Jennifer Lacopelli has been watching tennis at the highest levels since before she could really remember clearly. This made it only natural for her to start writing novels set in the world of professional tennis - not only exploring the thrill of the sport itself, but also the relationship dynamics, the competitiveness and other things that drive the players. As our Author of the Day, Lacopelli tells us all about her latest novel, Game. Set. Match, talks about the New Adult genre and reveals her favorite tennis players of all time.
Please give us a short introduction to what Game. Set Match is about.
GAME. SET. MATCH. is a novel set in the world of professional tennis. It follows three up and coming athletes, Penny Harrison (the rising star), Jasmine Randazzo (the daughter of champions) and Indiana Gaffney (the raw, talented underdog). GSM takes place in the month or so leading up to the French Open as the girls struggle with their own place on the court, but even more with their relationships off of it: boys, parents, agents, coaches, rivals and the media all vie for their focus, but these girls won’t let anything stand in their way.
What inspired you to write a book featuring tennis players and their lives beyond the game?
First, I love tennis. When I was young I took lessons at the National Tennis Center in Queens and idolized Jennifer Capriati. Tennis is also one of the few sports where women can often be viewed on equal footing with men as far as celebrity and attention are concerned and I definitely wanted to explore that.
You also chose to infuse romance into this book - why did you take this approach?
I couldn’t help it! The idea that each of these girls would be dealing with a relationship - granted very different relationships, at very different stages of development - was inherent in the idea when it first occurred to me. Of course it’s also a built in foil for their goals! What’s more distracting than that?
What drew you to the New Adult genre?
I once had a friend say that my book was the truest young adult/new adult crossover she’d ever seen. I didn’t set out to necessarily write a New Adult book. It was really more about of realism - the girls had to be in their upper teens, nearly twenty to be truly capable of breaking into the higher ranks of pro tennis and I knew I wanted them to be competing on the actual pro tennis tour and not in the junior ranks, so it became “new adult.” I do think the actual content of the book can be described as young adult. There aren’t any explicit sex scenes or graphic violence, though I will admit there are a few steamy moments!
If you could meet up with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Definitely JK Rowling. I’d trap her on a comfy couch and make her take me through every minute detail and every family tree in the Potter-verse as she knows it.
Your characters are likeable - even when they are behaving badly. How did you pull that off?
That’s a relief! I’m so glad you found them likable. I’ve never really thought about it before, but I think it might be because I set out to make them real rather than likable. We’ve all done things we regret. We’ve all told a white lie or been sharp with someone who didn’t deserve it. I think what helps with that is that the reader gets to see the story unfold through all three girls’ points of view and thus we know where they’re coming from, even when we don’t agree with their behavior!
Who are your favorite tennis players of all time?
On the women’s side, Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams. For the men, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and James Blake.
The sports-scenes were detailed and well-written. How did you manage to make it feel so real?
I’m a huge sports nut. I was an athlete in high school (though oddly, I didn’t play tennis) and if my TV’s on, odds are it’s set to some kind of sporting event. I’ve been watching tennis at the highest levels since before I can really remember clearly. I learned a lot over the years, but I’m not going to lie, YouTube’s vast collection of tennis matches definitely helped me when writing the match play.
Which character did you find the hardest to write for and why?
Jasmine. It’s not even close. Penny is a lot like me, so she flowed out onto the page easily and Indy just says whatever pops into her (my) head, so that makes her part of the story easy to write. Jasmine is a product of her upbringing and the pressure that comes with being raised by two ridiculously talented and successful professional athletes. Her major flaw is jealousy and while I’m not immune to envy, it’s not something that’s ever really consumed me the way it has her. She was interesting to write, but definitely the most challenging.
One reader wrote that you made them itch to play tennis - was this intentional?
No, not intentional at all, but I can’t think of a higher compliment! Tennis is a great way to get some exercise and it’s a sport you can play for the rest of your life! Plus, all you need is a racket, a ball and a wall as the girls in GSM prove more than once!
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on the third and final OBX book as well as a new book, a young adult novel about gymnastics!