You've mostly been known for writing sports non-fiction. Why did you choose to write "Homecoming Game," a sports fiction book?
I read a ton of books, especially fiction, and I got tired of reading spy thrillers, murder mysteries or stories with political intrigue. I wanted to write something that was fun, something you could cheer for the good guys and hope things went their way. I really just wanted to write something that was fun to write and hopefully fun to read. One of the neat things about being a sportswriter is that I get to write drama, passion, conflict and humor quite a bit, and I was able to use all of that in this book.

As a sportswriter, what was it like trying to write a sports fiction book?
You'd think it would be easy, wouldn't you? I never played high school football, but I've written hundreds of stories about high school and college football. It was good that I didn't have too much of an insider's perspective because that way I could try to write for a broader audience. I wanted something that could attract those who had and those who hadn't ever played the game. Anyone who has watched a game on TV can hopefully enjoy this story.

Was it difficult to make Lars Preston a sympathetic character?

It actually was, especially considering he's a quarterback and they are raised to be super-confident people. If they don't believe they can pull off miracles, then none of their teammates will, either. Quarterbacks have become our cowboys in white hats, our astronauts and our adventurers. One of the biggest challenges of the book was making Lars a believable quarterback but also someone that the casual fan would root for. Quarterbacks are normally cocky, but there's a fine line between being overconfident and belief in yourself.

Where did you get the idea for this story?

I was already working on another book when I woke up with this story one morning. That happens two or three times a year for me, and I always know I'm not going to be able to complete my previous project until I get the new one out of my head. The only way to do that is by writing out the new idea. That's one reason I keep a pad and pen next to my bed. I've gotten some of my best newspaper story ideas that way over the years, too. I don't worry about it or try to figure it out, I just write the ideas down and go from there.

This is your second novel, but your first when you used a bunch of friends' names. What was that like?
One of the things I really struggled with when writing ``The Lake Effect'' was coming up with names for the characters. In fact, in that book I stuck with first names only and didn't do a lot of character description because I wanted the readers to have their own characters pictured in their head. I always struggle to come up with names that sound real, but this time I got a little smarter about it. The major characters are named after my godsons and a close friends. Then a year ago I volunteered to be locked up for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and I promised that everyone who donated to the cause would be able to have either their name or their children's names included in the book. That made things a lot easier for me and an awful lot more fun to write. There are quite a few inside jokes in this book because of that.

Is it true there are vampires and zombies in this book?

Yes, absolutely. What, you don't think they'd fit in a football book? I made a special point of including vampires and zombies in the book because I figured that would have a tremendous impact on the marketing plan. I'm not kidding, either.

For the first time, you gave some early readings of the novel to some test markets. What was that like?
It was a blast! I actually spoke to a couple of second-grade classes during their young authors month. The first chapter involves a bunch of children taking part in a summer football camp, and I would contact the teachers ahead of time so I could replace all the names in the first chapter with those of children in the class. It was so much fun! It usually took a couple of times hearing a familiar name before the kids caught on, but by then I had their attention for good. They thought that was hilarious! Both teachers were surprised I could maintain the kids' attention for an hour, but we were all having a lot of fun by that point. The most difficult part was getting them not to laugh so loud. Of course, now the kids all want free autographed copies with their names in them so I may have created more trouble for myself. I'll just have to write another book using all of their names.

What's the next book?
I really want to focus on the Fort Wayne Sports History book. I think it's the most ambitious of any non-fiction book I've written, partly because there's so much that needs to be included. It's amazing the impact Fort Wayne has always had on a national sporting level, including a lot of things most fans today have either never heard about or have forgotten.