BY MICHAEL H.
YOU CAN FOLLOW ELLIOT TURNER : @Futfanatico
I am a big fan of Elliott Turner and his writing. He is a freelance journalist that covers soccer. His work can be found on Vice, Fusion, Paste and many other outlets. He frequently posts to his personal blog, Futfanatico. Turner has started a Kickstarter to bring to life a novel – The Night of the Virgin – he has written. It’s a novel about soccer: The only way it could be more in my wheelhouse is if a character owns and operates a used bookstore and drinks an inordinate amount of coffee. He was nice enough to answer a few questions about the novel, his writing, and general soccer things.
The Open Field: What really motivated you to write a soccer novel? Is it about the royalties? The prestige? Something you don’t get as a sports “journalist”?
Elliot Turner: To be honest, I’ve always loved the American road novel and, while living in the RGV [Rio Grande Valley], I got a pretty deep sense of just how immigration laws made in Washington can really affect and hinder and mess up the daily lives of people. I got this idea: what if somebody went on a road trip, but one of them was undocumented? So I had this story bubbling around inside me, demanding to come out, but needed a familiar angle. Then, luckily, I broke my leg and yes, the book is all about the royalties and I look forward to stacking those Tubmans faster than the Treasury can print them.
TOF: Could you tell us a little about your background in soccer and how you came to write about it, both as a journalist and, now, as a novelist?
ET: My blog has always been a receptacle for odd, at times fictional, writing about soccer that didn’t really fit in anywhere else. What’s been cool about the last five years is how places like VICE and Fusion have come into existence and really explored new ideas but also funded old fashioned investigative journalism. And given me both a home and hope. I know a lot about soccer because I have loved and played the game since I can walk, and I have a pair of eyes, but the book is a novel, not a reported feature. It is fiction and whimsical and, yes, some parts are brutally raw and autobiographical, but you have to guess which is which. I type words, but my lips are sealed.
TOF: Being a very experienced professional writer, what advice would you give to novice and/or aspiring writers trying to get noticed in the very populated world of “content”?
ET: People look down at blogs as amateurish and unprofessional, which they are, but it’s a great way to get in the habit of writing and to experiment and find your voice. Once you can clearly write about issues important to you, then find the sites which light your fire, track down the editors of those sites, and email them every so often a “pitch email” where you basically say “yo, I love your site, I’d like to write for it about X issue in X words and am pretty flexible on rates.”
TOF: If you were stuck on an island with one famous soccer player, one famous pop culture star, a single gun, and two bullets, who would they be and what would you do?
ET: I would have to bring Diego Maradona because he would be entertaining, Chris Evans because he would steal my wife while I was away and stranded on the island, and I would make both of them either dance or play soccer. Probably both. The bullets would be conserved to defend us from pirates though. And seagulls – they carry germs and are the silent killers we must repel.
TOF: Are there any specific novels or players or figures from the game you can cite as an inspiration?
ET: No, not by name or title. I will say that there are a ton of great American baseball novels which have inspired me to believe that you can use sports as narrative push without getting all caught up in the winning and the losing and the blah blah blah. In terms of soccer, there is [in The Night of the Virgin] a delightfully overweight and eccentric Argentinian coach, an ironclad conviction-filled Dutch coach, and then a seat-of-his-pants Englishman who enjoys a drink or two after a game and hates the media. In terms of players, many of them are drawn from real life friends and teammates.
TOF: I am in an indie bookstore and about to shell out twenty bucks for a novel. Why do I pick yours?
ET: First, the cover by Erik Ebeling will be amazing. You will be able to stare at it for hours and then the words inside are decent. Second, the story is about “soccer” in a sense and “an undocumented kid grows up in America” line, but there’s a pretty nice twist at the halfway point which some will see coming, but others not so much. Then the last quarter of the book is basically an ode to both English and Spanish as spoken by human beings. I tried to be lyrical, and think I pulled it off in a few parts.
Help Elliott’s eccentric novel ostensibly about soccer come to life and get published! Check out the project here. Follow Elliott on Twitter, and check out his blog. A big thank you to Elliott for taking the time to speak with us.
FOLLOW THE OPEN FIELD