Fight Card opens round one of 2014 with a scorching Fight Card MMA entry, Rosie The Ripper, from critically acclaimed writer Sam Hawken (writing as Jack Tunney). He is the author of The Dead Women Of Juárez, Tequila Sunset, Juárez Dance, La Frontera, and the Camaro Espinoza novellas. Fight Card MMA: Rosie The Ripper is his first Fight Card entry …
The genesis of Rosie The Ripper was a little different than all the other Fight Card entries since it started with a cover without a story. How did that work for you?
I wrote in an essay everyone can find on the Fight Card site (www.fightcardbooks.com) about how I’m a very visual person, and what’s more I happen to be intensely interested in women’s MMA. With the Rosie cover, the two of these things collided and immediately I started thinking, “I need to write this thing because it’s right up my alley.” The only problem I had was I couldn’t come up with something that would fit the Fight Card format. It took me close to a year of ruminating on that cover, coming back to it periodically, until I finally figured out how to make it work. It was so easy in the end that I’m not sure what took me so long. It helps that the cover (by Kieth Birdsong) is great because you want a great story to go along with it and that inspires you to keep trying.
Did you have a background in boxing or MMA before starting Rosie The Ripper … How much research was involved?
When I was younger — oh, so much younger — I got involved in boxing in an unserious way. I trained and it was satisfying, but I never had the application necessary to really transition from hobbyist to devotee. It was a lot easier to watch boxing than to do it.
Once MMA hit the scene, I came to it the way most fans did, lured by the promise of seeing different styles clash, but instead discovered this intricate, evolving combat form that was full of nuances and technical flourishes. I continue to be engaged with MMA even as my connection to boxing has faded, mostly because MMA has gone on developing every year, making the quality of the fights go up and up and up. MMA won’t be able to keep topping itself forever, but it’s been an awful lot of fun watching it happen.
Whatever the case, I had been doing fairly extensive research on MMA for a Camaro Espinoza project. This, taken in tandem with my established fascination with WMMA, fed the Rosie machine. If I hadn’t been doing that other work, I might still be trying to figure out how to write a story for that cover. It was a nice confluence of events and effort.
What was your goal as a writer in telling Rosie’s story … Was it different than what you start out to do with any novel?
My goal with any piece of writing is to engage the reader on whatever wavelength a particular piece requires. When I write crime, I have a pretty solid idea what crime readers are looking for in terms of plot and character, and that’s helped me get some really great reviews and a couple of award nominations for my crime novels. My last Serpent’s Tail release, Tequila Sunset, recently went bestseller in the UK, which is amazingly gratifying.
When it came to Rosie, I was aware of the expectations inherent to telling a fight story, and so I geared what is otherwise a character piece toward the tastes of Fight Card readers, with all the requisite elements in place. It just so happened I was already a Fight Card reader myself, and a student of the subgenre going all the way back to Robert E. Howard, so this was easier than it would have been if I were coming to it cold. I can’t imagine anyone trying to write a Fight Card novella without first thoroughly immersing him- or herself in these kinds of stories because they have to be told a certain way or they don’t work at all.
How has working with Fight Card’s author cooperative been different than traditional publishing?
I’ve already experienced a relaxed and supportive environment that’s quite different from the traditional publishing route, which is very formal and structured. Everybody is professional and everybody wants Fight Card to be a commercial success, of course, but they’re fans first and want to tell a rousing story they’d like to read. Consequently I felt very comfortable during the editorial and beta-reading portions of the process, where I got useful feedback from Paul Bishop and Gerard Brennan respectively. At no point was anyone telling me what to write or how to write it and that’s something I appreciate as a writer. It’s not always what you get elsewhere.
I also like how Paul Bishop has harnessed the power of social media to market Fight Card. It seems unthinkable, but there are people in publishing who have absolutely zero idea how to do what he’s doing every day to make Fight Card bigger and better going forward.
What’s next in 2014 for Sam Hawken?
I have a few things lined up for the year, but not an overwhelming amount. A new Camaro Espinoza novella will appear in the spring, and it’s my hope those who like my Fight Card entry will find something to appreciate in that ongoing series. Once fall rolls around, I’ll have a Halloween release of a horror novel called Bagman, which I’m putting out under the pen name Thomas Hewitt. And shortly thereafter Serpent’s Tail will release my third, and possibly final, Mexican crime novel, Missing.
In the meanwhile I’ll be writing like it’s going to be made illegal tomorrow. I’m not happy unless I’m turning out words every weekday. I may even have another Fight Card entry in me, but we’ll have to see how the Fight Card readership receives Rosie first.
FIGHT CARD MMA: ROSIE THE RIPPER
SAM HAWKEN (WRITING AS JACK TUNNEY)
Baltimore, 2014 … Rosie Bratton is a recovering alcoholic. Divorced, working a dead end job, and with a young daughter she only sees on alternate weekends, her life is going nowhere. Her hopes hang on the outcome of a custody battle to regain primary custody of her daughter, and the vague possibility things might get better together.
When circumstances turn bleak, Rosie nearly retreats into the bottle, but her sponsor has a solution. Felix was once a mixed martial arts contender. Now, he’s turned his talent toward teaching his skills to others. If Rosie becomes his student, he hopes she can learn how to be a stronger, focused, better person.
Some people are born to fight – in the cage and out – and Rosie is one of them. When she’s given the moniker Rosie the Ripper, she becomes something more than she was before – and it may be enough to give her a fighting chance …