About the BookBook: Offsides Author: Lori Z. Scott Genre: Contemporary YA fiction Release Date: October 19, 2023 Danielle Stephens expected her senior year to be challenging, with her final season of soccer, a strained friendship, and a new crush. But she didn’t expect to uncover a human trafficking ring in her town. When an older man seems to be grooming her young neighbor, Dani is determined to keep the girl safe. Little does she know, but there is more at stake than one life. And if Dani doesn’t watch her back, she could be the next victim. Offsides is like a Christian version of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder but set on the soccer field.
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About the AuthorWheaton College graduate Lori Z. Scott accidentally wrote the 10-book bestselling Meghan Rose series. On purpose, she wrote more than 200 short stories, articles, essays, poems, and devotions for magazines like Brio and Focus on the Family. She has also contributed to 15 books, including Writing and Selling Children’s Books in the Christian Market. As has been her practice for over 25 years, Lori is fully invested in teaching elementary students during the day. However, most nights you can find her typing away behind the keyboard. She figures that makes writing her superpower… especially since she knows how to use a delete key. In 2022, Lori introduced an award-winning novel, Inside the Ten-Foot Line, the first installment in her new young adult series. In addition, she has led writing workshops for local ACFW and SCBWI chapters, conducted school visits, served as a guest speaker for Story Embers podcasts, and presented at virtual writing conferences. She’s never really sure if the crowd is impressed by her interactive presentations or by the fact that she can write and draw forwards and backwards with both hands at the same time.
More from LoriLet’s start with the why behind the series in general. In the early 2000s, I published a bestselling chapter book series—sort of like the Christian version of Junie B. Jones. Then, because of some unexpected life circumstances, I stopped writing for about 7 years. After encouragement from my mom and my daughter and a phone call with an editor from Pockets Magazine, I decided to return to writing. But I wanted to try something new. I thought about the things I love that I could write about. Sports came to the top of the list since I competed in volleyball, track, swimming, softball, and basketball and my children played soccer. I went to the library to see what was out there and found some great sports novels, many by Mike Lupica. He tackled interesting themes—characters dealing with real-life issues that readers could relate to whether or not they were part of a team. However, the book offerings for women athletes? Very slim pickings. I mean… there were a few. But they didn’t have the depth I craved in a book. And, as my daughter always says, “Mom, you’re a writer. If you can’t find the book you want, write it yourself.” So that’s how the series in general was born. I envisioned a story for each sport that reached beyond the court to encompass a broader audience. Stories that grappled with universal emotions, dreams, and challenges. The first book in the series, Inside the Ten-Foot Line, did well with critics. It won the Golden Scroll Award for youth fiction book of the year, an Illumination Book Award, was a semi-finalist for the Carol Awards, and a finalist for the Director’s Choice Award. I figure that’s a promising start! Now, more specifically—the inspiration behind the story Offsides. Okay, big breath for me here, because I felt God’s nudging to write it, and I told Him no. Just outright no. But… who tells God no? I mean, based on my writing journey, I trusted that He knew best the paths I should take. Always. So why did I say no? Let me give you a little history. In 2022, End Game Press invited me to write Offsides, the second book in my series. However, when I submitted my detailed plot, they came back and said it was too similar to another book they planned on publishing and asked me to develop something different. I took the problem to my critique group, and one of the girls who works with her church to recover victims of human trafficking suggested that I write a story where the characters must confront this issue. I got sick to my stomach just thinking about it. And I dismissed the idea. Like, immediately. And I had good excuses to say no. No, I didn’t know enough about the problem. No, human trafficking was too horrifying to research. No, what teenager wants to read about this sick topic? And my biggest objection–No! I wrote humor. But God kept pressing me on this idea. And pressing me. And pressing me. News reports. Conversations at work. Ads on T.V. Social media posts. The idea would bubble up in my prayers and haunt me when I went to bed. So, I finally said yes and wrote the book. Not surprisingly, in the process, I discovered a yes for every no I’d voiced. I didn’t know enough about the problem, but, yes, I learned. The research was horrifying, but yes, I also found hope, especially within Christian organizations who help recover victims. Yes… teens should read about human trafficking to make themselves aware of the danger and to take steps to protect themselves and their friends. And yes, talking about human trafficking could be done in an age-appropriate way. Best of all, as heavy as the topic was, the story still contained humor. Because high school is like that—serious, but also fun and entertaining. I really like the relationships between the characters too. There’s something powerful about their interactions. The protagonist, Dani, is a huge introvert, and her social anxiety plays into how the plot unfolds. Her character resonated with a lot of my beta readers who also experienced struggles with feelings that they don’t quite fit in. One teary-eyed reader asked me how I was able to tap into Dani’s emotions so deeply and accurately. I was like—hey, I’m a teacher. I see insecurities in people all the time. And at some point, we’ve all been there—even me. In the lonely. In the awkward. In the search for belonging. In the hurt. We need each other. And we need faith. Anyway, that’s how Offsides was born. With a nudge that turned into a pressing need to tell a story. About a difficult topic, true. But even more valuable because of that. The book ended up being a little bit like A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder but set on the soccer field. If any readers want to use Offsides for a book club, I have a study guide I can email them for free. I also have a free collection of ten devotions for athletes for interested readers. To get either one or both, DM me on my Instagram account at @Stories.by.Lori
Interview with the Author
What helps you to write? Do you eat snacks, listen to music?
When I write, I zone out everything else. Reality ceases to exist. Two hours pass in a number of seconds. That kind of thing. So I don’t need music or snacks or coffee to get me going. Instead, I am challenge oriented, so I find having a list of prioritized projects on hand motivates me. And I’m a creature of habit, so establishing and following a routine keeps me on task. So again, check the to-do list, pull up a project, and get to work!
If you could travel back in time, what time period would you go to?
This is going to sound incredibly boring, but I would probably go back to the 1970s- 1980s–my childhood– and relive it. Because I have an amazing set of parents and incredible sisters, and I’d love to relive the moments we shared together. Just so I could treasure it more. Savor it more. Remember it truer. (And ditto for the period when my own children were tots!) That’s not to imagine we lived a perfect life and had everything we wanted. Far from it! But we enjoyed doing so many simple things together that life felt full. Rich. Packed with endless possibilities and surprises. Tree forts and pillow forts. Puzzles, games, and jokes. Exercising to the song “Go You Chicken Fat, Go” together in the living room. Bedtime stories. Hand-me-downs and thrift stores. Reciting poetry and putting on shows for family and friends. Playing instruments and volleyball together. Praying together. It was a period in my life where both mistakes and successes were equally celebrated, and creativity was always encouraged. Like Dorothy famously said, “There’s no place like home.” So why not go back to it?
What is your favorite book and why?
That depends on what age group you’re talking about. Early elementary school was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I remember my kindergarten teacher reading it to the class and being mesmerized by the enchanting artwork. We sat in a circle on the rug with the rooms dimmed, and the spread with the moon full and bright left me breathless. In third and fourth grade, I adored The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. That book is such a classic, and Lewis painted Narnia so vividly, I could not resist being entranced by it. But I was totally captivated by The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. My fifth grade teacher introduced the class to it, reading a chapter a day. And I’m such a daydreamer, it was almost like a portal opened in the classroom that transported me to middle earth. So real was this world in my mind, when I discovered hair on my toes, I half-convinced myself I had Hobbit blood in me. And was thrilled.
What is your favorite hymn and why?
Great is Thy Faithfulness. Hands down, no hesitations, no thought. Because God’s faithfulness has been a stronghold in my life. I mean– the chorus says it all: Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed, thy hand hath provided.
And then, this is where the hymn gets personal: Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.
I have found this hymn to be a great comfort throughout my life. Because despite some of the setbacks I’ve faced– health issues and heartaches, and that’s all I’ll say– God has remained faithful. This reassurance helps me face any hardship with hope.
What inspired you to write this book?
Last year, End Game Press asked me to write a second book in my YA series. But when I submitted my plot, they said it was too similar to another book they had on deck. They asked me to come up with a new approach. I took my problem to my critique group, and one of the girls who works with her church to recover victims suggested I cover human trafficking.
I got sick to my stomach just thinking about it.
I said no.
No, I don’t know enough about human trafficking.
No, it’s too horrifying to research.
No, what young adult wants to read about such a scary issue.
No! I write humor.
But God kept pressing me on this idea. And pressing me. And pressing me. So I finally said yes. And found my yes.
Yes, I didn’t know enough, but I learned.
Yes, the research was horrifying, but I also found hope, especially within Christian organizations who help recover victims.
Yes… the young adult audience actually does need to read about human trafficking to make themselves aware of the danger and to take steps to protect themselves. And it can be done in an age-appropriate way.
So I wrote the book. And I think it’s even better than the first book in the series. A difficult topic, true. But valuable because of that. Offsides ended up being a little bit like A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder on the soccer field.
And, best of all, I believe Offsides holds the potential to make the greatest impact on readers than of any of my books.
Thank you for letting us get to know you better!
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 16
Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, January 17 (Author Interview)
Artistic Nobody, January 18 (Author Interview)
For Him and My Family, January 18
Guild Master, January 19 (Author Interview)
Texas Book-aholic, January 20
Fiction Book Lover, January 21 (Author Interview)
Beauty in the Binding, January 22 (Author Interview)
Library Lady’s Kid Lit, January 23
Splashes of Joy, January 24 (Author Interview)
Locks, Hooks and Books, January 25
Tell Tale Book Reviews, January 26 (Author Interview)
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 27
Blossoms and Blessings, January 28 (Author Interview)
Exploring the Written Word, January 28
For the Love of Literature, January 29 (Author Interview)
To celebrate her tour, Lori is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and an autographed copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.