In 2011, my younger son wrestled two girls during the course of the season. I began to wonder what the male- dominated world of amateur wrestling might look like from a high school girl’s perspective. The story just grew from there.
How long did it take to write this book?
In the summer of 2012, I took a young adult novel writing course as part of my master’s degree at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. During that class, I wrote the first chapter of Reversal and outlined the plot of the novel. In the spring of 2013 I finished the novel as my master’s thesis. The initial writing process took about 2-3 months. But the editing process took countless hours and multiple versions after that.
Was it hard to come up with ideas for your story?
Not at all. As I started writing the story, most of the scenes and characters seemed to write themselves. I found that I was so interested in finding out how Kayla’s story would turn out that I couldn’t wait to write chapter after chapter.
How do you know about high school wrestling?
I was a high school wrestler in Indiana in the mid-1970s. Following that, I was a wrestling referee for a number of years. Since we moved to Charlotte in 2004, I have been a fan of my sons’ wrestling teams from middle school through high school. I spend most winter Saturdays in hot, smelly gyms by the edge of a mat!
Why do girls wrestle against boys?
Title IX federal law requires that girls be given equal educational opportunities, which includes access to all sports which boys participate in. Courts have ruled that public schools must allow girls to compete on boys’ teams if no competition exists exclusively for girls. Girls wrestle against boys (as well as other girls), because there are few all-female high school wrestling teams in the country.
Is Kayla based on a real person?
No. But her first name was inspired by a very successful high school wrestler from Indiana. Her last name was inspired by Richard Burbage, an actor who performed in many of Shakespeare’s plays during the lifetime of the writer. I imagine that Kayla’s father took Burbadge as a stage name.
How did you choose the settings for your novel?
Writers tend to write about what they know. In my case, I grew up in central Indiana, then lived in Chicago for 15 years. So I felt comfortable that I could make the small Indiana town of Felton feel accurate (as well as Kayla’s backstory, which takes place in Chicago.)
Is Felton, Indiana a real place?
No. But it is not unlike small Indiana towns near where I grew up.
Why did the team wrestle in a barn?
One of my favorite authors is Ron Rash. I heard Mr. Rash say that some of his story ideas originate with a single mental image. I had the same experience when beginning to write Reversal. One day, I imagined a very significant wrestling match taking place in a barn during a huge snowstorm.
Will Kayla’s story continue?
I hope so! I have ideas for following Kayla’s story through her high school career. I’m eager to see where life leads her.