Our “author conversation” today is with Paul Fein, author of Tennis Confidential and Tennis Confidential II.
Writers-Editors Network: What inspired you to write Tennis Confidential?
Paul Fein (shown here with Martina Hingis): I felt the time had come to share my best articles—human interest features, Q&A interviews, essays, columns, instruction, and historical retrospectives—with both serious and casual tennis fans. I believe Tennis Confidential informs, entertains, instructs, provokes and inspires readers. The many highly favorable media and customer reviews provide some evidence for that belief.
Writers-Editors Network: When you wrote the original articles, how did you generally get started with an essay?
Paul Fein: I usually started writing with a few notes, quotes and anecdotes on hand.
Writers-Editors Network: What was your favorite chapter to write and why?
Paul Fein: I love analyzing The Great Issues of Tennis and then making a compelling case for my position in formal essays and columns. Second, researching and writing tennis history for the chapters about important trends and greatest matches is fascinating and rewarding because I learn so much. Third, Q&A interviews and human interest features that require interviews are lots of fun to prepare and do because tennis players, coaches, officials and authorities have so much expertise, experience, earnestness, and enthusiasm.
Writers-Editors Network: What was the biggest challenge in bringing this book to publication?
Paul Fein: Getting my editor to drop his insistence on an inane book title and accept the title I proposed. Happily, I succeeded.
Tennis Confidential, a collection of essays, features, retrospectives, greatest matches and interviews, takes the reader into the world of the pro tennis tour with inside scoops about the game’s greatest stars, past and present, and analyses of the greatest controversies. It includes interviews with such all-time greats as Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe, and Jimmy Connors — along with essays about the careers of other stars like Andre Agassi, Serena and Venus Williams, Jennifer Capriati, and Anna Kournikova — along with pioneering players like Martina Navratilova, Bjorn Borg, and Rod Laver. The in-depth pieces give fans at every level a unique perspective on this exciting sport and its fascinating history.
Writers-Editors: How did Tennis Confidential II come to be written and published? Was it planned from the beginning?
Paul Fein: Tennis Confidential, published in 2002 by Brassey’s Inc., is an anthology of my best articles that had appeared in foreign and U.S. magazines. In 2005, Potomac Books, Inc. (formerly Brassey’s, Inc.) published You Can Quote Me on That. Friends and colleagues asked me what my next book would be about and when I would write it, but I definitely had no plans for a third book. So I was surprised when an editor at Potomac Books, Inc. asked me to write Tennis Confidential II, even though Tennis Confidential sold well and had two hardcover printings and one paperback printing. I wasn’t sure if I should do it because I wasn’t sure if I had written enough topnotch features, essays, and interviews during the past six years for a second anthology. I certainly didn’t want to have a third book just for the sake of having another book. Also, Potomac Books, Inc. had downsized its sports department and its advance was less than for Tennis Confidential. Finally, tennis magazines were dying and being downsized, so I worried — rightly, as it turned out — that Tennis Confidential II would not receive as many reviews as my first two books did.
In Tennis Confidential II: More of Today’s Greatest Players, Matches, and Controversies, Paul Fein shares his insightful and thought-provoking opinions on a myriad of hot-button topics. Who is the greatest men’s player ever? Who is the greatest women’s player ever? Is it clever or counter-productive to let players challenge line calls? How about on-court coaching? Scoring system changes?
Writers-Editors: All things considered, were you happy Tennis Confidential II was published?
Paul Fein: Mostly, yes. I became a freelance tennis writer chiefly because I wanted to advance the sport of tennis — which has grown exponentially since Open Tennis arrived in 1968. As a longtime tournament player, former Satellite tournament director, teaching pro and coach, local tennis promoter and organizer, TV commentator a few times, New England tournament consultant, tennis researcher, and so forth, I believed I had a diverse and valuable perspective about how to advance tennis. That is why, most of all, I wanted to write essays about The Great Issues of Tennis, and there were plenty of controversial issues. I believed I could analyze them authoritatively and fairly and then propose solutions to flawed rules, policies, etc. These essays have appeared in tennis and sports magazines around the world, and several received writing awards. Tennis Confidential II gave me yet another opportunity for tennis leaders and the many other readers to study and consider the facts and arguments in these essays, both in the short term and for many years to come. William Hazlitt, the renowned English essayist, asserted, “Words are the only things that last forever; they are more durable than the eternal hills.” I hope Hazlitt is right.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you plan on writing more books on tennis?
Paul Fein: I would like to write another tennis book, but I would do it only if I believe it would be a terrific book that readers would find highly enlightening, entertaining, and thought-provoking.
Writers-Editors Network: Where is your favorite place to write books?
Paul Fein: Home office. However, wherever and whenever I get a good idea, I write it down on a piece of paper.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you have any writing rituals?
Paul Fein: I ask tennis experts to critique my content and writing experts at the Internet Writing Workshop to critique my writing style. I also research heavily to become as informed as possible. Finally, I re-read the article I’m working on just before I go to bed so my brain will think about it when I’m sleeping.
Writers-Editors Network: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Paul Fein: In my 20s, I thought I would combine my knowledge of and passion for sports with my analytical ability, my love of freedom of expression, and my determination to help the sport of tennis by writing about The Great Issues.
Writers-Editors Network: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Paul Fein: I like reading about history, politics, science, ethics and philosophy; watching sporting events, playing sports, and talking to my friends and colleagues.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Paul Fein: Nonfiction writers should try their utmost to become an expert in the field or fields they write about. A wonderful writing style can never hide or compensate for a lack of expertise. Also, read great books and articles and study what makes them great.
Writers-Editors Network: Who are your favorite writers?
Paul Fein: I love to read great essayists, such as Montaigne, Emerson, Bacon, Locke, Hazlitt, and Carlyle. How they think is as important to me as what they think.