With a background as a sports writer, notably for Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine, what made you want to tackle a young adult novel?
I was in a YA kick for a while, reading all the John Green books, and the Giver, and the Hunger Games and Wonder and Eleanor & Park and some other stuff. It seemed like the genre was a cool place to be, and hit themes that adults could relate to, as well.
Your characters are wildly different, from Max's nearly-mute, little brother Gabe to the transient "Uncle Dewey". Yet they seem to find common ground, coexistence, and familial love. Is that connection what you hope young readers will focus on?
They all care about each other, and I think that was one reason the story worked. In the beginning Max didn't even have a little brother, and the story cried out: Wait a minute. What/who does this kid care about?
Did these characters and their relationships emerge from your imagination or did you base them on your own off-beat relatives?
I had an Uncle Dewey, although that wasn't his name. He was a Vietnam veteran who was tough, and who had seen and done some awful stuff, but who had a huge heart. He also was a sort of lovable outsider--charmingly out of touch with the trends. I'm thinking here of Dewey looking at the speech therapist drinking a green smoothie and asking, "What is that, a salad in a cup?"
Lucky Boy opens with Max detailing the predictability of another school year, though he soon finds his life filled with one unexpected event after another. Without giving any secrets away, did you have a clear image of what would disrupt Max's routine when you began the book or did some of the plot come as a surprise to you, as well?
The whole thing came as a surprise to me. I am not an outliner, although it sounds great. There was one plot twist that, I believe, made the whole thing work, and I remember feeling quite moved when I stumbled upon it. But really it all came from just forcing myself to write. The key, for me, is to do it regardless of feeling like I don't really know what I'm doing. It really is like building a boat as you're sailing it.
Coming of age is hard. Wicked hard. Did you have any reservations about reliving it through Max?
No, I had no reservations, because there are universal truths there. We all struggle, we've all gone through middle school, and we've all felt like the middle child.
What were your biggest challenges in the writing process? In the publishing process?
The biggest struggle in the writing process for me has been to understand my strengths and weaknesses. I know, for example, that if I don't check myself I can be too glib and write from the brain and not the heart. At some point the story has to connect emotionally. People want to feel something. As for the publishing process, the biggest challenge has been to cut through the noise and create more than a niche space for Lucky Boy in the marketplace.
A friend and I are talking about turning Lucky Boy into a screenplay. I'm also working on my next novel, which also features a bit of golf but which won't be YA. Still very early in the process, but it'll definitely have some fun characters. I've had some requests to do another book with Uncle Dewey, maybe getting into where he goes after Lucky Boy, or even getting into his past. I could see doing that, too.
Cameron Morfit is a Senior Writer for the Sports Illustrated Golf Group who has covered the PGA Tour since 1997. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Fortune, TV Guide, Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times and other publications. He has been interviewed on NPR and CNN, and is a regular presence in the pages of SI and Golf Magazine, and on golf.com, where his work also includes video essays.
After beginning his college career at UC Berkeley, Morfit graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1992 with a degree in journalism and an emphasis on broadcast production. His favorite books include Where’d you go, Bernadette, The Art of Fielding, The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Leftovers, and All the Light We Cannot See.
He began his journalism career at a weekly newspaper in Georgia, transitioned to a daily in Idaho Falls, Idaho; moved to New York to immerse himself in magazines; and now lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and 12-year-old daughter.
Lucky Boy is his first novel.