Q&A With Alex Wong On His Debut Book, 'Steven Lebron, Volume 1'

Regular readers of The Sports Fan Journal surely know our very own Alex Wong by now, aka Steven Lebron. What you may not know is that Alex, a Canadian who is currently in the midst of moving from Toronto to New York City, has been working on a book for a while now. But you should. Why? Because "Steven Lebron, Volume 1," Alex's debut book, is now available for purchase, and by the looks of it, this thing is a must-read.

There are many more details on Alex's Tumblr site, StevenLebron.com, and you can purchase a copy of the book by heading over to the book's online bookstore. By the way, Steven Lebron is an absolutely must Twitter follow. Pure gold.

So with "Steven Lebron, Volume 1" now officially available, Alex took the time to exchange some emails with The Rev and chat with TSFJ about his debut book. Enjoy, and make sure to contact Alex about securing  yourself a copy.


TSFJ: Why did you decide to write a book?

AW: I started writing regularly online in 2011, and by last year, I had built up a large archive of writing at my blog and through my contributions to other sites.

I had this desire to publish something just for the very simple reason that I wanted something to call my own. And so, I started gathering ideas for articles, whether it was things I had written about previously that I wanted to expand on or new ideas that I had not explored yet.

And then it was time to add all the other elements that would make this book something that was easy to look at, perhaps even visually appealing.

TSFJ: How did you hook up with the artists and other collaborators on this project?

AW: So continuing on from my response above, a lot of the artists that ended up in the final version of this book were people I had already collaborated with at my site. Because so much time has passed since the inception of this project, I've been able to see a lot of these artists grow and really establish a presence online, as they've published work at The Classical, in the Grantland Quarterly books and even an adidas campaign. I was grateful that they were interested in contributing.

In terms of writing, all the pieces are written by me, with the one exception of a Kobe Bryant foreword from friend of the blog Andrew Ungvari.

And last but not least, Mark Malazarte came on later in the project as the art director. So when you see the sample layouts on my page and when you (hopefully) get the book, the entire visual experience is all thanks to Mark, who did some really awesome work on this.

Again, the full list of collaborators can be found at stevenlebron.com. Everyone should check their portfolio links out. Without them, this project doesn't happen.

TFSJ: What, exactly, is this book about?

AW: I've always thought of the book as two things. It's an anthology of my writing and a collaboration of the writing and illustration medium.

There's a mix of shorter pieces on folks like Arthur Ashe, Gregg Popovich and John Strickland, and then there are longer pieces about my high school basketball career (but really, is about my immigration from Hong Kong to Canada and how sports helped me acclimate) and other athletes like Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant and Jeremy Lin, who all shaped my sports experience in some way.

I structured it in a way that you can hopefully read about some niche sports stories that you didn't know about and also learn a few things about me along the way. And if those all fail, well, it's nice to look at! That's a fail-safe mission statement: It's at least nice to look at.

TFSJ: What other athletes/topics are covered in the book? Why did you write about them?

AW: The full list of things covered in the book: Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin, Vince Carter, Michael Jordan, NMA Animations, Barry Bonds, Arthur Ashe, Dwight Howard, John Strickland, the oral history of Norman Einstein’s, Tom Thibodeau, Rip Hamilton, Gregg Popovich, Dennis Rodman, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, and my high school basketball career.

Everyone knows who Kobe is, what Linsanity was; we all remember the Vince Carter era in Toronto. I wanted to use some of these athletes as a catalyst to think about bigger themes, whether they are sports-related or personal.

So the Vince Carter piece is really about what I think about the sports loyalty argument between fan, athlete and team and what that meant to me when Carter left Toronto. The Kobe piece is really about what our expectations are for athletes and how they all become flawed in our eyes inevitably. The Lin piece is about what the real takeaways and lessons are for an Asian-Canadian like myself from the entire experience.

I've written, rewritten, erased and rewritten some of these pieces over the past year, and I'm sure a lot of people can relate, but you're never really satisfied with the final copy of an article when you've been mulling over it for too long. But I'm confident it's at a good place now, though of course that's always subject to change when you're writing.


TSFJ: Why should sports fans, and anyone else, buy/read your book?

AW: I think anyone who likes writing or reading about sports will enjoy this book. They were not direct influences, but publications like FreeDarko's work and, more recently, Grantland's Quarterly books were definitely influences. These days, there's so much value in pairing the written word with illustrated art, and while I am definitely not comparing this to the projects I just listed, I hope this at least belongs in the same category, maybe on the bottom row of your book shelf, but nonetheless, still on the shelf. I'll take that.

In terms of buying the book, as I've detailed at my site, I'm charging $15 per copy for a limited first run, which you can be a part of by emailing me directly. I'll let the demand dictate whether I should increase the print run.

The book is headed to the printers for review. Barring any unforeseen last-minute hurdles, over the next few weeks, I'll finalize my first run print count at that point, and the book should be available four weeks after that.

TSFJ: How many Popeyes Chicken references are there?

AW: Is it going to hurt my chances of moving a few extra units if I tell you zero? To be honest, there were plans initially to ask Popeyes to be a sponsor for the book. I actually had a few conversations with one of their PR people there, but things didn't materialize.

If it helps, there will definitely be a Popeyes-related piece in the next volume.

TSFJ: Be honest, will I be blindsided by some 1993 World Series stuff that I want no parts of?

AW: It's funny you mention this. One of the worst things about the timing of my move from Hong Kong to Canada was that I came after the Jays won their back-to-back World Series. It's not part of this volume, but I've now made a note that the Jays are definitely something I want to write about at some point in-depth, maybe when things are better?

TSFJ: What's next for TSFJ's resident (and soon to be non-resident?) Canadian?

AW: On the writing front, I've already started plotting volume two. The entire process of putting the book together was very challenging at times, but in the end, very rewarding. I think I've settled on a cost model that at least brings me to close to break even, assuming that the core fan base I've built is willing to support additional volumes after this. I just love the process of putting something together like this. So any artists out there, get in touch with me if you're interested; I'm always open to collaborations.

And yes, you touched on this in the question — on the personal front, I got married in December, my wife and I recently moved out of our downtown condo, and are now in the process of plotting a move to New York over the next few months. It should be fun.

Thanks again for this, and much love to The Sports Fan Journal team.

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