Sunday, October 9, 2016

Books: "Ten Years Later" Shows Dreams Can Come True

Ten Years Later 
By Lisa Marie Latino
Long Shot Publishing
We all remember what it was like to get the "save the date" for a high school or college reunion and feeling the pressure to show your classmates how far you've come.
Ten Years Later is the debut novel for Lisa Marie Latino, the Executive Producer of Long Shot Productions and the Production Coordinator for New York Giants radio broadcasts.
The book centers around Carla D'Agostino and her friends Dante, Katie, and Andrea, and the year leading up to their 10th anniversary high school reunion.

Carla was working at a top New York sports radio station, WSPS (think WFAN, where Latino began her career), with the dream of hosting a show of her own.
One of the best things about The Years Later is the description, which allows the reader to visualize the characters and the scenes. Latino would like to see this made into a movie some day.
One instance in which you feel like you're in the room is when Carla told her parents she wanted to work in sports broadcasting:
"Meanwhile, since I was the oldest (and a girl) my parents
were much harder on me, and I bore the brunt of their oldschool
Italian mentality. I had a midnight curfew until I was 20;
anything below a B was unacceptable, and I wasn’t allowed to
move out before marriage (among other things they didn’t want
me doing before marriage). They were New Age in the sense that
they pushed me to establish a career, but the fact that my chosen
profession was sports broadcasting was baffling to James and
Nancy D’Agostino…
"You want to work in sports?!” Mom shrieked as she started crying and babbling nonsense to herself.
“Yea, I do!” I said defiantly.
“A sportscaster?! No girls do that! Do something practical with your
life. Become a nurse or a teacher!” Dad barked.
“Hey, it’s your fault, you introduced me to sports!” I shot back.
“Why do you want to work in sports?” My mother continued. “Are you a lesbian? Only butch girls like sports as much as you do.”
“MOM!” I screamed in horror, partly due to her close-mindedness, andpartly due to my prudish mother saying the word lesbian. “What is this, 1920? Women can do whatever they want!”
“No, they can’t!” My dad argued.
“YES, THEY CAN!” I yelled.
“So you ARE a lesbian?”
“NO!” I shrieked.
“I don’t believe this,” my father sighed.
“I thought this sports thing was a phase,” my mother added dramatically.
Long story short, I went off to college (as a commuter,
I wasn’t allowed to live in a dorm) and compromised with
them, double majoring in broadcasting and business. If an
on-air career didn’t work out, I could at least fall back on
working at D’Agostino Construction (which was as appetizing
as a trip to the gynecologist). Luckily, I proved them
wrong and landed a job at WSPS Sports Radio 950 AM right
after graduation…but as a producer, light-years from where I
wanted to be."
In addition to not knowing if her dream of being a sportscaster would come true, she also was still searching the love of her life.
Carla also was dealing with her younger brother getting engaged and knew she had to get moving and make her goals a reality:
"I knew what I wanted, but I
needed to put those thoughts in writing:
Title: Project: Reunion
I have a little less than a year to turn this embarrassing
joke that is my life around into something
to be proud of. I’m fed up with this bullshit.
Jimmy’s getting married, Andrea’s having kids
(TWINS), and I’m going nowhere…until now.
I closed my eyes, and visualized exactly how my reunion night
would play out:
I will walk through the Honey Crest High School
gymnasium doors an amazing, accomplished
woman. I will have a handsome, successful lawyer
on my arm, who has just recently proposed
with a two karat, platinum Tiffany Novo ring.
I’ll have a rock-hard, size 4 body. I’ll have my
own sports-talk show on WSPS. My 500+ former
classmates will rush to congratulate me on
all my achievements (and when I’m not looking,
most will talk enviously behind my back). My fiancé,
my best friends, and I will merrily drink
and dance the night away. At the end of the
night, my man and I will retire to our brand new
waterfront condo overlooking the New York
City skyline, and make passionate love until the
sun comes up."
This book is geared to a female audience, but anybody that grew up in New York in the 1990s and the sports landscape can relate to how Carla (based on Lisa Marie in real life) became a sports fan:
"It was when Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood’s would-be
game-winning field goal sailed wide right in Super Bowl XXV
that I became a sports junkie. My parents had a huge party
for the big game, and instead of going with the mothers and
the other kids downstairs to our massive playroom, I opted to
stay with my father and the other men. I had just turned four
years old just days before; I had no idea about football. But I
got a kick out of my father and my uncles sweeping me up in
their arms and throwing me up in the air whenever the New
York Giants did something well. I was in awe over how crazy
the men were. They held their breaths with every single play,
paced around, and constantly screamed. Even though I wasn’t
completely clear on the game, I was immediately hooked. My
parents even allowed me to stay up until the end of the game.
To this day, I haven’t seen my father cry the way he did when
the Giants won that year.
"From that day forward, all my essays in school were based
around sports; football, baseball, the Olympics, I was obsessed
with it all. I immersed myself in the history of how
the New York Knicks came to be, and fantasized about being
alive during the 1950s majestic New York Yankees World
Series era, and read countless athlete biographies. In essence,
I became an even bigger fan than any male in my family. My
girlfriends didn’t get it, and most guys I met were intimidated
that I knew more than they did, which obviously did wonders
for my love life.
"But tell me, what’s better in life than a Game 7? (Okay, there
are a couple things; shut up.) But nothing packs more of a dramatic,
breathless punch than a do-or-die sports competition.
And you know how much us girls love drama! It’s better than
any Lifetime movie."
Lisa Marie Latino.

I got the chance to talk to Lisa Marie Latino about Ten Years Later and here is some of that conversation:
Jason Schott: How much of you personally is in Carla?
Lisa Marie Latino: Everyone always asks that because people know my background. I started in the industry interning at WFAN. Obviously, I'm Italian, and I'm very proud of that, being involved in a lot of Italian-American initiatives. I live in New Jersey, my love life, there's enough craziness for another 20 books. The short answer is, obviously, I drew on a lot of what I went through in my life, but at the same time, it's not me. While I had my start in radio and I still dabble in radio, I work in other capacities in media. My full-time job is running a production company, Long Shot Productions, and we do corporate and commercial video. TV really is my true love, that's what I always really wanted to have myself in. I love radio, I'm very sentimental about it, so again, I drew on my experiences with shaping Carla into who she is, but it's not really about me. With the whole business and entrepreneurial side, Katie, one of the sub characters, she got laid off because the place closed down, and instead of getting all down in the dumps about it, she decided 'hey, let me do this on my own because I can do it better than my bosses' kind of thing. That was a lot of my experience too, so I broke off different pieces of me into the characters, and not even just me. I drew on the experiences of my peers, my friends, even my family, just people I would meet in turn. Everybody is going through that, trying to make themselves a name in the world, not famous maybe like Carla, but asserting themselves in a given profession or career. It kind of gives a voice to everybody.
JS: Do you think this book is relatable to anybody who reads it?
LML: I decided to have it in a sports radio world, honestly, because in the genre of chick-lit world, it's always, she's an actress, she's a singer, she works in PR, she's an assistant to a big-time actor, you know, stuff like that. In the genre, I've never seen it done before. I saw it in maybe a couple books where she's a sideline reporter or something like that, but never in sports radio. I don't think it's ever been done before, so I'm like 'you know what? I have enough knowledge about the world to make it relatable and real, it's totally real,' so let me do it that way to give it a different type of spin.
JS: People are used to seeing women working on shows like Mike and the Mad Dog, when it was simulcast. Do you feel that creates a familiarity for people going in?
LML: It's funny, where does the WFAN influence come in? i make mention, I think that she talked about how she grew up listening to it, and that's totally me by the way. She makes mention of listening to WSPS, Harry and the Leatherneck, that was obviously a play on Mike and the Mad Dog. We got into sports at our age, I mean we grew up, look at the reunion that happened in March. I mean, anybody in this industry cites them as the number one influence, but the person that Carla produces for, I drew on, believe it or not, Joe Benigno. If you listen and read, like, it's Joe, the source of inspiration  was totally Joe. I worked in marketing and promotions at The FAN, and to this day, whenever I see Joe, I mean, it's like a reunion, it's like family. He came to my college graduation party. The Tommy B. character I totally drew on him.

JS: Were stories about your becoming a sports fan like the 1991 Super Bowl one real?
LML: More and more, it sounds like Carla's like me, no. (laughing) Any sports reference, and again, I know my audience, my general audience doesn't know, like I'm not going to bog down the book with sports facts. That's not what my audience is, but I wanted it to be sporty enough so that someone like you could relate. But, yeah, that Super Bowl was totally my story. Honestly, that made me into the sports fan that I became, because that season, I was just starting to realize football, Giants, my father was a big influence, basically since the day I could remember, he's like, 'so, in football, you're a Giants fan, and in baseball, you're a Yankees fan,' and I just followed that, like, okay. There was like a San Francisco 49er fan in my first grade class that year and he was battling with me and I was like, 'the Giants are going to win because that's my dad's team!' and then I just remember watching the championship game with my family and everyone getting into it and then the Super Bowl. I had a choice, I was the oldest kid at that Super Bowl party. So my choice was go upstairs with the mommies and the babies, and do that whole thing, or stay downstairs with the men and watch the game. And I'm like 'I'll stay down here, watch them, and make sure they behave' (laughing) and I just got so into it. They would throw me in the air is something happened, they let me stay up, I remember 'wide right' and the whole thing.
From that day forward, anything I did was about the New York Giants. So, like, if I had to write a poem, if I had to write a short story, everything revolved around that team. I would come home from school and watch the '86  yearbook video and then when the '90 yearbook video came out, I would watch that. It got to the point that my teachers called my mom and said like 'enough, broaden her horizons or something else.' (laughing)
My first baseball  game actually was in '96. I had thought baseball was boring, but we got tickets right behind home plate. There was a rookie named Derek Jeter who came up that year. He and my brother actually have the same birthday, so just by that, he became my favorite player, and then I guess like puberty hit, and I realized like not only does he have my brother's birthday, not only is he an awesome player, but he's cute as hell, and that whole thing took over as well.
The long story short of it, sports has always been a huge part of my life. My girlfriends can attest to it, like 'Lisa, what the hell are you talking about?' (laughing) And guys, you would think back in the day, it would be in my favor, it really wouldn't be. I don't know if guys would be intimidated or I just dated losers, that's probably what it was (laughing). It didn't really do as well for me as you would think.

JS: What was the inspiration for focusing the story around a 10th anniversary high school reunion? Did you go to your reunion?
LML: I had the idea about a year before my reunion, which is why this book basically takes place a year before the reunion. I don't know, I think I was in a place where I had just started Long Shot and I was still living at home and I was going to weddings and getting engaged and pregnant. That's the thing, everybody gets caught up, like you gather around with your friends and the topic is 'oh, did you see what so and so posted on Facebook?' and 'so and so announced they're pregnant' and 'so and so had a baby' and it's like, if you're not in that space or you're not in that competition, I don't know, you know what I mean, like if that's not happening for you and you want it to be happening, it just got tiring to like go on Facebook or Instagram see a sonogram, an engagement announcement, it's like enough is enough, and if you feel like you're not getting anywhere in that realm, I wanted to give those people a voice because I've been there, I know what it's like, and with the reunion, I did have a little bit of anxiety. Am I going to show up like the loser of the class of 2002? Am I going to show up, you know, who's got a house, who's got a three karat ring on their finger, who's got sons?
At the end of the day, what I learned, and what Carla learned, is that doesn't really matter, you know, and that's what I wanted to portray. You get so wrapped up in comparing and contrasting and you kind of lose sight on the goodness that's in front of you, and once you've realized that, that's when the beautiful things start happening, and that's when things start to come together for you.

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