Why Twins?

Identical twins have always fascinated me.  It was purely a selfish reason to have the main characters of Extra Innings be identical twins because it gave me a purposeful excuse to research the topic.  As the original storyboards were being developed and my excitement grew I realized that this topic gave the story very unique opportunities.   After all there are very few fictional novels on the market about identical twins.  I think the trilogy would make for a fun movie.

I was fortunate enough to encounter a handful of identical twins throughout my research.  One question in particular, I will not disclose in this blog as it will give away too much information. Readers will just have to complete the trilogy to find out.

One of the first and very apparent concepts I learned was that the general stereotype of identical twins acting identical is grossly mistaken.  Learning this really helped me to develop the characters of Jimmy and Billy McGee.  I wanted them to be almost polar opposites so I was pleased to learn this concept is widely justified.  At the same time, this is where the pieces throughout the story become intellectualized WITHOUT becoming ponderous.

The correct term for identical twins is monozygotic.  This is where two embryos are formed from a single (mono) fertilized egg.  Because the two embryos are formed from a single egg/sperm fertilization, the twins have the same genetic origins and, therefore, the identical DNA.  However, despite this shared gene set, they have clearly individual personalities.  Studies are done as to whether parents should encourage this individualization more by not permitting the twins to share the same bedroom growing up or not to dress them alike, etc.  Right from Chapter 1 of the Diamond Thieves the reader learns that Jimmy and Billy both share the attic as their bedroom  I touch a little bit on their infancy and the whole concept of “twin ESP” and “twin talk” but mostly the story focuses on how the cavern of their individuality expands as their teenage years move along.  Still, what I find fascinating is how despite their differences they both often find the same platform with which to express themselves.  My favorite example of this is in Book 3 (A Hero Among Thieves) when both twins are experiencing stress they both express it through writing.  Jimmy, the more deliberate and intellectual of the two, completely emerges himself in a research paper at Ole Miss (The University of Mississippi) while Billy, the more free-spirited and creative type begins to write songs and poems about his experiences in Korea (during the Korean Conflict).  It’s also interesting that Jimmy naturally begins to develop a rigid routine to his mornings at college while Billy is forced into a rigid routine with the United States Air Force.

In book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) the reader is immediately told that Jimmy and Billy McGee are “clearly individuals.”  Behaviors, actions, expressions and thoughts help to illustrate this.  However, this book constellates more around the battle over their baseball diamond and how to handle the prejudice of their enemies “the mob” with respects to their good friend T.J. who is black.  With respect to this topic, both Jimmy and Billy have the same feelings although Jimmy (like his character describes him) is more in tune and responsive to T.J.’s emotions.

Book 2 (Race of the Gemini) lives up to his title by digging deep into the progression of these boys growing more different.  The story describes a lot of how one twin (Billy) feels like a living shadow of the other (Jimmy).  This was an interesting idea that I picked up in many of my interviews with twins.  They felt that the other was more of a favorite of one or both parents.  Some felt the jealousy of one twin being more popular in school or better at sports or a natural at socializing.  As I asked more questions I was very intrigued by the pressure and jealousy that was felt around this topic.  Often times these feelings sparred a sense of competition between then, hence the title “Race of the Gemini.”  The trick with writing about this was trying not to intentionally downplay one twin over the other.  If the readers found themselves having a favorite among the two brothers, I wanted that to be their choice and not triggered by some intentional or subliminal seed I planted.

In book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) both twins love baseball, however, Jimmy is a team’s all-star batter while Billy has the Ace pitching skills.  Also, Jimmy has a closer relationship with Skip, who is more mature and logical while Billy was closer friends with Whitey – the wild and fun one in the group.

Lastly, I wanted to play around with the whole concept of “switching places” or “trading places” as this was asked of each set of twins I interviewed.  I was surprised to find that this was not just a childhood experience but also performed on more of a strategic level as teenagers.  This was executed for various reasons allowing one of the twins to practically be in two places at once.  For the McGee twins, Billy insisted on Jimmy covering for him multiple times so he could sneak out of the house and be with his girlfriend or go drinking with his friends.  Jimmy, not being a big fan of drinking became almost the victim here so Billy, who was grounded, could still go out and party.

Overall, I had as much fun writing Extra Innings as I did doing all the pre-writing research.  I hope its readers fall in love with the McGee twins and all their friends as much as I have.  #extrainnings


Why Baseball?

Now that my first book is out, I’m getting a lot of folks asking: “why did you choose baseball?”

Well, as most people know my goal was to write a fictional book that required a vast amount of research, however, I did feel the need to incorporate some theme with which I was familiar. Considering the age of the characters I tried to think of what might interest them during this period in American history and baseball felt the most appropriate to capture the essence of this era. I grew up playing ball with my friends either during recess or during the summers in the town I grew up in a small town (named Wentzville) just outside St. Louis, Missouri. Other than building forts and trails in the woods that surrounded my house, I spent countless hours playing baseball. I also have some great memories of going to Busch Stadium to see the Cards (Cardinals) play. Speaking of major league teams, my dad was definitely more of a following fan. I didn’t watch sports at all growing up but I do recalling overhearing games my dad watched on t.v. or listening to on the radio. Again, these were great memories all positively influencing my current love for baseball. Now, I am a proud Boston Red Sox fan. I love listening to the games on our MLB app and posting fan messages on my Facebook page.

Once baseball was the decided theme for the beginning of the book (remember that the Extra Innings trilogy was originally plotted to be one single book) I began to create storyboards detailing the plot. Obviously, since the baseball portion of this story took place in 1947 and I wasn’t born until 1975, I did have to do some research. This mostly came in the with the help of Google. I had fun digging into the baseball archives for player and team information as well as specifics on rules and regulations of the game which have since changed. This was important because I could not always rely on my current knowledge of how the game is played. Certain illegal moves now were legal back then or had just been outlawed a few years prior to the year of this story.

For example, spitballs were originally outlawed in 1920.  The example of a balk mentioned in Book 1 is when the pitcher makes a motion associated with his pitch but does not complete the delivery.  The balk rule was first introduced 50 years prior to this story taking place but it was mentioned to help reinforce how the opposing team (“the mob”) had to be watched closely for cheating.

I want to specifically talk about Chapter 2. There is a scene between two friends (Fist and Boston) who are trading baseball cards. Researching this was tricky, because I really wanted to feature the more popular players at the time with a particular focus on rookie cards (like Brooklyn Dodger’s Pee Wee Reese’s rookie card from 1941) as those leverage the highest bargaining ability during a card trade.  But at the same time, I didn’t want to select too famous of a player because I believed that might appear too far-fetched to the reader. After all, avid baseball fans would know any and all current players (current being mid 1940’s) and not just the major celebrity players with now legendary status.  One interesting fact to note was that some major league players didn’t get issued an actual “rookie” card until a few years after they were playing.  One example was outfielder Ralph Kiner who began playing for the Pittsburg Pirates in 1946 but wasn’t issued a rookie card until 1948.

Another interesting point to mention is that major league baseball was shut down during WWII as the men were away fighting the Nazi’s. This is when the AAGSL (All-American Girls Softball League) came about (later to become the All-American Girls Baseball League in 1943. (Remember the movie A League of Their Own with Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna).  This era of baseball is not mentioned in the Extra Innings trilogy at all. Based on the nature and personalities of these characters (and their relationship with one character in particular), it would be contradictory for them to speak of this league unless it was negative.

I do feel it’s important to mention that the story of the twins goes beyond the topic of baseball. Only in Book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) is this even a focus. Chapters 10 and 11 give solid closure to the baseball-themed plot and I believe that Chapter 12 does a good job communicating that the reader can expect for Book 2 to incorporate a completely different theme. For the purpose of peaking a prospective reader’s interest to buy my book, I am going to refrain from explaining what that theme is in this blog.  Speaking of Chapter 12, I hope everyone who reads the book really enjoys Chapter 12 as this is absolutely my favorite chapter in the entire book.  Readers have already reported to me that they are (pleasingly) shocked by this chapter.  I love it!  #extrainnings


Getting Inside a Character’s Head

Getting inside a character’s head is one of the easiest or most difficult things to accomplish when you’re writing a story.   It takes imagination and constant observation of the human race around you.   In the book “The Diamond Thieves” of the Extra Innings trilogy there are multiple characters of various ages, backgrounds, morals and maturities. I am going to write about 3 principle characters in this story: The McGee twins, their friend T.J. and their mother Ellen.
The story is centered around thirteen-year-old identical twins Jimmy and Billy McGee.  Creating the personalities of the McGee twins required a great deal of research .  
I interviewed multiple identical twin males before and during the writing process.  I needed to get into their heads to understand how they viewed one another and themselves in relationship to the world around them.  These interviews helped me to solidify much of the competition theme came from Book 2 and where Jimmy’s emotional journey and struggles came from in Book 3.  Of course, one set of twins could answer my questions completely different from another set of twins.  I discovered this was based on how close of a relationship existed within each set of twins I interviewed.  Did they consider their twin their best friend throughout life or did they find themselves growing apart in their teenage years?  Note: I plan to write future blogs about these specific interviews as I found them fascinating.

Another critical character in the story was T.J.  This is a young black boy growing up in the South in the late 1940’s-early 50’s. Most of T.J.’s development came from movies I had watched in my life of the societal difficulties blacks faced during this period in history.  Also, my best friend growing up was black and he and I had conversations about how different and how very much alike we both were – despite our racial difference.  
Creating an interesting character in T.J. was a huge goal of mine.  I not only wanted T.J. to be strong, I needed him to be.  Yet, I had to be realistic and ask myself how strong would a young black male have been at this period in time? Most 13-year-olds face a mountain of fears and curiosities and are simply not the least bit mature.  But again, there are some whom have had to endure adult-like circumstances and therefore had no choice but to develop a strength just to survive.  This is who I believe T.J. is and I like the way he interacted with the boys in the story as well as showing a vulnerable side by always making a quick exit anytime “the mob” appeared.

Also, I want to talk about the twins’ mother Ellen.  Writing Ellen was a fun challenge. I had no current observations to base any of her moves, reactions or behaviors on.  I found myself having to ask older women, who would have been little girls at this time in history, to look back on their mothers for nearly ever move Ellen made throughout all three of the books.  I also had to locate women who were raised in the South as most of the women I know are not Southerners (whom hold a very different mentality and demeanor than “Yankee” women. I like that I was able to give her a heroic role in Book 1.   My mission as a writer is to  connect and inspire and, for me, Ellen was the character that stood out in Book 1 as an inspiration.  I hope that readers will feel inspired by her and how she stood up against an entire community for what was right.

I’m sure I will have more to write about this as character development is critical to storytelling but for now these were the top three examples I wanted to start with.


Extra Innings Press Release

I thought for this blog I would share my press release.  This will be sent to three different northeast Ohio newspapers:  The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, The Akron Beacon Journal and the Canton Repository.  The goal is for them to print an article in a Sunday edition to help advertise the release of my first novel Extra Innings: The Diamond Thieves.  Shown below is what I wrote for the press release.  Anyone who has field experience in writing these I would love to hear some feedback.

Local Author Releases His Debut Novel

Every teenager will face a life-altering crossroads when they struggle to do what’s right in the face of steep pressure to do wrong.  For Author Brian Gibson of Akron, Ohio, this becomes a personal message in his debut novel Extra Innings, The Diamond Thieves.

Diamond Thieves is the first of three fictional books in his Extra Innings trilogy that chronicles the teenage lives of identical twin brothers Jimmy and Billy McGee. The twins who, along with an entertaining cast of friends, are being challenged by their arch enemies for exclusive domain over their neighborhood baseball diamond.

Set in the late 1940’s Deep South, the boys must deal with a very adult ethical dilemma that intensifies the conflict: in the face of opposition from the town and their rivals, should they allow their best friend and team spark plug, who is black, to play in the deciding game?

‘My goal with this story was to connect with all individuals and inspire them in a way that improves their life and way of thinking’, said Gibson who goes by the pen name B.W. Gibson. ‘I feel like I have accomplished that.’

The Diamond Thieves conveys a strong unfiltered message about life during a period in history when racism was still a way of life in small-town southern communities.

Gibson displays a writing style that will transport you back to the sights, sounds and even smells of this Cold War period in U.S. history.

Please find enclosed a review copy for your consideration. For more information visit Brian Gibson’s website www.bwgibson.net.

 

 

 


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