The Interview: Bookbag Talks To P J Davitt

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To P J Davitt

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Summary: Jill thought that One Shot at Glory was a truly relatable story about football hopefuls and author P J Davitt makes it warts and all. She had quite a few questions she wanted to ask when Paddy popped into Bookbag Towers.
Date: 4 February 2015
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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Jill thought that One Shot at Glory was a truly relatable story about football hopefuls and author P J Davitt makes it warts and all. She had quite a few questions she wanted to ask when Paddy popped into Bookbag Towers.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

P J Davitt: What a great question. I must say this is a strange experience for me as I spend my life asking others questions in my day job as a football journalist!

Well, I see boys and girls like me when I was in my teens; people who share a passion for football and reading, perhaps young adults who might not view themselves as voracious readers but love football and would engage with this story. I wasn’t interested in sci-fi or escapism or wizards and goblins (apologies to those who are!), I wanted to read about something that connected with me. A story from the real world I could relate to. I think that’s what we all want from a good yarn.

  • BB: What inspired you to write One Shot at Glory?

PJD: I honestly feel I became a football journalist because that seed was planted from an early age through reading any fictional book I could lay my hands on. From the age of about 10 or 11 if I wasn’t playing football I would be in the library reading books by sports writers like Michael Hardcastle and Brian Glanville. I re-discovered my love of reading again about six years ago and that was the trigger to sit down and write something myself. I was always going to pen a novel in this genre, it was just the practicalities and logistics of devoting the time. I researched it and really couldn’t see anything that was a modern version of the books I used to read in my teens and given my inside knowledge of the game I felt I could really offer readers an insight into a world they never see.

  • BB: Will we meet Dave Shaw again?

PJD: Would you want to? He is quite a selfish individual. Ha. Definitely. I have a second manuscript in rough form which takes Dave’s story on again as he tries to make it at Wolston and beyond. I am so excited by the possibilities and the fun to be had charting the twists and turns of that main character’s career in years to come. I write for a living for a newspaper publisher but I realised during this process there is something much purer and intrinsically far more enjoyable about writing a novel. At the very start it felt like a daunting challenge but I can’t wait to write many more episodes of Dave Shaw’s life.

  • BB: Would you ever write about girls football?

PJD: That is a fantastic idea and, yes, it’s something I would consider. I know girls and women’s football in the UK is among the fastest growing participation sports right now, and in my day job as a football journalist I have spoken to many talented young footballers who are getting opportunities within the burgeoning professional game in the UK. Obviously the sport is huge in America as well and I know footballers who are involved in the college system there. That is a really interesting area to explore in the future.

  • BB: What three books should every football fan read?

PJD: Brian Glanville’s Goalkeepers are Different was published in 1971 and is about a young keeper who makes it into his first team and plays in a big cup final. Glanville is widely-regarded as the doyen of British football journalists and this book is a great way of comparing how much the professional game has changed through the influence of the media and the huge finances now involved.

Any of Michael Hardcastle’s football books are prefect for early teens discovering books and the enjoyment they bring. Goal-getter from 2010 is the tale of Eddie who is promoted to his local school team when his older brother and best player in the school, Matthew, falls ill before a big match.

For older football fans, the best book I have read recently is ex-Manchester United and Republic of Ireland defender Paul McGrath’s brutally frank autobiography, Back from the Brink which charts his battles off the pitch following a tough upbringing in Ireland, to being thrust into the spotlight at Old Trafford.

  • BB: What advice would you give to aspiring footballers?

PJD: If we are talking about boys and girls who want to make it professionally then it takes a young life of total dedication. Only a fraction of those who start out in the academy system across all the professional clubs in the UK will ever make a career at the top level. Talent alone is not enough. Every young footballer who gets identified and invited to play within a professional academy has the talent, but application is just as important, and with the right coaching and nurturing you increase your odds. Never lose that sense of enjoyment you felt when you first started playing the game for fun because the pressure and the competition gets fierce the further you progress.

But you also have to be realistic and have a good support network around you for when that day might come when you are told you are not good enough and a contingency plan to explore other careers or further education opportunities.

  • BB: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

PJD: Find your own writing voice. Different authors or genres will always flow in and out of fashion, depending on shifting tastes and fads, but if you are comfortable in your own writing skin that should translate into original, engaging content which people want to read.

  • BB: We think it's wonderful that proceeds from the book are being donated to the Trussell Trust. What decided you to do this?

PJD: I think we all have causes or charities that just make a connection with us or we feel strongly about. The Trussell Trust is a national foodbank charity in the UK, which helps set-up and run foodbanks right across the country. Without wanting to clamber onto a soapbox more than a million people used foodbanks in 2014 in a country with the sixth largest economy in the world. You have hard-working people and families not able to afford a basic staple like food so I wanted to raise awareness and hopefully some funds for that cause. The book launched a week before Christmas for a reason, because that time of year is traditionally when you come together with loved ones to celebrate and over-indulge, but the reality for a lot of people is radically different.

  • BB: We have to ask: how will Norwich City do this season?!

PJD: Ha. Better than last season when they were relegated! My growing string of incorrect match predictions this season should tell you I have not yet perfected the act of crystal-ball gazing. They recently changed manager, which usually triggers a positive response. At present they are just hovering on the fringes of the promotion race in the Championship in England as they look to get back to the Premier League at the first attempt. I would expect them to have enough quality in their squad to make the play-offs, but then it is about who is peaking at the right time, who is in form and who has the most luck. One thing you learn with covering Norwich City is that life is never dull.

  • BB: What's next for P J Davitt?

PJD: I mentioned it earlier but I want to try and publish the second book in the Dave Shaw series by the end of 2015. The initial feedback has been really positive. This whole process is completely new to me as One Shot at Glory is my first novel so I am really learning on the job - not just about writing a novel but everything that goes with it. For now, I am trying to get the message out there and market the novel to as wide an audience as possible.

  • BB: We wish you the best of luck, Paddy and thank you for taking the time to chat to us.

You can read more about P J Davitt here.

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