Inside The Author's Studio

An Action Cookbook Newsletter *exclusive* interview with an exciting new author

Hello! Welcome.

Whether you’re a longtime reader of this publication or you just signed up last week, you’ve probably realized that The Action Cookbook Newsletter offers a wide and diverse range of online content. From sportswriting to essays on parenting, humorous jaunts to delicious recipes and lifestyle guides, we cover a lot of ground together here.

But there’s one type of content that I know people have simply been clamoring for that we haven’t had yet—at least not until today. People have emailed me in desperation wondering, pleading, even:

When is The Action Cookbook Newsletter going to feature in-depth interviews with authors?

Well, wait no longer.

Today I’ve scored an exciting, exclusive interview with one of the most talked-about authors out there today, the creator of a work that’s lit the internet ablaze with discussion. [citation needed] What follows is a transcript of my interview with the author of the new newsletter-novel The Red Zone: A Football Story From A Hot Planet, Scott Hines.

Wait a second.

Just go with it, okay?

[sigh] fine.


Thank you for joining me today. I know you don’t accept many interview requests, so I’m delighted that you’re willing to share a bit of yourself with our readers.

Of course.

You’ve been described as “mysterious”.

I have? That’s strange.

“Reclusive.”

I haven’t gone to a restaurant or bar in months.

“Enigmatic.”

That’s supposed to say “Enya fanatic”. Love her music. Soothing.

“Controversial.”

I do have some very upsetting opinions on chili.

Some people have gone so far as to question whether you really exist, suggesting that you might be a pseudonym like Elena Ferrante, a collection of people like Shakespeare or Banksy, or even a long-form prank by the television show “Nathan For You.”

That’s ridiculous. I am not Banksy.

I… I didn’t say that you were.

[nervously] Oh. Uh. Good.

Are you Banksy?

No. Definitely not.

You first stepped onto the internet content scene six years ago, where—okay, it says in my notes that you mostly got attention by posting cute dog photos on a niche college football blog? Is that right?

Listen, we’ve all got to start somewhere. L. Ron Hubbard was a middling science fiction writer, and he went on to found a very successful scam religion that made him a ton of money.

Well, since then you’ve developed quite a following.

It’s true. There’s this one goose that follows me around the park every day, and—

I meant for your writing.

Oh. Yes? People read stuff I post, yes.

Today you’re promoting something called “The Red Zone: A Football Story From A Hot Planet.Can you tell our readers more about this?

Yes, of course. It’s a work of longform fiction—a full-length novel, by the time it’s done—that I’m rolling out in serialized installments every couple of weeks. The fourth installment has just released, and it’s been very well-received so far.

What’s the story about?

It’s a story set against the backdrop of climate migration—that is, the notion that as global warming continues to change our weather patterns, there will likely have to be massive and destabilizing internal shifts in the American population. In the story, set in the year 2070, the federal government has abandoned a storm-battered swath of the Gulf South, declaring it off-limits and building a new border hundreds of miles in. The official line is that no one lives in this restricted zone—a place that comes to be known as “The Red Zone”—but of course, many people still do.

Now, I thought this was a story about football.

It is! Looking fifty years into the future as the story does, I’m also showing a world where sports have changed dramatically, too. Football—well, football’s a dangerous sport, anyone who watches it knows that. We’ve learned a lot in the past several decades about the long-term impacts of the game on players’ brains and overall health, and it’s not a big stretch to envision a time where the legal risks for colleges or professional franchises is so great that the game is forced to either change dramatically or fold entirely.

In the shrunken borders of the story’s United States, they still play football, but it’s a safer game; lighter, quicker, with far less contact and violence. It’s a game of finesse, and though it’s still popular, it’s lost a lot of ground to other sports.

I imagine that not everyone would be happy about such a change.

You’re exactly right, and that’s where our story picks up. The most viable line of work in a lawless place is doing something that’s banned in lawful ones. There’s still a deep hunger for “traditional” football—for the violent, brutal, dangerous sport so many of us still love today despite our reservations about it. While the official leagues north of the border play the modified, safer game, rogue leagues have developed in the still-populated Red Zone, playing the game the old-fashioned way and illegally streaming them to paying audiences up North.

Interesting.

The book’s primary storyline follows the Lake Providence Saints, a middling-at-best team from a small town in northeastern Louisiana. They don’t have the resources or following of many teams, and they’ve mostly served as the other team on the field, losing frequently while collecting paychecks to support their families back home. They’re setting out on a barnstorming tour of the Red Zone Gulf South, and it’s going to be a struggle.

I have to be honest, this all sounds kind of depressing!

I can see why you’d think that, but I really don’t see it that way. I’ve found it cathartic, personally—it’s a story that casts a very plausible version of who we could become in fifty years, but it’s not pure dystopia. It’s a straightforward and human story set in a world that’s both familiar and unrecognizable. There’s humor and joy and real life in it.

Is this going to be a ‘real’ book someday?

Maybe. Are you an agent or publisher?

No, I’m you doing a different voice.

Right. Right. Well, we’ll see. For now it’s something that I just wanted to get out into the world. I’ve been working on a version of this story for over two years, and seeing how quickly our world has changed in 2020, I felt like I couldn’t wait to tell it any longer.

How is this rolling out?

There are going to be a total of eight installments—we’re already halfway through, as of today’s release.

How did you just put a link in here? I thought this was supposed to be a phone conversation.

I’m not entirely clear on the rules of this bit we’re doing.

So, eight installments—when do you expect it to be complete?

I’ve been publishing every three weeks, roughly, so the entire story will be complete by some time around late November. Probably. I’m not George RR Martin, I’ll get you my pages.

And how much does this cost? Six hundred dollars? Seven hundred?

No! The first chapter is free for anyone to read, and the rest are available to any paying subscriber of The Action Cookbook Newsletter, a lovely publication that costs only $5/month or $50/year. That’s in addition to all the newsletter’s other benefits, including thrice-weekly posts that encompass sportswriting, parenting, humor, architecture and of course, weekly recipe/cocktail/lifestyle recommendations each Friday.

Wow. That’s a lot of value riding along with this book.

Jonathan Franzen could never.

No he’d just write 1100 pages about a sad upper-middle-class family with no cocktail recipes at all.

Exactly. Really, you’re basically losing money if you don’t subscribe, both for The Red Zone and all the other offerings of The Action Cookbook Newsletter.

I agree. Hey, are we done with this ‘interview’ bit?

Almost.

Well, thanks again for agreeing to do this.

Once I realized we had the exact same name, how could I say no?

I’m also quite handsome.

Yes, I agree. We both are.

Scott Hines, speaking to “Scott Hines” (@actioncookbook)

The Art of the Author Event - Stanford University Press Blog