FQ: I see that The Cup is your writing debut. Can you let readers know a little bit about your background?
HARDWICK: I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and moved to South Bend, Indiana, when I was too young to remember. My family then moved from South Bend to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, when I was in the second grade. We then moved to Lethbridge, Alberta, when I was sixteen and eventually made our way up to Calgary, Alberta, where I met my wife. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine and a master’s degree in Sport Psychology both from San Diego State University. I coached football for many years and wanted to be a college football coach, but it just didn’t work out, so I became an athletic administrator as my back-up plan. I am currently the Director of Athletics at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, Illinois.
FQ: In the Afterword section you mention some writing tips you utilized like “plowing” (writing down ideas first, and not stressing over perfection) while writing this book. What were some of your other tips or tricks you used to get your writing underway, and keep the momentum going?
HARDWICK: I always wanted to write but could never get a project across the finish line. Then an odd thing happened a few years ago – my writing began to pester me and wouldn’t leave me alone until I finished the story. Even though my stories won’t leave me alone, I still experienced stretches of time when it was difficult to get ideas down on paper. I found that listening to music while I wrote sometimes opened up a creative path in my brain that started ideas flowing. In fact, sometimes I start with a song that fits what I’m trying to write and let the song guide where my story is to go.
The key, to me, is twofold. First, when ideas are just not flowing, still write about something from the outline of your book. Even if it’s not what you wanted to write, at least it’s down on paper. Then when things are flowing, you can go back and re-work some of those ideas that you couldn’t quite develop the way you wanted to the first time.
Second, when you do find yourself in the state where ideas are flowing, don’t stop! Pull an all-nighter if you have to. When a state like this happens, sometimes it can last for days – then set an alarm and get up to write, continue throughout the day and night until you get it the way you want it. Sometimes these highly creative states are few and far between, so you have to take advantage of them.
One other trick I use is to come up with an outline of your story as early as you can. This outline can be dynamic and change as you go along, but at least it provides you with a direction and structure that can help you stay on track. If you’re trying to write about one area of your outline and it’s just not happening for you, try a different area of your outline. Often, I then get into a creative state about a different area than what I had planned to write and you can then piece these areas together at a later time.
FQ: Did you have any special process for choosing the songs for your book’s playlist?
HARDWICK: Not a special process, but I finalized the playlist multiple ways. Music is such an important part of my life, so this is actually another tip I would give writers. If you have things in your life that you are passionate about, whether it be music, art, other books, movies, T.V. shows, drawing, or whatever, don’t be afraid to incorporate these into your writing.
I first started The Cup with the plan of including songs and song lyrics into the text of the book. There were several songs I knew were going to be part of the book at its inception. For instance, Hide in Your Shell by Supertramp for the Jimmy chapter was a song I had from the very beginning. When I listen to the lyrics of this song with my headphones on, very often I get emotional. Some other examples of songs I knew were going to be in the book from the very beginning are The Hockey Song by Stompin’ Tom Connors for the Sasquatch chapter. He would play this song repeatedly when we were kids. Pilgrimage to Paradise by Ian & Sylvia was my mom’s favorite song so it had to be in the Mom chapter. Last Song by Edward Bear was the song a girl sang to me from the stage when I was in the sixth grade. Wild Geese is my dad’s favorite Ian & Sylvia song, so I knew it was going to be in the book and it just fit so well in the Owl Chapter.
Other songs I selected from a list after the fact. I have a playlist on my phone titled “Cup Possibles” that has 168 songs, all from that time period, and when I needed a song, I would filter through them until I found one. One thing I will say is that the song had to fit the story, though, or I wouldn’t include it.
FQ: Of course, because you wrote a story that has the sport of hockey in it, we can assume you’re a fan. Who’s your favorite team, and do you still participate in late-night street games?
HARDWICK: Yes, I am a huge hockey fan (even though I coached football for 20 years or so), although I haven’t participated in a road hockey game since I moved away from Winnipeg when I was sixteen. I am a big Calgary Flames fan. I have two older brothers, Shane (Robbie in the book) and Kelly (Kevin in the book). Shane lives in West Allis, Wisconsin and Kelly in Calgary. All three of us really want to see a Canadian NHL team win the Stanley Cup again and will root for any Canadian team that makes the playoffs now. It has been a long time since a Canadian team last won it, so the next time one does, you know there will be three guys really celebrating!
FQ: Do you still keep in touch with any of your childhood friends mentioned in The Cup? If so, have you told them about your book?
HARDWICK: Yes! I talk to Dale (Sasquatch in the book), several times a year. He went from nailing us with rocks on the first day we met him, to a life-long friend. He currently lives in Grand Prairie, Alberta, and he really enjoyed the book. His last text message to me was, “Dan-o, just finished reading your book The Cup. Very good book. You did an excellent job.” A few years ago, my oldest brother, Shane, and I drove to Winnipeg where we took my Dad to the Green Bay Packer vs. Oakland Raider pre-season NFL game at IG Field in Winnipeg. That weekend, we went out to meet some of our old neighborhood friends from Stewart Street that I hadn’t seen in decades. Some of them played in road hockey games with us all the time and a few even played in that New Year’s Eve game written in The Cup. It was great getting caught up with them!
FQ: Back to the playlist of songs. Were there any songs that you wanted to include in the story, but you couldn’t?
HARDWICK: Yes, as I stated earlier, I had 168 Cup Possible songs to choose from, but I obviously couldn’t include them all. There were eleven other songs, in particular, that I really wanted in the book from the beginning, but they just didn’t fit once I had finished the story. They were all songs that bring me right back to that era every time I hear them. They include: Something by the Beatles; The Cover of the Rolling Stone and Sylvia’s Mother by Dr. Hook; Rocket Man by Elton John; ABC by The Jackson 5; Cracklin’ Rosie by Neil Diamond; Song Sung Blue by Neil Diamond (this was the last song I cut, it was that close to making the story when I was talking about Old Man Willow – listen to the song, you’ll make the connection); Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey by Paul McCartney and Wings; Angie by the Rolling Stones; Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel; and Superstition by Stevie Wonder.
FQ: I enjoyed reading all of your stories, and quite a lot of them had me laughing so much that I won’t soon forget them; especially your babysitter, Mrs. Heimer, speeding about town with the children in tow. Briefly, and without giving too much away, what was your favorite story?
HARDWICK: Boy, this is a hard question! I lived them all, so they all have a place in my heart. I would have to say that the owl chapter was my favorite to write. This is actually an event that happened to my mom. A great Snowy Owl perched on her windowsill and stared at her when she was sick in her bed. It’s the first chapter I wrote for the book. I knew that I wanted to alternate chapters between the hockey game and the characters/players in the game, but there were going to be three “special” chapters that really don’t fit this pattern. One was centered around my Mom, one around my Dad, and this owl chapter, centered around me, the narrator. These chapters being special are the reason why they do not have chapter titles and are in bold type. When I first started the book, I felt that this might be the most difficult chapter for me to write, so why not start with it. The odd thing is that what I first wrote down, other than a word here or there, is the exact chapter as it appears in the book.
FQ: Do you have advice for anyone thinking about writing a story about their childhood?
HARDWICK: Most definitely. The best advice I can give to anyone thinking about writing any story, but particularly a story about their childhood, is to write from the heart, not the head. There were times when I thought, “I can’t write this…it’s too revealing or embarrassing”, or “this might be showing too much of this character’s flaws”, but it was what happened and what was in my heart, so I wrote it! Write what you feel, not what you think people may want to read.
FQ: Can readers look forward to reading anything from you in the future?
HARDWICK: Yes, most definitely! Now since these stories pester me and won’t leave me alone until I write them, I have several projects in the works. The one I’m working on most and is shaping up to be the next book I would like to publish is called The Fisherman. This project is quite different from The Cup and is about a lonely, old person who has loved fishing all his life. It’s sort of my attempt at writing something like The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway. Other projects in the works include (all working titles at this point): Music Lessons; a two-book series entitled The Key Series – first book called Valerie, second The Key; and An Apology [Toward a Better Understanding].