Wearing the Sportsfan Pants in My Family

Before trying her hand at fiction, Tammy Kaehler established a career writing marketing materials, feature articles, executive speeches, and technical documentation. A fateful stint in corporate hospitality introduced her to the racing world, which inspired the first Kate Reilly racing mystery. Tammy works as a technical writer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives with her husband and many cars.

It’s unusual, to say the least, that I’m a female writing mysteries about a racecar driver. What’s probably even more unusual is that I’m the only sports fan in my household. My husband and I don’t fit traditional roles, in many ways, and caring about sports is one of them.

In our house, I’m the one watching sports all weekend. I’m the one glued to the television when the Olympics roll around. And he’s the grumpy one because I’ve been in front of the TV and not paying attention to him.

The pinnacle of our role reversal came when my husband introduced himself at a Skip Barber three-day racing school last year, joking (mostly) that he was, first, alarmed about what they were about to do, and second, only there because his wife shamed him into attending. (I’d gone to racing school four years prior, as research for the mystery I was writing.)

See, while he’s a walking encyclopedia of car knowledge, he’s an engineer, so when he watches racing, he’s analyzing the dynamics, forces, risks, cost, and effort involved. He’s not swayed by the passion, challenge, adrenaline, thrill, or triumph that might be felt or achieved. He’s fond of saying, “There’s one winner. For everyone else, it costs a lot to lose.” (That’s a perspective I find so amusing—and valid—that it made its way into Dead Man’s Switch).

But he’s ignoring the stories. For me, the attraction has always been—and still is—the stories of those who compete. What brought these athletes to the point where they reach inside themselves, put their years of training and preparation to use, and perform at the crucial moment when the spotlight is shining on them. Even, or especially, those athletes whose only goal is a personal best, knowing they can never win. I love it when hard work, talent, and luck combine to produce great performances, and I’m in awe of the athlete who pulls a miracle out of themselves, their team, or their car.

Explaining it all this way, it’s hardly surprising I ended up writing a sports mystery. Or that I wrote about a female protagonist, because by doing so, I get to tell the story of a woman who gives her all in the racecar on-track, solves life-or-death puzzles off-track, and makes sure good triumphs over evil in the end. What could be better?

Besides, this means all that weekend race-watching is legitimate research. How many sports fans get to say that?