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  • John M Donovan

Fluffball! Is Coming

Exciting news around Hillsboro Publishing these days: John M Donovan has announced that his fifth novel, Fluffball!, will be available sometime in January 2021. Here’s an interview on that very topic with the only person who actually works at Hillsboro Publishing.


Q. Fluffball! is not the complete title of this novel, is it?

A: It is not. The complete title is Fluffball! Or, How Five Really Tall Guys and an Immortal Chinese Philosopher Opened the Door to a Parallel Universe and Saved Professional Nerf Basketball, More or Less.


Q. Wait. Is “more or less” part of the title or were you just saying that?

A. Yes.


Q. What’s this novel about?

A. Vampires in a future dystopia, obviously. No, seriously, the title acts as its own blurb. This is the satire of professional sports that’s been rolling around in my head since the late 1990s and I think it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever written.


Q. Give us some more details, if you please.

A. I do please. The book opens on September 30, 1995, with the announcement that the Nerf Basketball Association is being shut down after 28 years. This comes as a shock to everyone—the players, the fans, the media, the beer vendors, everyone but the owners, who know more than they’re telling. As NEBA Hall of Famer Don Gooding puts it, “Profitable sports leagues do not just shut down.” We flash back to the beginning of the 1995-96 preseason and meet the rest of the main characters: Philadelphia’s highly-touted rookie forward Visa Clark, Cleveland coach Dan Morrison, the Dean of NEBA Sportswriters (and former player himself) Lum Billingsley, and the greatest player in Nerf Basketball Association history, Parker Hill. Along with Gooding, these people find themselves entangled in a series of curious events that all seem to come back to a mysterious person named Michael and the immortal Chinese philosopher mentioned in the title, Tzu Han Tzu.


Q. This sounds truly wacky.

A. I don’t disagree. Along the way I get to take pokes at sports agents, sports talk radio, athletes as advertising icons, fantasy sports leagues, daytime talk shows, spirit-channeling, and so on and so on.


Q. Were you ever in a fantasy sports league yourself?

A. Well, not to toot my own horn—although since I’m the one conducting this interview I suppose no one else is going to toot it—but I once won a fantasy football championship despite going into the playoffs without a quarterback.


Q. Let’s back to Fluffball! before we go off on any more tangents. Tell us more about the characters.

A. I think the friendship between Don Gooding and Lum Billingsley is one I would never get tired of writing about. They’re both lifelong bachelors, but Gooding is a complete cynic and a bit of a pig when it comes to his relationships with women, while Billingsley is somewhat naïve, absorbed in his work, and far more open-minded about such things as parallel universes. Parker Hill is a larger-than-life character who’s been in the game since its inception and who misses the old days. Dan Morrison has issues—he was a disruptive, distracting force as a player, and now as a coach he occasionally channels the spirit of an ancient Babylonian athlete named Namunamu. (“Nothing I’ve ever done wrong or crazy has ever been on purpose,” Morrison says, and this is rather key to the book’s climax.) Visa Clark is fresh out of college, a major NEBA fan since childhood, and just ready to compete in the game he loves. My favorite secondary character is a New York sportswriter named Beau Bopko, who is hated by Philadelphia fans and has a slightly dirty mind. If readers want to picture anyone as Beau Bopko, they wouldn’t be too far amiss if they imagined the late Bruno Kirby.


Q. Are there adult situations in this novel?

A. No F-words in this one. Couple of S-words and a GD-word here and there. Some passing references to sex but nothing too prurient.


Q. Let us know when it’s available.

A. You’ll be the first to know. You and anyone who signs up for my mailing list, which means I’ve got to figure out how to use my mailing list.

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