A Chat With Dan Epstein, Author of ‘Big Hair And Plastic Grass’

7 Sep

Stacy: How long did you work on this book?

Dan Epstein: From conception to publication, Big Hair and Plastic Grass took a solid ten years. The first four years or so were spent haphazardly researching it, but mostly I used the idea as justification to stockpile a large library of baseball biographies, team yearbooks from the 1970s, etc. I finally got serious about writing a proposal for it around 2005, and got a deal with my first publisher in 2006. The book was originally supposed to come out in 2007, but it got pushed back to 2008 so as not to get lost in the shuffle with books on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens that the company was publishing — and then got dropped entirely in late 2007 when the company slashed 60 percent of their planned releases for the upcoming year.

At that point, I found a new home for the book with Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s, who loved it but wanted me to do some rewriting and make some substantial cuts in length. The final galleys were approved this spring, and I can’t even describe the joy I felt when I held the finished product in my hand for the first time.

Stacy: That’s awesome. Can you share some highlights that occured during the research of the book?

Dan Epstein: It’s hard to identify any specific highlights from during the research phase, since it was always such a pleasure to be able to immerse myself in ’70s baseball and cultural history on a regular basis — it was definitely like reliving my childhood, since that was the period where I first fell in love with baseball (and with pop culture in general). Synthesizing all that information into an entertaining and edifying book was the real challenge, and was where the real hard work came in.

Probably the funniest memory I have from the whole process is from during the trimming/editing stage: I had to pull a lot of late nights to get the edit done by deadline, since I have a regular gig and couldn’t focus on the book during the day. And every night around midnight or 1 am, I would start to nod off at the computer, and dream that the ghost of Dock Ellis had entered my study to plead for the inclusion of more San Diego Chicken anecdotes; however, my editor wanted less Chicken, and ultimately won out. Sorry, Dock!

Stacy: Nice. What are you working on next?

Dan Epstein: I’m still trying to decide what to do next — I’ve got ideas for about four different books, most of which involve baseball. I’m also in talks about turning Big Hair and Plastic Grass into a documentary, which I think would be a natural, so to speak. One thing this whole experience has taught me, however, is that it’s not worth putting the time and energy required into writing a book, unless you absolutely love the subject matter. For one thing, you most likely won’t make enough money to even come close to compensating for all the blood, sweat and tears you’ll shed shepherding the book from conception to publication. And (if you’re lucky), you’ll have to answer tons of questions about it from interviewers and readers once the book is published — so you’d better love talking about the the subject! Happily, I love ’70s baseball, and never get tired of yakkin’ about it and all the crazy and fascinating things that went down in the sport during that decade. But I know I’ll have to bring that same level of passion to any future book project, or it just won’t be worth it.

A big “thanks” to Dan for his time!

MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT DAN’S BLOG. AND WHILE YOU’RE BEING SO COMPLIANT, PLEASE BUY HIS BOOK TOO!

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