1. How did you come up with the title?
To "tap out" in mixed martial arts is to surrender the fight, to give up. The protagonist in Tap Out (Tony Antioch) is in a fight for his life, in a literal and figurative sense. The undercurrent of the novel is about making choices when the options at hand are layered with consequences. Essentially Tony has the choice of "tapping out" throughout the novel, and it is his character and the theme that dictates whether he does so or not.
2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
So often in Young Adult literature dilemmas are very straightforward: Choose "A" because it's the selfless, noble act; do not choose "B" because it's morally wrong. Yet, the real world does not often present such simple terms. I want readers to disregard any preconceived notions of what one should do at any and all times, and consider what sometimes must be done in order to have the opportunity for more options.
3. How much of the book is realistic?
I am sure there are teens right now living Tony's life, but it is not based on any one of them. I am also certain there are teens learning mixed martial arts, but I cannot guarantee Tony's training will mimic anyone else's. I did a fair amount of research into MMA, including sitting in on classes, talking with athletes and watching countless hours of YouTube footage. I've worked with teens for the past decade and have a good handle on the struggles that exist across the socioeconomic spectrum, as well as what it's like to have abusive and or drug addicted parents. It's as authentic as any novel you will find.
4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
I am exceptionally proud of Tap Out and would change nothing. That's quite a statement for a novel so raw and unapologetic. All of the events occur for a reason, in spite of how gut-wrenching they may be.
5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Staying with the story. I work full time as a high school English teacher and have two young daughters. I write in the morning before I go to work, which means it may take me a week to write a chapter. In the course of the months it takes to get the entire novel down, it's easy for life to get in the way and for the story's focus to drift. Therefore, I plotted like crazy and kept a continually evolving bulleted list of what I believed needed to occur from chapter-to-chapter.
6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Appropriate plotting and pacing. My agent Kate McKean has worked into my subconscious the need for the "stakes to be exceptionally high" at the very beginning and to keep them that way throughout. I asked myself one question at every turn of the novel: How can I make Tony's life worse? I believe because the reader will care about him from page one, the resolution of that high stakes plan is what makes Tap Out a page turner.
7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
In high school I wrote a lot of poetry, kept a journal, and read everything I could get my hands on. It wasn't until college that I thought I could give fiction a try. I was awful at the beginning, and I think that failure set up the challenge for me. Not only would I write well, but well enough for my writing to sell.
8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I do not have any one favorite author. I believe I've read all of Chuck Palahniuk's work and a significant amount of Stephen King's and Peter Straub's and Cormac McCarthy's. Their dark influences are obvious in Tap Out. Yet, as an English teacher, I read the classics yearly, as well as hunt for new writers all of the time. I will never have a favorite, but a whole host of influencers.
9. Tell us your latest news.
Tap Out releases on 9/11 and I am in the midst of scheduling signings and interviews and a release party (in an MMA studio). I am beyond excited for readers to get a chance to enter the world I've created, and I hope to hear form them on Twitter. I am discussing my next novel with the editor of Tap out, Lisa Cheng, and am most of the way through my work in progress.
10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Tap Out is a story of trying to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Life is like that. Writing is like that. The trick is to never give up. I hope my work provides a worthwhile example of how.
About the Book
Seventeen-year-old Tony Antioch lives in Pleasant Meadows, a trailer park where questions aren't asked since everyone already knows the answers from their own experience. He dreams of rescuing his mother from her constant stream of abusive boyfriends but in reality can barely duck the punches that are aimed at himself.
When Tony is coerced into joining his friend Rob's Mixed Martial Arts class, he is surprised to find that he has a talent that he actually wants to develop. But with a meth-dealing biker gang that is hungry for recruits and a vicious cycle of poverty and violence that precedes him, Tony is going to need a lot more than blood and guts to find a way out.
Gritty, powerful, and unapologetic, Tap Out explores what it takes to stay true to oneself and the consequences of the choices made along the way in order to do so.
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Release Date: September 11, 2012
E-book ISBN: 978-0-7624-4700-8
Buy Links: Amazon, Kindle
About the Author
Eric Devine is currently a writer, high-school English teacher, and educational consultant. He is also the author of This Side of Normal. He lives in Waterford, NY, with his family.
Links to connect with Eric:
Tribute Books Blog Tours
Put our promotional experience to work for your book.