In the end, I decided that since I would have to create an alternate world with unique major league baseball teams. I couldn't use the real team names for licensing reasons and I already had to create my own cast of players. I finally made the rather unusual decision to set my story on Felonia, the very universe that I was trying to take a break from. But I was talking about a very different kind of story, so the similarities to my other stories end at the setting and the use of my favorite species, the Felona.
The Felona are my favorite thing that I’ve ever created. Just thinking about my anthropomorphic kitties playing baseball was something that I found very cute. Again, though, how would I make it interesting? In that case, I tried to appeal to those more interested in cats being athletic than the game itself. A fellow author suggested the name Seven-Pitch to me, so that it wouldn't be called baseball. I made some slight tweaks to the game's terms and rules, but it's very similar to baseball, so it's fairly easy to follow even for non-baseball fans.
As it stands, I have it that the sport developed in a similar way as it did on Earth. It ended up being named seven-pitch on account of there being a total of four balls and three strikes. It’s a stretch, but it sounds good. The reason that the Felona needed seven-pitch is that they needed some way to take out their aggressive energies without taking them out on each other or over-hunting their world. It was a convenient excuse, but it works out well the way that I set it up in the story.
So initially I had the main character be a girl named “Tiger” on her quest to become a major league seven-pitch hurler. Calling them pitchers sounds redundant, and I wanted the game to have its own flavor anyway. Then I hit a wall. I just didn’t feel like writing it. I felt that I would basically just turn the book into a parody of real life baseball.
But then, it dawned on me to turn it around and take a much different approach. I don’t know what inspired it exactly. Fortunately, a great part of my new plot centered around a character that popped into my head named Clair Sureclaw. She's a female seven-pitch superstar loosely modeled after Los Angeles Dodgers ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Besides being left-handed and extremely good at throwing the ball past people, she became her own thing, my first ever Ocelot character.
Once I realized what my imagination had created, I decided to flip everything around. The Felona are a matriarchal race, as it is. Why not have their favorite sport reflect their culture? It’s not called baseball. So why can’t seven-pitch be a girl’s game? The question that has long gone through my mind: why can’t girls play baseball at the professional level was suddenly answered. They can, if they live on Felonia and are of the Felona species.
(Yes, I realize that there was a professional girl's league during World War Two in America, but it was short-lived. I might have a twist on that for tomcats playing seven-pitch in another book for similar reasons.)
Essentially, the Felona are the result of a world’s evolution that favored felines over primates. Otherwise, they act like humans, except that their culture is very different. What this allowed me to do is do a lot of creating. Since it’s my own fantasy world, my imagination could run wild and create new and vibrant characters without making it into a parody of real-life baseball.
I changed the main protagonist to a boy named Tora, a Toyger Felona, and everything fell into place. Clair has become perhaps my favorite character that I’ve ever created. There are a ton of details that I’m still working out. I’m just laying the groundwork and developing the characters. The world is starting to grow around my characters. I took a “bottoms-up” approach that was quite the opposite of the top-down approach I typically take with CRONOKAI universe stories.
At first, this approach was really bringing up some great ideas. Every morning for about a week, I had enough new ideas in my head to write at least 2,000 words a day. Having a creative project that I can just work on every day without feeling like it’s going to blow up in my face was really nice. But what is really fascinating about this Seven-Pitch project is that it’s nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before. I’m not saying no one’s ever had cats play baseball. But these aren’t cats - they’re Felona. It’s a sports fantasy, which I'm not sure was ever actually a genre, but I suppose I started it.
I wasn't really trying to start a new genre or a a completely new approach to my writing. But it turned out pretty cool. Even though I ran out of steam, I eventually was able to finish the first book. It wasn't really meant to be a series. But after sitting on it for a long time, I realized that I want to take a slightly different approach in the second story. I didn't want to overload the reader with too many sub-plots in one book. So after editing and compiling the various chapters, I decided that it would be fine to release the first book as-is.
I actually figured that the story would probably end up being too weird for anyone to want to read. But it ended up being a very character-driven story that really had the game as more of a backdrop to other very relatable themes. It became a frame narrative of an aspiring sportswriter following her friend's quest to become a seven-pitch pitcher when the odds are greatly against him. I feel like the story is off to a fine start, but there's a long way that I could go with it. It gave me a lot of insight into the Felona species and gave me a lot of ideas on how to better develop my characters and stories going forward.
Seven-Pitch was a ground-breaking moment for me in my creative efforts. It expanded the CRONOKAI universe into a direction I didn't know it could go, giving me new ways to explore the settings and characters I created. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing and creating it.
Check out Seven Pitch and other books by Richard A. Rowell available exclusively from Write W.A.V.E. Media.