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For the Guys

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<bt>Author Tim Wendel joins Guys Read, a book club for guys, Thursday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m., at the Ashburn Library, 43316 Hay Road, Ashburn, to discuss his best selling book "My Man Stan." Recommended for ages 8 and up. Visit www.lcpl.lib.va.us.

What type of books do you write?

I write novels and nonfiction books. My first novel, "Castro's Curveball," was set in old Havana and included Fidel Castro as a main character. My nonfiction book, "The New Face of Baseball" was named Top History Book by the Latino Literary Council. "My Man Stan" is my first children's book.

My books often are about sports and intriguing worlds or situations.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Sometimes it's from the places I've visited — Cuba, Japan, Nepal — and other times my kids direct me toward interesting stories. That's what happened with "My Man Stan." My son, Christopher, and I were visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and he pointed out that this Hall of Fame player, Stan Mikita, had cut his penalty time in a season from 154 minutes to just 12 minutes in two seasons. That's a major change in playing style and philosophy, so that got me to thinking how a player like Stan Mikita did that.

When did you first get inspired to write? Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?

I always loved to read. Early on it was King Arthur and a lot of comic books. When I was a teenager I read Ernest Hemingway's "Nick Adams Stories." My family vacationed most summers in northern Michigan, where many of those stories are set. That made me realize that a big part of storytelling was taking the reader to places he may not know about. To make new worlds come alive for him.

What is "My Man Stan" about?

In the novel, Alex and his grandfather go back in time, to the mid-1960s, to see the legendary Stan Mikita play. They do this with the help of the Magic Radio. See if you close your eyes and really concentrate on the game on the Magic Radio, you can travel back in time. Alex, like Stan Mikita, is having trouble with his temper. So, the two of them work together. I think this underscores one of the biggest misconceptions people have about sports: That you have to be angry to be good at sports. Nothing could be further from the truth. I've covered sports for almost 20 years, as a writer for USA Today and other publications. Joe Montana, Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan, to name just a few, certainly play with passion, but they are almost always under control.

How did the idea for the book come about?

Besides the day at the Hockey Hall of Fame, the idea for the Magic Radio came when I was driving my kids around town and I had the Georgetown basketball game on. At one point, the announcer said, "Here come the Hoyas, moving right to left across your radio dial." My kids — I have a daughter and son — thought it was so funny. But then I explained that what the announcer was trying to do was create pictures in your head. If you can really see it, the game becomes more real. The next day, I put the Magic Radio into this story I was writing about Alex and Stan Mikita. By the way, Stan Mikita became a good friend as I wrote this book. He talked to me about what he went through in cutting his time in the penalty box and eventually did the foreword for "My Man Stan." He's got a great sense of humor. Some movie fans may remember him as the guy the donut shop was named after in the movie "Wayne's World."

Where do you do most of your work?

I do most of my writing in my home in Vienna I'll sometimes travel to research parts of a story. That's what happened a few years ago when I went to Japan to talk to people about the fire balloons, the best-kept secret weapon of World War II. That led to the adult novel "Red Rain," which will be out in spring 2008.

What do you listen to when you work?

I'm a big XM satellite radio fan. I usually listen to classical or rock music. But I can get most of the baseball and hockey games on XM, too.

Why do you think it is important for guys to read?

Reading helps you gain some control over your life. What I mean by that is that you can always have a book with you. You pick out what interests you and from there the sky is the limit. I read all kinds of books and I'm often surprised by how a story will turn out, what a character will do in a tough situation and, perhaps most importantly, what I can learn about different parts of the world just by turning the page.

What do you hope people get out of your books?

My goal is often to take you someplace you never thought about going. To be able to tell you what it's like. In "Castro's Curveball," it's going to Cuba. In "Red Rain," it's the Pacific theater and the last years of World War II. In "My Man Stan," we're going back to the mid-1960s, when players rode trains to away games and the game was just beginning to take off.

Any local community influences in your work?

I do a lot of research at the local libraries. The people there are great for ideas and help. In addition, I'm a big history buff and there's so much history in our area — from visiting an old battlefield to rediscovering some forgotten treasure or fact at the National Archives or Library of Congress. This is a great area to be a book writer.

Any other favorite books that are good for guys?

I enjoy sports biographies — really learning what was going on inside a player's head in a big at bat or play. Besides Hemingway, I have books by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph, W.P. in my office. When I'm stuck, I pick those books up again and try to figure out how those writers did it.

What will you be doing at the event?

We're going to see some old hockey footage of Stan Mikita in action. I'll tell the story of how the book came together and I'll ask the readers there to help me with future Magic Radio stories.

Any future shows coming?

I'll be discussing "Red Rain" at various libraries and other local venues in the spring. People can see what I'm up to by checking out my Web site at www.timwendel.com.