Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
My name is Chris Zantow and I’m the author of Building the Brewers: Bud Selig and the Return of Major League Baseball to Milwaukee, published by McFarland Books. The book takes readers on a journey through Milwaukee baseball history and takes a dramatic turn when the Braves depart for Atlanta. Many impassioned fans turned indifferent toward baseball, but others – namely car dealer Bud Selig – decided to fight for the sport they loved. After five years the Brewers arrive and the book covers how the franchise eventually created an identity, built a supportive fan base, and a contending team in 1978.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I want to learn more about what I’m researching, and put it into story form. In the case of this Brewers book, I already heard many of the individual stories and a few of the memorable quotes. The more I researched, the more I learned – and much of it I never knew before. I’ve also never heard the whole story told in order before, and that’s something I think I can rectify for readers who had the same experience. As the quote from Toni Morrison goes, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Even before the book came out I received negative emails and social media posts about Bud Selig. I just let people know that when I started writing my book, I didn’t do it to change anyone’s opinion about Bud Selig. Most people seem to love or hate him. Seattle Pilots fans hate him for “stealing” their team and moving it to Milwaukee. Others hate him any number of reasons while he was baseball commissioner, but I don’t cover that period in the book.
I let everyone know that I kept the editorializing out of the book, and they don’t need to read it if it isn’t their cup of tea. It’s just the facts, pulled from newspapers, magazines, books, and videos. I like to say it’s about young Bud Selig – before he was the Bud Selig in the national public eye.
How has your creation process improved over time?
It has become smoother with repetition. I take nothing for granted along the way. A lot of writers hate editing their work, and I admit that when I was younger (like last year – just kidding), I wasn’t too fond of it either. But over time I’ve come to relax and enjoy the journey. Every second of it excites me, even though the hours are long and it can be mentally taxing at times.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best thing was during the research process when I’d find a piece of information that was lost to time, and add it to the manuscript. The worst and most surprising thing was not documenting sources or creating a bibliography as I went along. I had half the book written and the publisher I thought was going to sign me turned me down. McFarland Books signed me, but requested a Bibliography, which wound up being a good thing because it gives credibility to the book. But it meant I had to go back to the beginning to look up and document all the newspaper and magazine articles I had already been in once before.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
A little of both. I have wanted to have a book published since I was small, and that goal was always in the back of my mind. I also feel a huge responsibility to my readers and saw this book as an opportunity to educate and entertain. I felt that since I was learning things that I never knew about, then I had a responsibility to put the pieces together and educate others.
What are your plans for future books?
My dad suffered through a lot of health issues before passing away in 2015. Along the way I found it therapeutic to write individual stories about his life. During a long break in the Brewers book while waiting for edits, I pieced together all the stories into a cohesive memoir. It’s really about the ties that bind families together but can be ripped apart by heath struggles, guilt over placing loved ones in a nursing home, and death. It is also the emotional story of moving forward after tragic loss while honoring the past. I hope to have this edited and submitted to publishers sometime in 2020.