I was told once that there are two reasons to write sports fiction. Men write the genre to compensate for their lost games in real life and women - to fantasize about sexy athletes with a six-pack and so on. I have to tell you something: most of the time, both suppositions are wrong. But to explain, why I, myself, write sports fiction, let me define the genre first.
I really like the definition taken from the Grafton Public Library website:
"Sports fiction is a made-up piece of literature where a sport has a specific impact on the plot or main characters."
Simple as it sounds. And diverse, too. Sports fiction is a story about becoming a champion - it's obvious. But sports fiction can as well be a romance story about two sportspeople falling in love with each other, a piece of crime fiction set in the sports environment or even a thriller, which takes place during the Olympic Games (my current writing in progress, 'The Ice-Cold', is exactly this one). Generally speaking, it is any piece of fiction where sport plays a vital role for either characters, plot or both. And I’m happy to announce that none of my sports fiction stories is a love story where the sport serves to explain the musculature of the main character/love interest – so we don’t need to argue whether this kind of fiction actually meets the criteria.
I started my long-term relationship with sports fiction as a teenager, virtually at the same moment when I fell in love with sports themselves. The thing is – I’ve never been a sporting type. Physical education was my elementary school nightmare and any activities I dreamt of (e.g., ice skating or skateboarding) were classified as “dangerous” by my mother so I soon stopped dreaming and started hating sports. And then, when I was 13 or something, I became addicted to watching sports, to the adrenaline of being a fan supporting their heroes. The feeling seemed so new, so odd, that I decided to do the thing I knew the best – “read about it”.
And then I discovered there were virtually no sports fiction books in my first language. And definitely not a single one about the sport I loved the most: speedway (in case you’ve never seen this one: it’s a motorcycle racing around the oval circuit on special motorbikes without gear or brakes). So, I started writing them as me-writer’s gift to me-reader. Surprisingly, it turned out I wasn’t the only one interested in reading about athletes dealing with opponents as well as the everyday life.
So why is it so great to write and read sports fiction?
First of all – sports fiction is as good as any other fiction in terms of showing people’s life. Characters need to have a profession, a passion, a hobby – so why not sports? One can easily use the training process and climbing the ladder of amateur-to-pro to present some universal values and share a message with the world.
That’s the common part of sports fiction and any fiction. The difference is that sports fiction can rely heavily upon the competition as a plot device. One can show the love-and-hate relations between athletes: people that share the same obsession and at the same time fight fiercely with one another for the one top-of-the-top spot. It’s exciting, it’s emotional, finally – it so ambiguous that the bare fact creates a conflict.
And then, there is my very personal motivation. I’ve never been a pro sportsperson myself. Actually, I’ve never been a sportsperson of any kind. Yet, I always wanted to explore different worlds and live the lives I wouldn’t have been able to hadn’t I been a writer. Writing sports fiction gives me a chance to look behind the scenes of a great sport show and get inside the heads of top sportspeople of the world. It takes time, research, lots of interviews with athletes and reading about sports psychology, but that’s how I like it.
I had the pleasure to introduce my novels and short stories to some actual speedway riders – and they all claimed I got the point – and I caught all the thoughts and emotions they had during the races. No need to say – that was the greatest praise I could ever receive.
Joanna Krystyna Radosz (born 1992) is a multilingual writer based in Września, Poland. In Polish she debuted with a short story Konie narowiste (Wild horses) in 2010 and an anthology Czarna książka (The Book of Shale) in 2016. Her debut story in English, A Distant Rumble of the World We Knew, was published in Dark Scotland anthology in 2021. So far, she has published three anthologies, one novel (all in Polish) and several short stories in Polish, English and Russian.
Her main focus is on sports: the ambiguity of hate and love between the athletes, the competition, the dangers of being a sportsperson, finally – the psychology and behind the scenes of the pro sport environment. She writes about speedway and figure skating, and winter sports… Anything that caught her attention.
When not writing, she earns a living as a literary translator, a scholar in literary studies, an editor, a journalist and, recently, a writing teacher. In her free time, she beads and makes various kinds of handicraft, plays video games or takes pictures of her cat, Nicki.