Monday, March 28, 2016

What One Interview Can Do for a Book

One benefit of writing nonfiction books is interviewing amazing people.  My last book FOURTH DOWN AND INCHES: CONCUSSIONS AND FOOTBALL'S MAKE-OR-BREAK MOMENT was no exception.  For this book, I interviewed all types of people involved with this issue-the experts at Boston University, coaches, athletic trainers, mothers, fathers, former NLF players, wives of NLF players and many more. 

Kevin Turner, a former NFL player, was one of those people.  Unexpectedly, my interview with Kevin changed my book-for the better. 

I’d done the research about the science of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) but I needed to understand the world of football.  Not how the game is played, but what football means to a player.  I got connected with Kevin.  He was already suffering from ALS (NLF players have higher rates of ALS probably from repetitive head trauma) and had some trouble speaking.  When I called Kevin, I told him up front that I was getting background material for my book, that it wouldn’t be in the text of the book.  But I didn’t know Kevin yet. 

We talked for two hours, but the two most important questions I asked Kevin were: 

How does it feel to play football in the Alabama high school state championship game?

How does it feel to make a touchdown in the NFL? 

And Kevin told me.  He told me how it felt to play the game he loved!  With a genuine southern boy charm, he was warm, funny, and gracious.  He made me laugh with his honesty and humor.  And he made me cry with his honesty and humor. 

After our interview, I could not get Kevin’s stories out of my mind.  I knew that every athlete would understand what Kevin felt on the field.  I knew Kevin and his experiences must be in my book.  And they are. 

When I wrote about Kevin in the book, I asked him if he had any photos of him playing ball as a child.  He said, "My mama's got 'em. Call her and she'll send them to you." And can you believe it? Mrs. Turner sent me original photos of Kevin and I used one in the book.

Kevin Turner started playing football at five years old.

On March 24, 2016, Kevin Turner passed away from ALS.  I will always be grateful to Kevin.  My interview with him was a turning point in the research for my book.  I was blessed by knowing Kevin. 

Kevin Turner

Some text from 
will be used in an upcoming PBS documentary created by Arkansas Education Television Network (AETN) titled 
It will air in Arkansas on April 7 at 7:00PM, and at later dates in other parts of the country.

The credit screen for my book FOURTH DOWN AND INCHES:
CONCUSSIONS AND FOOTBALL'S MAKE-OR-BREAK MOMENT that will be seen on PBS documentary Bell Ringer: The Invisible Brain Injury

Carla Killough McClafferty


Carmela Martino said...

Wow, this is so touching, Carla. I'm so sad about Kevin's death.
I'm hoping your book, and it's use in the TV program, will help prevent other such deaths.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thanks, Marti.