything beautiful can be constructed. Also, the old adage of sooner or later the spark between two people will fade, and when it does, there had better be something there to take its place. I think there has to be a good mix of romantic and realist in each person, and sometimes we should think with our emotions rather than our heads, especially when it comes to the matters of the heart.
Along the lines of intimacy, there are things people seem to overlook and take for granted. Sure, making love between two people is beautiful, however, if there is going to be anything of substance, shouldn’t that come later? To me, it is like the going to dinner. There is the Entrée, then main course, then dessert. (Cheesecake for dessert please!). That’s a perfect evening! You wouldn’t eat the cheesecake first, would you? In terms of intimacy, people go for the main course right away, and after they are done with it, the allure and mystery of what is going to come next is blown away. For me, the Entrée would be something like holding hands while ice skating on a first date. Then, if I am fortunate, a long kiss good night at her door. Ah, the first kiss! To me, that has always been something special I never forget in the relationships that have meant something to me. As things progress into the main course, there is inviting the person over to your place so you can cook dinner for them, then watching a romantic movie together, or going to the symphony or an Impressionist exhibit and getting their feelings about the event, and sharing your feelings with them. Communication is important! How about seeing that person at a party, and sharing a meaningful look from across a crowded room? Nobody else catches it, only you two. The neat thing about that is they seem to be able to look into your soul, and you into theirs since you know each other in a way nobody else does. And the thought doesn’t scare you.
I know the time I have gone to the next level in the intimacy department, it was an experience I will never forget! It’s hard to explain, but when you are with the person you were supposed to be with, you know it’s right in your heart and that is an exciting, yet comforting feeling to it. The term is making love, not just having sex. After it is over, and you two are laying there in bed holding each other, it is as if you two have become one. Just as night follows day, you know it’s there and it is incredible! When people rush the whole intimacy process, none of that is possible, and I would truly be disappointed if I couldn’t be in that position again since it is wonderful. As it has been written, the journey is as rewarding as the final destination.
What does it take to heal a broken heart?
A lot of bourbon. Just teasing! Unfortunately, I have had one of those before, and I can tell you from experience there is nothing that will heal a broken heart, except time. However, the recovery time is in proportion to the intensity of the way you loved. As I mentioned before I think that once we love, we never truly overcome the experience when it goes away, but we have to put it away in our minds so it won’t keep us from living. It is not such a bad thing to hold on to the memory of love, sine we should learn from every experience we encounter, but it’s important to move on since hanging on to something that has passed and will never come again is a waste of time. I think part of the healing process comes when a person lets out all the pain inside of them in whatever way they are comfortable with. Crying, talking about it with family and friends, or getting help from a professional counselor are all constructive ways to start the healing process. Keeping everything inside might work for the interim, but in the long run it will catch up with you, and when that time comes, it is devastating. Denial is also something to avoid since the critical thing with a broken heart is for the healing process to begin as quickly as possible, and not being true to yourself about reality will only delay the road to recovery. I know when I was dealing with those kinds of things, I wished for the pain to end, and the only way to do that was to look forward so I could begin to heal since living in the past was destructive to the healing process.
How did working in the Atlanta Braves Public Relations Department give you insight in the lives of players?
Working for the Braves as a 22 year-old kid just out of college was a great experience! I remember the first time I walked into the Braves locker room, Dale Murphy was sitting on a bench in the middle of the room signing autographs. On the right was Tom Glavine talking to the clubhouse attendant, and as I walked inside to drop off the daily statistics, I almost bumped into Phil Niekro. I tried not to look scared, but I didn’t do a very good job of it! haha I saw and met several players of different teams in addition to the Braves players, plus many celebrities, so that was always a source of fascination for me, but as time wore on, the intimidation and awe faded since I got to see them as normal people. They had to take their kids to the doctor when they were sick, they had to make their house payments, then went to the grocery store and they watched the same shows as I did. (Who would have known Major League Ballplayers liked Seinfeld and The Simpsons?) As I found out, these were just like any other person I met, only they had the ability to play a sport at a much higher level than I could.
In addition to the PR duties, I managed the videotape department where the players could watch their hitting and pitching tapes. I remember David Justice would come into the locker room and ask if he could watch his hitting tapes. We would look over his games and he would ask me to run the tapes back and forth, and sometimes he would say, “What do you think of that at bat?” Or, “Did you think I was late on that swing?” Here was a guy who was making millions of dollars playing baseball, asking me about his swing. As time went on, and I had those kinds of interactions with players, I realized they were just like any other person I came into contact with. Jeff Blauser would come into the video room and ask, “Hey, Scooter (my nickname), you should see the fan mail I got today!” Every now and then, he would show me the letters from women who wanted to meet him, and we would laugh about it. I always wanted to ask, “Hey, Jeff, can I have some of your rejects?”
I used some of the locker room experiences from my days at the Braves in the novel because they added a sense of realism to the story. Since the main character in the story was a regular guy who was going to interacting with major league players, I wanted the reader to get an idea of how a new person might feel intimidated by working with famous people, but after a while, you see they are just the same as anyone else.
Tell us about your next book Ghostwriters.
I am really excited about Ghostwriters! I wanted to write a novel about real life and how things happen to us that seem unpredictable. Are chance meetings really by chance? Or is there an invisible force that make things happen for reasons we do not know? I have always had a fascination with ghosts and if they really live among us, and how their spirit can attach themselves to a place they cannot let go of, even after death. I find it incredibly romantic someone would not be able to go to a better place after life since they have such an attachment to a location, building or a person. The story takes place in present day Atlanta, and it involves a group of ghosts who are responsible for getting two single people together through any means (all honorable) possible. The ghosts all have tragic pasts of their own and they all keep personal diaries about their lives and what they do. We get to know them, and why they ended taking the path they are on. Of the ghosts, there is a mentor who counsels them on life and their purpose there, a girl who waits on a bridge for her long lost love to meet her, two southerners who died early in their lives but want to give back to the world, and a man who grieves over the void he felt with his father. Other ghosts are called in to help with the assignment ranging from two sassy British sisters to a hopeless romantic who chases his true love through the story. I hope to put excerpts of the book on my site as soon as it is ready.
Visit Ivan Scott's Web Site at http://www.ivanscott.com
© 2003, Joyce Dixon, All Rights Reserved