With six months until the Olympic Games, seventeen-year-old Harper’s life is pretty much perfect. She’s fighting for the starting spot on Team USA Women’s Hockey, and for the first time ever, she has a crush on a guy who likes her back. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world, until she runs a risky play at practice and breaks her knee, thereby sentencing herself to six weeks in a cast and possibly ending her Olympic dream before it even starts.
For seventeen-year-old Alex, being anything less than the best is unacceptable. That’s why, after a miserable debut season at the senior level, the former junior national singles champion switches to ice dance. Her skating partner, Ace, is an “all skating all the time” type of guy, which would be fine, if he’d stop keeping secrets about the real reason he and his former partner broke up. Now is not the time for second thoughts, but how can Alex skate her best if she can’t trust her partner…or herself?
As the pressure to make the Olympic team builds, the girls must rely on each other, because if there’s one thing they both know, it’s that the only thing harder than skating to the top is staying there.
Beth Pond graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Hendrix College in 2012. In 2013, she taught in South Africa for 9 months as part of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant. Pond is currently completing her coursework at the University of British Columbia’s Creative Writing MFA program. Her debut novel, Podium Finish, was released from Astraea Press in November 2013. When she’s not writing, Pond enjoys martial arts (she’s a black belt) and serving as a volunteer coach for her brother’s special needs baseball team.
What inspired you to want to become a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I loved stories as a kid, and when I got bored of the books I had on my shelf, I wrote my own.
Who or what inspired PODIUM FINISH?
Podium Finish was inspired by the Torino Olympic Games. I loved that NBC showed various interviews/montages before the competitions, featuring the athletes’ struggles and successes. I was 15 at the time and thought “Hmm…this would make a good book.”
What drew you to writing this genre?
When I was younger, I loved to read, but often times had trouble connecting with the female protagonists. I wanted to read about tomboys and sporty girls, and there just weren’t many books available that fit this description. Thankfully, that has greatly changed in recent years. Even so, when I write, I write the books I wish I could have read when I was younger, and more often than not, doing so involves having sporty female protagonists.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The most rewarding thing so far has been having people I don’t know read and enjoy the book. Oddly enough, having strangers read my work is also the most nerve-wracking part of being published.
What is your favorite scene in the book? Which scene or characters were the most difficult for you to write and why?
I love the chapter where Harper makes the Olympic team. She overcomes an injury, but has a long road ahead of her. I also love that Alex waits outside for the results and won’t stop tapping the Olympic rings until she gets the good news. Tapping the rings is Alex’s good luck ritual, and it’s a simple moment that shows their friendship. Alex’s friendship with her skating partner, Ace, was easy to write. They joke, they fight, but in the end, they make each other better skaters and better people. Harper’s relationship with Rye was harder to write, but it was a fun challenge, and given how different Harper and Alex are, I think readers will be able to relate to one or both of them.
What is your dream cast for your book?
Paige Hyland from Dance Moms would make an excellent Alex, and I think if we’re shooting for the stars, Jennifer Lawrence would rock as Harper. That being said, my dream cast would definitely include Olympians and Olympic hopefuls making some guest appearances. And you can bet I’d be on set wanting some hockey, figure skating, and short track lessons. J
Is there a song you could list as the theme song for your book or any of your characters?
Harper’s, more specifically her teammate Zoe’s, theme song is “La Bamba.” The song comes up in a few locker room scenes. Ace suggests Alex listen to “Fix You” and “Viva la Vida” to de-stress, so those would probably be her theme songs.
Can you see yourself in any of your characters?
I’ve definitely been an underdog like Alex. I competed in lots of sports growing up, and there were many times I came in fourth place and only first through third place received medals. However, I’m more like Harper in terms of personality: smart, shy yet feisty, and dedicated.
Titles: do you write the books first and the title comes next or does the title come to you as you write?
Usually the title and book idea come as a package deal for me. PODIUM FINISH was the exception to this. I originally had another title in mind when I came up with the idea and changed it to PODIUM FINISH midway through the writing process. And yes, I’m glad I changed the title. For my other manuscripts though, my first title ideas have stuck.
What is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process?
PODIUM FINISH took years to write. I went through countless drafts. As much as I enjoyed the writing process, I enjoyed the revision process more because it was a chance to be proud of my work and polish it up. When revising PODIUM FINISH, I fell in love with Alex and Harper all over again. Editing allowed me to rediscover why I loved the premise so much in the first place, and this reassurance in my manuscript gave me the confidence to pitch it to my publisher.
Harper and Alex are Olympic athletes. If you could meet an Olympic athlete who would it be?
I was fortunate enough to attend a short track speed skating competition back in 2008. I met some of my favorite athletes and even got my picture taken with Apolo Anton Ohno. I’d love to be able to go to another competition or better yet have a learn-to-skate lesson with the members of US Speedskating.
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Put every scene on trial. Ask yourself “is this scene moving my plot forward?” For me, if the answer was no, it was probably because I was using dialogue as a means for exposition. The second bit of advice I’d offer would be to find critique partners or beta readers. Having an extra set of eyes truly helps. I’ve heard it likened to cutting your own bangs. While you could probably do an okay job cutting your own bangs, having someone with another perspective do it often leads to a better end result. Critique partners and beta readers offer another perspective. I found my critique partners through online writing contests like #PitchWars and #PitchMAS. While you don’t want to enter too many contests at the risk of overexposure, these contests can be a great way to connect with the writing community and get tips on what is and is not working within your manuscript.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
Besides being a writer, when I was eight I wanted to be an Olympic pairs figure skater. I was already as tall as my figure skating coach and still growing, so that definitely wasn’t going to happen. Neither were my dreams of being a jockey or Olympic gymnast. Eventually I realized that by being a writer I could “be” anything I wanted via my narrators.
Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
I am currently working on a middle grade novel. It’s my first attempt at writing in this genre, and I’m loving it. I’m also working on a YA soccer story about a team whose captain suffers a head injury during the opening round of the state tournament and falls into a coma. The team must deal with the uncertainty of their friend’s fate while trying to pull it together to win the title.
Do your friends or enemies ever find themselves in your books?
The short answer is yes, at least for my current work-in-progress, which is a middle grade novel. In this manuscript, I borrow heavily from my own experiences as a young athlete and someone with a special needs sibling. My brother, who has Asperger Syndrome, and my parents heavily influenced the characters in the book. This project is close to my heart, and in some ways, it’s a tribute to my family. If I do borrow bits and pieces of the personalities of people I know, I try to make sure they are represented fairly and in a positive light. That being said, there is a reason why my narrator’s enemy is named Kevin…
What is on your “keeper shelf” of books?
- All the books in Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series. She writes fabulous YA sports romance. Catching Jordan is my favorite, but the others did not disappoint.
- Everything Courtney Summers has written/will write, especially This Is Not a Test.
- On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
- Siobhan Vivian’s The List. (An interesting look at high school with so many wonderfully developed characters.)
- 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
- Game. Set. Match. by Jennifer Iacopelli (a wonderful YA sports romance novel)
- And for nonfiction: The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 Olympic Team by Wayne Coffey and My Sergei by Ekaterina Gordeeva.
If you could have a signed copy of any novel what would it be and why?
Aside from a signed copy of one of the Harry Potter novels, because that would be amazing, I would love a signed copy of On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. It’s a book that has stayed with me well after reading it and one I’d love to have the time to read again.
What TV show/movie/book do you watch/read that you’d be embarrassed to admit?
Dance Moms! I own every episode and would have mini Dance Mom marathons on my laptop when I was living in South Africa and didn’t have a TV. I also watch Cheer Perfection, which films in Arkansas, where I’m from.
Finish the sentence- one book I wish I had written is….
The Book Thief because the writing is absolutely beautiful.
I love competing in martial arts (sparring) and shot put. My favorite sport to watch, however, is short track speed skating, which is probably why Harper falls for Rye in PODIUM FINISH. I also enjoy watching gymnastics and figure skating.
Favorite childhood book?
Anne of Green Gables. She was feisty. I liked that.
If you could be one of the Greek Gods, which would it be and why?
Nike, the goddess of victory. I love the brand Nike, but it wasn’t until I went on a trip to Greece/Turkey when I was 15 and saw a stone carving of Nike in Ephesus that I realized where the company got its name. A sporty female goddess seemed right up my alley and Nike has been my favorite Greek goddess every since.
I’m a first degree black belt and have a mean roundhouse. I’m also pretty good at throwing shot put. I was a thrower in high school and college.
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