About the Book
Author: Lori Z. Scott
Genre: Contemporary YA fiction
Release Date: October 19, 2023
Danielle Stephens expected her senior year to be challenging, with her final season of soccer, a strained friendship, and a new crush. But she didn’t expect to uncover a human trafficking ring in her town. When an older man seems to be grooming her young neighbor, Dani is determined to keep the girl safe. Little does she know, but there is more at stake than one life. And if Dani doesn’t watch her back, she could be the next victim.
Offsides is like a Christian version of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder but set on the soccer field.
Click here to get your copy!
About the Author
Wheaton College graduate Lori Z. Scott accidentally wrote the 10-book bestselling Meghan Rose series. On purpose, she wrote more than 200 short stories, articles, essays, poems, and devotions for magazines like Brio and Focus on the Family. She has also contributed to 15 books, including Writing and Selling Children’s Books in the Christian Market.
As has been her practice for over 25 years, Lori is fully invested in teaching elementary students during the day. However, most nights you can find her typing away behind the keyboard. She figures that makes writing her superpower… especially since she knows how to use a delete key.
In 2022, Lori introduced an award-winning novel, Inside the Ten-Foot Line, the first installment in her new young adult series. In addition, she has led writing workshops for local ACFW and SCBWI chapters, conducted school visits, served as a guest speaker for Story Embers podcasts, and presented at virtual writing conferences. She’s never really sure if the crowd is impressed by her interactive presentations or by the fact that she can write and draw forwards and backwards with both hands at the same time.
More from Lori
Let’s start with the why behind the series in general. In the early 2000s, I published a bestselling chapter book series—sort of like the Christian version of Junie B. Jones. Then, because of some unexpected life circumstances, I stopped writing for about 7 years. After encouragement from my mom and my daughter and a phone call with an editor from Pockets Magazine, I decided to return to writing. But I wanted to try something new.
I thought about the things I love that I could write about. Sports came to the top of the list since I competed in volleyball, track, swimming, softball, and basketball and my children played soccer. I went to the library to see what was out there and found some great sports novels, many by Mike Lupica. He tackled interesting themes—characters dealing with real-life issues that readers could relate to whether or not they were part of a team.
However, the book offerings for women athletes? Very slim pickings. I mean… there were a few. But they didn’t have the depth I craved in a book. And, as my daughter always says, “Mom, you’re a writer. If you can’t find the book you want, write it yourself.”
So that’s how the series in general was born. I envisioned a story for each sport that reached beyond the court to encompass a broader audience. Stories that grappled with universal emotions, dreams, and challenges. The first book in the series, Inside the Ten-Foot Line, did well with critics. It won the Golden Scroll Award for youth fiction book of the year, an Illumination Book Award, was a semi-finalist for the Carol Awards, and a finalist for the Director’s Choice Award. I figure that’s a promising start!
Now, more specifically—the inspiration behind the story Offsides.
Okay, big breath for me here, because I felt God’s nudging to write it, and I told Him no. Just outright no. But… who tells God no? I mean, based on my writing journey, I trusted that He knew best the paths I should take. Always. So why did I say no?
Let me give you a little history. In 2022, End Game Press invited me to write Offsides, the second book in my series. However, when I submitted my detailed plot, they came back and said it was too similar to another book they planned on publishing and asked me to develop something different. I took the problem to my critique group, and one of the girls who works with her church to recover victims of human trafficking suggested that I write a story where the characters must confront this issue.
I got sick to my stomach just thinking about it. And I dismissed the idea. Like, immediately.
And I had good excuses to say no. No, I didn’t know enough about the problem. No, human trafficking was too horrifying to research. No, what teenager wants to read about this sick topic? And my biggest objection–No! I wrote humor.
But God kept pressing me on this idea. And pressing me. And pressing me. News reports. Conversations at work. Ads on T.V. Social media posts. The idea would bubble up in my prayers and haunt me when I went to bed.
So, I finally said yes and wrote the book. Not surprisingly, in the process, I discovered a yes for every no I’d voiced.
I didn’t know enough about the problem, but, yes, I learned. The research was horrifying, but yes, I also found hope, especially within Christian organizations who help recover victims.
Yes… teens should read about human trafficking to make themselves aware of the danger and to take steps to protect themselves and their friends. And yes, talking about human trafficking could be done in an age-appropriate way. Best of all, as heavy as the topic was, the story still contained humor. Because high school is like that—serious, but also fun and entertaining.
I really like the relationships between the characters too. There’s something powerful about their interactions. The protagonist, Dani, is a huge introvert, and her social anxiety plays into how the plot unfolds. Her character resonated with a lot of my beta readers who also experienced struggles with feelings that they don’t quite fit in.
One teary-eyed reader asked me how I was able to tap into Dani’s emotions so deeply and accurately. I was like—hey, I’m a teacher. I see insecurities in people all the time. And at some point, we’ve all been there—even me. In the lonely. In the awkward. In the search for belonging. In the hurt. We need each other. And we need faith.
Anyway, that’s how Offsides was born. With a nudge that turned into a pressing need to tell a story. About a difficult topic, true. But even more valuable because of that. The book ended up being a little bit like A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder but set on the soccer field.
If any readers want to use Offsides for a book club, I have a study guide I can email them for free. I also have a free collection of ten devotions for athletes for interested readers. To get either one or both, DM me on my Instagram account at @Stories.by.Lori
Interview with the Author
- How do you select the names of your characters?
I wish I had a better method, but I often use the names of people I know. And I know a lot of cool names because I’m a teacher. Even so, the character himself is never like the real person whose name I borrowed. For example, I named the main character in Offsides after my dear friend’s daughter. However, the real Danielle is extroverted and confident whereas my fictional Dani is extremely introverted. Whenever I borrow the name of a family member, a coworker, or a student, they seem to get a kick out of it. It’s like the whole story is packed with Easter eggs only my closest friends will notice.
The one exception I’ve made to this random approach is a character in a speculative fiction story I hope to one day publish. I named him Justin because the driving force in his life was seeking justice. But who knows? When I finally pitch it, I may end up changing Justin to Crew or Mayuk, two of my second grade cherubs with rockstar names.
- What was your hardest scene to write?
With Offsides, the whole book was difficult to write. Because human trafficking is a difficult subject, and here I am, an author best known for writing humor. But it worked out so beautifully. With that in mind, one of the hardest scenes to write was also one of the shortest–a letter the main character sends to her school. What made this letter hard to write is that I needed it to be raw and real and a true wake up call, but still carry hope. It needed to hold the complexity of emotion from someone who had just survived a traumatic experience.
- What is your favorite childhood book?
Depends on what age group you’re talking about. Early elementary school was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I remember my kindergarten teacher reading it to the class and being mesmerized by the enchanting artwork. In third and fourth grade, I adored The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. But I was totally captivated by The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. As you can tell, I enjoy the fantastical, even though I write contemporary fiction.
- If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
I would tell children and teenagers to read more and to read in a variety of genres. I think the more you read, the more you learn what good writing looks and sounds like. And reading in a variety of genres exposes you to different approaches and elements of writing. Don’t get me wrong–growing up, I was a big reader, from Nancy Drew mysteries to Conan the Barbarian. But if I had to do something differently, I’d read even more.
- What comes first, the plot or characters?
For me, characters come first. True, I get an idea for a character and a plot at the same time, and with that combo, I create a simple story outline. But as I write, the characters take on lives of their own, and they often change the plot. That happens often with me, but I don’t believe I am alone in this phenomenon. The bottom line? When readers connect with the characters, they invest in the story. With Offsides, many readers have told me they really resonated with Dani, the main character. Her authenticity helped drive the plot to its ultimate climax. One reader asked me about Dani’s struggles. “How did you know how that felt? How did you capture that? I didn’t think anyone understood.” And, choking back tears, said, “That was me. In high school. I was Dani.”
- What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Well, I teach. I’ve been in the classroom for over 25 years, and the kids are the best part of my day. I also enjoy doodling, board games, and sports. I’m equally content with a challenging hike on a trail and a relaxing book by a fire.
- If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be and what would you cook?
I assume this question is meant to draw out a famous person who I greatly admire. But, in all honesty, I would invite my parents and my kids (I’m a cheat, calling them “one person” but hey, we are all one family, so go with it.) There is nothing I’d love more than to spend time with the people I love most. With that in mind, I wouldn’t actually cook dinner for them. Because everyone knows I’m a terrible cook, and serving burnt toast and raw chicken in no way conveys the depth of my love. So I’d order carry out– probably Arnie’s Pizza– and settle down for a round of card games, perhaps a puzzle or two, a cup of tea, and a whole heap of laughter.
Thank you for letting us get to know you better!
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 16
Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, January 17 (Author Interview)
Artistic Nobody, January 18 (Author Interview)
For Him and My Family, January 18
Guild Master, January 19 (Author Interview)
Texas Book-aholic, January 20
Fiction Book Lover, January 21 (Author Interview)
Beauty in the Binding, January 22 (Author Interview)
Library Lady’s Kid Lit, January 23
Splashes of Joy, January 24 (Author Interview)
Locks, Hooks and Books, January 25
Tell Tale Book Reviews, January 26 (Author Interview)
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 27
Blossoms and Blessings, January 28 (Author Interview)
Exploring the Written Word, January 28
For the Love of Literature, January 29 (Author Interview)
To celebrate her tour, Lori is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and an autographed copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.