Thursday, May 21, 2009
Interview with 'Confessions of a She-Fan' author Jane Heller
Squawker readers are familiar with frequent poster - and Yankee blogger, "She-Fan," aka Jane Heller. She's the author of over a dozen bestsellers (her fiction books have romance, screwball comedy, and a sassy tone). She hit a home run with her first nonfiction book, "Confessions of a She-Fan," about being a Yankee fanatic (click here for my review.)
I talked with Heller about a variety of topics, including how she came up with the "She-Fan" moniker, how men and women watch baseball differently, and what her fiction fans think of her new book.
Heller, a Westchester native, says her first baseball idol - and favorite Yankee - was Mickey Mantle. "I grew up loving him," she says. "I had pictures of him all over my bedroom wall, right next to the Beatles, and I was convinced I would marry him someday, never mind that he was already married and old enough to be my father."
Through the years, Heller followed the team, and now watches them long-distance from Santa Barbara, California. Her favorite current Yankee is Mariano Rivera. "There’s nothing I don’t love about him," Heller says. "When I hear 'Enter Sandman' I go a little nuts. He has such grace and style when he pitches, and he seems like a very decent human being."
Like many fans, Heller was frustrated over the beginning of the 2007 season. She was supposed to be working on a novel, but then "the Yankees started losing and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else," she said. In a fit of pique after a particularly bad game, Heller dashed off a piece wanting a divorce from the Yankees and sent it to the New York Times. That article, To Love and to Cherish for All Eternity, angered a lot of Yankee fans, who called her a front-runner.
Heller wanted to prove her true-Yankee-blue fandom to these critics, and she also "wanted to discover the true meaning of being a fan." So she - and her husband Michael - decided to follow the team around for the last two months of the season and the short-lived playoffs.
The novelist didn't have to invent plot twists, either. That time was dramatic enough, what with Alex Rodriguez's quest for 500, the Yankees' pennant race, The Bug Game, and Joe Torre leaving the Yankees.
"The great thing about writing my first nonfiction book after all those romantic comedies," Heller says, "was that I didn’t have to make anything up! I was my own heroine, and the Yankees were my heroes (and my husband too)."
Jane says that she wanted to "dazzle" her editor with her "reportage" in her first nonfiction book. So she turned in a 600-page manuscript. Her editor told her to cut it in half, and said, "Don’t tell us everything. Just tell us what matters."
Heller came up with the "She-Fan" moniker after the "She-Demon" movie, which aired on WPIX's old "Chiller Theater" program. "Women and men process fandom differently," she says. "I've never seen a man cry when his team loses."
"Numbers hold no allure for me," Heller says. What appeals to her about baseball is the "emotional component to the game."
Heller thinks that "women have much more sympathy" for wayward players. Among them is Alex Rodriguez - Heller sees him as a modern-day Reggie Jackson, to Derek Jeter's Cal Ripken Jr. While she likes A-Rod, she thinks Rodriguez is often "tone deaf." On A-Rod's steroid usage, Heller asks, "Is it that inconceivable that somebody might do something stupid?" But she still roots for him. "A-Rod's a Yankee, so I'm going to support him to the death," she says.
And after following the team around for 2 1/2 months, she is also sympathetic to the players' travel schedule as well. "It's a grind," she says, "charter plane or not."
Speaking of travel, Heller says many of her fans have traveled from her fiction to nonfiction books. "I’m getting great emails from fans of my novels, some of whom turn out to be Yankee fans. Who knew? They write to say they’ve loved the Yankees forever and are so glad to read a book about another fan."
Heller says she's also picked up fans of her current book who are now reading her novels. (Full disclosure - I'm one of them!) And the writer is now branching out into yet another field - Heller is currently working on a screenplay based on "She-Fan."
Is "She-Fan" as rabid a Yankee fanatic, even after seeing the team up close for two months? "I still watch every game," she says. "The difference, post-book, is that I don’t let myself get as depressed after a loss. I’m a crazed fan and always will be, but I’ve found more balance in my life. At least I hope I have."
What do you think? Leave us a comment!