This is not your typical sports novel. Yes, the back drop for everything is baseball, but the story has so much more depth. It’s much more of a character piece than a focus on a team and their struggle to become number one. J.D. Dudycha manages to tell the struggle of one kid trying to keep his head above water in a world he really isn’t truly ready for without making that entire struggle focused solely on the game of baseball. Jack’s life revolves around baseball (for the most part) but the story revolves around Jack and the myriad bad decisions that he can’t seem to help himself from making. The whole thing is kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You can see Jack barreling toward something that will screw him over, but you can’t do anything to stop it.
What I really like about this book is that it’s accessible to everyone. J.D. spent a lot of time in baseball himself, and that knowledge really shines through in the story, but even someone who knows nothing about sports – like myself – can easily follow along and not feel like they’re missing something. I think that’s where so many other sports related novels go wrong.
Baseball fan or not, it’s hard not to sympathize with Jack’s plight and cheer him on as he finds his way to redemption.
Now let’s meet the author!
J.D. Dudycha is a former college baseball player and coach. He has over ten years of experience in baseball at the collegiate level. After the birth of his son in 2012, J.D. retired from coaching to be a stay-at-home dad. Since his retirement, he developed a love for writing, an outlet he so desperately needed in the absence of baseball. Though his stories are fictional, he has drawn from his personal life as well as his expertise and knowledge of the game to craft his novel. J.D. lives with his wife and son in Denver, Colorado, where he also enjoys golf and fly fishing.
First things first, give us a Tweet synopsis of the book (140 characters or less):
A gritty, in your face story of redemption. Jack Burke, whose talent on the baseball diamond is hard to replicate, it’s off where he finds trouble around every corner.
I personally feel like you made this book comprehensible for all readers despite their level of baseball knowledge. Was it difficult to translate your own extensive knowledge into something anyone could grasp?
Most of the baseball scenes inside Paint the Black, came from personal experience. I wrote them in a way that the average reader could still understand the overall concept, and in depth enough that an avid baseball fan could admire the expertise.
My editor, who was brilliant by the way, was unfamiliar with inner workings of the sport. So I felt if she could understand the overall flow of the storyline, than anyone could.
My hope is anyone can pick this book up. It reads as a character driven piece that just happens to revolve around the game of baseball.
You’ve spent a lot of time in the world of baseball. Do Jack Burke’s trials and tribulations mirror your own, or was your time in baseball a little less eventful?
Jack, along with every character inside Paint the Black, has a little bit of me in them. I tried to take the best of me and worst of me, and put it to page. I loved developing Jack, and Dallas, my two favorite characters in the book. They are both similar in a way, but also different. Dallas brings Jack down, but it’s Jack who makes the choices. Nobody made him do the things he did. He made his own decisions, and had to live with the consequences.
I never got to Jack’s level, but let’s just say I was close.
It seems that some of the things that Jack goes through in Paint the Black are becoming more and more typical in professional sports. What advice would you give a young athlete looking to go pro?
You know, I think a lot of what Jack went through could be related to anyone’s story. He didn’t have to be a ballplayer to get sucked into the lifestyle he chose. He could’ve just as easily been a construction worker, or businessman. I would tell any young man whose thrust into the world without a life preserver: rely on God, and he will never steer you wrong.
Also, do not let your sport/job define you! I personally lived for so long with that mind set, and it nearly cost me everything.
Christianity plays a big role in Paint the Black, as I know it does your own life. What made you decide to veer away from the typical sports novel and focus on the aspect of faith in the face of adversity?
When I retired from the game in 2012, I was left with a hole in my heart. Baseball has been a part of me since I could hold a glove and bat. I had so many memoires, no stories from the game. God put it on my heart to share this particular story with the world, and my hope is many can relate.
I wrote Paint the Black, with the end reader in mind. This novel is not your prototypical Christian fiction book. It’s not filled with rainbows and butterflies, its real life. Jack struggles with some harsh things (alcohol, drug abuse, ect) and I felt baseball was the perfect backdrop for it.
Let’s talk baseball movies: Bull Durham or Major League?
Ooh, you struck a nerve there. I hold a special place in my heart for Major League. I kid you not, I can recite the first five minutes of dialog word for word, even to this day. Although, Bull Durham, is a classic, Major League will always be my number one choice.
If your book was adapted to the big screen and they asked you to fill the role of your choice, which character would you choose?
That’s tough, because the actor would need to be a baseball player first, and then an actor. And since Kevin Costner is too old to play Jack, I would say: Tyler Hoechlin of Teen Wolf, Road to Perdition, and 7th Heaven Fame. I actually coached against him in a collegiate summer league. Kid can play ball and act. He would play Jack Burke.
What baseball team from any era do you wish you could play for?
I am a huge fan of baseball history, and even though I am not a Yankees fan I would’ve loved to have played for them between 1940 and 1960.
After over 100 years of failure, do you think the Cubs will ever win the World Series again?
I hope so, because it would be tremendous for the sport of baseball. The Cubs have such a following throughout the nation, and their fans have been waiting forever, for that elusive championship. I hope 2016 is the year for the Cubbies.
What can we expect next from J.D. Dudycha?
Another baseball story. Are you surprised? In all seriousness, my next novel is set to come out in February 2016. It is entitled Sitting Dead Red. The story follows a collegiate ballplayer who has to overcome a cheating scandal, an abusive father, and PTSD from a death of teammate. Much like Paint the Black, it is hard hitting, and in your face. I can’t wait for people to see it!