Author Interviews

Interview with Emma Kress

Dangerous Play was a book I finished in a few days. Talk about a compelling emotional contemporary debut. After finishing, I knew I wanted to reach out to Kress to see if she’d like to do an interview. And she said yes! Keep reading to find out the answers to the questions I had after finishing.

Dangerous Play

Zoe Alamandar has one goal: win the State Field Hockey Championships and earn a scholarship that will get her the hell out of Central New York. She and her co-captain Ava Cervantes have assembled a fierce team of dedicated girls who will work hard and play by the rules.

But after Zoe is sexually assaulted at a party, she finds a new goal: make sure no girl feels unsafe again. Zoe and her teammates decide to stop playing by the rules and take justice into their own hands. Soon, their suburban town has a team of superheroes meting out punishments, but one night of vigilantism may cost Zoe her team, the championship, her scholarship, and her future.

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Find Dangerous Play on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.

Author Interview

Were the side characters in Dangerous Play the same throughout drafting or did some go through major changes?

All of the side characters you see were there from the start. The major change was that they each had so much more time and space devoted to them in the early drafts. The benefit of this was that I really knew all of the characters thoroughly after writing those early drafts. The struggle was that it was a real challenge to capture that development in few words with such a large cast. And, Zoe had a brother for several drafts. Between Zoe’s brother and all of the pages of character development, I had to cut a LOT of darlings.

I loved that Dangerous Play examined both sides of rage, the ways it can be used for good and also how it can overwhelm us. How did you come up with the idea for Dangerous Play specifically the central conflict?

I’m so glad you appreciated the space on the page devoted to rage. Historically, we haven’t seen books and movies leave much space for female rage. It’s a key part of most survivor’s journeys and as a former peer counselor and advocate, I knew that journey well. The story idea began with this fierce team of field hockey girls angry about rape culture. The way that rage played out, and the girls’ reaction to that, became more nuanced and layered with every draft and revision. I was deeply interested in this question: what happens to girls when they’re raised in rape culture?

Did you already know how the ending would be from the beginning of the drafting process?

No! Oh my gosh, the ending took years. Literally. I was rewriting the ending until my very last revision with my editor. And yet…when I landed on this final ending, I saw the breadcrumbs I’d left for myself all along leading to this as the right choice. That is such a fascinating thing about writing: how the right move has been sitting in plain sight all along, you just couldn’t see it. Which, now that I think about it, is a lesson Zoe must learn as well.

How was the cover drafting process? Did you have insight or give some ideas on what you thought the cover should be?

I did not. My editor, Mekisha Telfer, created a mood board, which I loved. The designer, Aurora Parlagreco, hired the artist Laura Callaghan, whose work I fell for. I got shown an early sketch, and screamed aloud, I was so thrilled. Intentionally, I tried not to think about the cover at all through any part of the process; I knew I wouldn’t really get a say and I didn’t want to be disappointed. But my goodness. The cover they created blew me away. I didn’t need to worry about a thing! It is absolutely stunning and fully captures the girls’ fierce attitudes. I adore it. 

What was a piece of advice you’d give to yourself before Dangerous Play released?

I’ve wanted to be a published writer since I was 10. I have been working daily toward this goal for eleven years. As a result, I had well-worn daydreams of how my release would go. Unsurprisingly, those dreams did not contain a global pandemic and all the losses that’s meant. The weekend before release, I wrote my 10-year-old self a letter in which I just comforted her, as I would one of my children. It was incredibly cathartic and powerful. It freed me to move through the anxiety, disappointment, and grief. I woke up on Monday morning feeling deeply grateful, joyful, and centered, which felt much more me. I was so thankful I’d written that letter.

Do you have a history of playing field hockey yourself? Did you play other sports during school?

I did! I was nowhere near as good as the girls of Dangerous Play, but I always loved field hockey. I also played lacrosse. I chose field hockey for other reasons too. First of all, field hockey is a very rule-heavy sport, which fits so well with Zoe’s personality, and is a perfect contrast to the freedom of parkour. Secondly, field hockey was one of those rare sports that someone could just pick up in school and didn’t require years of club practice prior to being chosen for a school team. Recently, clubs have popped up for field hockey. But the club sport mentality is less entrenched than it is for other sports like soccer, for example. That reality means that there’s a potential for greater diversity on a field hockey team than for other sports teams, and I knew I wanted a very inclusive and diverse team.

If you had to pick one sentence to intrigue someone to read this book, which would you pick?

“We hold more power than anyone told us we could.” (155)

Find Dangerous Play on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.

About the Author

Emma Kress is a writer and educator living with her family in Saratoga Springs, NY. She is a graduate of Vassar College, Columbia University’s Teachers College, and the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA Program. She is a long-time teacher and was one of the four finalists for New York State Teacher of the Year. DANGEROUS PLAY is her debut novel.


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