A 2016 tragedy and its aftermath served as the catalyst for the new novel, “Season on the Brink,” by longtime Falmouth Enterprise sports reporter Rich Maclone.
The story traces a high school hockey team through its most challenging season, and while it’s based on true events, Mr. Maclone stressed, “I changed details and took creative license to make things fit the way they should.”
A 21-year employee at the Enterprise and a member of the Falmouth High School Class of 1991, Mr. Maclone said he caught the writing bug in high school, taking a few classes at Cape Cod Community College before transferring to Liberty University. “When I got to Liberty I hadn’t been on campus more than a few days before I went to the newspaper and said I’d love to start writing. I had an assignment that weekend and I’ve been going ever since,” he said.
Mr. Maclone also credits Liberty with inadvertently cultivating his love of reading. “When I went to Liberty I didn’t know anyone so I started reading, mostly easy, fun reads. Now it’s difficult for me to fall asleep if I haven’t read a chapter or two. I probably read a book a month. Nothing too deep, but that’s not why I read. I read for fun. I get enough real life during the day.”
Mr. Maclone’s interest in sports can be traced back to both playing and watching sports, and especially to his neighborhood friends growing up in East Falmouth. “My neighborhood was a group of kids who were really tight,” he said. “Depending on how many people turned out on a given afternoon we would play hoops, touch football, Wiffle ball, street hockey, you name it.”
This early experience with his neighborhood friends played into the development of the book. “The book is about a group of kids and while I was writing about them I was having a lot of memories come up of times I’d spend on Central Avenue as a kid just hanging out with my buddies,” he said.
While he considers “Season the Brink” a young adult novel, Mr. Maclone thinks adults will enjoy it as well. “One of the most fun things to read today is YA. They tend to hit the ground running,” he said.
“I tried to write with a teenage voice as much as possible but not dumb it down, especially in this day and age. Kids are a lot less naive then we were.”
Getting to know youth athletes in town and seeing them grow up is one of the things Mr. Maclone likes most about his job. “This particular group of kids that I based the story on, I’ve been around them, at least on the periphery, for a long time,” he said. While his characters started off being modeled on real people, or amalgamations of people he knew, the characters soon took on lives of their own. “In my mind’s eye I wanted to know who I was writing about,” he said, “but as I learned who the characters were and what their backstories were, then they really become those characters and not just a character based on so-and-so,” he said.
While the focus of the book is on a high school hockey team, Mr. Maclone wrote the book to appeal to sports lovers and laymen alike. “While it’s based on athletics, it’s more about the people then it is about the game,” he said.
Mr. Maclone said the book was therapeutic, as it came at a time when his family was working through some tough health issues. “Things were scary for a while, and my therapy was to sit down for an hour or two when I had some free time and write.”
He continued, “I thought that this was something that could really benefit kids because at some point everybody’s got some personal tragedy that they have to deal with. I thought that if I took this bad situation and put some creative twists on it and maybe make someone smile or help someone process what they are going through, then it would be a worthwhile venture. No matter how difficult things are, you can get through it. I’ve lived that and I’ve seen it and I wrote about it. I want kids to see that bad things happen and bad things happen to good people. That’s just life.”
Mr. Maclone credited his friend Ted Murphy with encouraging him to tackle the novel. “I knew I had at least one book in me and when I sat down with Ted he said, like only Ted can, ‘You gotta write this story!’ It was the push I needed.”
A chance encounter at a wedding led to Mr. Maclone meeting editor Nicole LeBoeuf. “She helped me get to the next level and tighten things up,” he said.
Mr. Maclone also had a number of beta readers providing feedback, from middle schoolers to adults, including his college journalism professor and some of his college classmates. “It was great because I had both male and female readers, kids, sports people, non-sports people,” he said. Mr. Maclone said he especially appreciated the feedback from female readers: “My lead female character is 10 times better because of what they brought to it.”
Because the book was inspired by true events, parts of it were definitely hard for Mr. Maclone to write. “Anyone who is from town knows the story and if they don’t, the cover of the book alone tells you that something bad is probably going to happen. When I got to that scene, it took a long time to get through it. I was in tears.”
As a father of two with a full-time job, finding time to write was a challenge. “I’m busy Monday through Thursday so I’d be lucky to find an hour or two to sit down and write, but on Sundays, I go to church with a notebook, the idea being that I can write down any nuggets from the sermon that I can use during my week. So I had that notebook and what I found was I kept getting ideas for where the story was going. Maybe because it was the one place where there were no distractions,” he said.
Mr. Maclone finds it’s easier to write outside of his house. “I can’t write at home. I have to be somewhere else,” he said, citing Coffee Obsession and the Starbucks in Mashpee and Falmouth as places where he’d bring his laptop and set up shop.
With the release of “Season on the Brink” earlier this month, Mr. Maclone is set to get working on a sequel.
In offering advice for other would-be writers Mr. Malcone said, “Push through.
“The hardest thing is starting. There are always going to be road blocks, something that gets in the way. When it gets hard, keep going. If it gets too hard, give it space and then come back to it. It will come.”
While “Season on the Brink” is set in the fictional town of Eastport, locals will more than likely pick up on similarities between Eastport and Falmouth. Instead of the Clippers, for example, we’ve got the Eastport Cannons, a reference to the cannonball lodged in the wall of the old Nimrod.
“The book is my love letter to the Falmouth sports scene that has been so good to me over the years,” Mr. Maclone said. “I’m excited to get it out.”
“Season on the Brink” became available to the public earlier this month. A launch party will be held Tuesday, July 2, at the Boathouse in Falmouth from 6 to 8 PM.