Book and Author Spotlight: Coach's Challenge by Avon Gale

Coach's Challenge
(Scoring Chances #5)
by Avon Gale
Date Released: June 26, 2017
Dreamspinner Press

About Coach's Challenge
It’s been decades since blackmail forced Troy Callahan to retire from playing professional hockey, and he’s built a successful career behind the bench. When he’s offered the opportunity to coach the Asheville Ravens—the most hated team in the ECHL—he’s convinced that his no-nonsense attitude is just what the team needs to put their focus back on hockey. But Troy is disheartened when he finds that the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression—especially when Shane’s rough good looks give Troy inappropriate thoughts about a player, even if Shane’s set to retire at the end of the season. 

Shane’s career in the majors never quite took off. Wanting to quit on his own terms, Shane agrees to a one-year contract with the Ravens and finds himself playing for a coach who thinks he’s an aging goon and with a team that doesn’t trust him, the coach, or each other. Despite his determination to not get involved, Shane unwillingly becomes part of the team… and is just as unwillingly drawn to the gruff, out-and-proud coach. As the Ravens struggle to build a new identity, Shane and Troy succumb to the passion that might cost them everything.

"I hope this series continues forever. I always have time for more of Avon Gale's quirky, impeccably written 
hockey players. Shane is the perfect smartass, and watching him fall for Troy is terrific fun."
—Sarina Bowen, USA Today bestselling author of Him

Read my five-plus-starred review of Coach's Challenge.

Add Coach's Challenge on Goodreads.

Find the Scoring Chances series on Goodreads.

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An Excerpt from Coach's Challenge
“Give him a chance. He’s not in bad shape, is he?”

“No,” Troy mumbled into his drink. “He’s not.”

There was a long, pregnant pause. Troy lowered the glass and stared at the whiskey stones intently. Troy had no idea where you even got such a thing. He was lucky he had ice in his freezer.

Gabe cleared his throat.

“What?” Troy shot him a glare. “He’s in good shape. Yes. I’m agreeing with you.”

“I know, that’s why I’m speechless.” Gabe grinned at him, and the lines crinkled around his eyes. “You think he’s hot, don’t you.”

“He’s a hockey player in great shape who is over the age of thirty, and he surfs for fun,” Troy reminded him. “I’m not dead. But he’s also got a bad attitude—”

“So do you.” 

A Note from Avon Gale
Troy and Shane’s story was a joy to write – I loved writing about two characters who were so confident in what they wanted and determined to get it no matter what. These are two stubborn, opinionated and passionate men and their interactions were so much fun to write. 

A Q&A with Avon Gale
1. Five full-length novels and one novella in, Scoring Chances continues to have a strong following with loyal readers and is gaining new admirers (me included!). Did you always plan for the series to be a long-term one with more than the usual three books or was there a decision to extend it because of its following?

First, thank you so much and I’m glad to hear that! 

Second, you know, it’s hard to remember exactly what I’d intended. Back when I first wrote Breakaway (which was inexplicably called Penalty Shot at the time??), it was 2012 and it was an escape from a stressful work situation and some tough personal issues I was going through. I’d actually written about ¾ of Save of the Game, too. When I returned to the manuscripts in 2015, I submitted the first, finished the second, and then decided I wanted to write a book about two coaches who had a past history. That became Power Play, and halfway through that I just knew I needed to write Isaac’s story and had started it before I’d even finished writing the third book! And all of this happened before Breakaway was even released, so mostly I just had to get these stories out of my head. 

After Empty Net, I knew I wanted to write two more books in the series about the Ravens. But those are the last two – though I’d like to revisit the world with some novellas someday, or perhaps some shorter stories. I still can’t believe I wrote a six-book series (er, almost – I’m halfway through writing book six). It’s definitely evolved from what it started out as, but I’d say it happened pretty organically. 

OMG, longest answer (this is why I end up with a six-book series, LOL.) 

2. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing Coach's Challenge and how'd you get through it?

Empty Net, the previous book, dealt with some serious issues. I wrote a bit about my own experiences with ED (eating disorders), as well, so it felt very personal. Also, in order for Isaac and Laurent to get their HEA, there was a lot of mental work that had to happen, especially with Laurent – I never wanted Isaac to “save” him. It was an emotional book to write, that’s for sure, and I tried to be very careful how I approached it to avoid being exploitative. 

Coach’s Challenge is a completely different story. I wanted to write about two men who were emotionally healthy, had come to terms with themselves (for the most part) and were secure in their sexuality. I want the stories and characters to be different in each book, but I knew that Coach’s Challenge was a complete 180 in terms of relationship building than Empty Net, or even Power Play. I love writing about people who meet and fall in love because they just like each other. Friendship is the most romantic thing in the world to me, and I wanted this to be a story about two people who become friends, and then lovers, even if maybe at first they’re a bit resistant. But I didn’t want to write the same story as in previous books, and I wanted to make the characters and their motivations distinct. 

Basically I wanted there to be a good story even if there wasn’t a lot of angst to move it forward, and keeping that in mind really helped me write it. Having a really clear idea of who the characters were helped me, because I think it made them react realistically to external (and internal) obstacles. 

3. I've never been to a live hockey game (sad, I know). If you were to take me to one, what would be your top dos and don’ts for a newbie like me?

I would love to take you to a game! The only major “don’ts” I can think of are not to try and get up/get to your seat while the puck is in play. Oh, and don’t be that person that shouts “shoot!” when your team is on a power play. And if you’re lucky enough to have glass seats, for the love of Lucifer don’t stand up and pound on the glass. Everyone hates that person!

As for dos – ask lots of questions! I am always sad when people go to games and are afraid of looking like they’re not an expert when….it’s totally okay to not be an expert! I would also say to get there early and go down and watch the teams warm up. You can stand by the glass and get sneaky phone camera pics of the players. It’s great!

One thing I don’t think I’ve ever done is boo my own team. But Bruins, you have pushed me on that one a time or two! 

4. Hockey is a team sport, and I noticed you've teamed up (see what I did there?) with Piper Vaughn as well as Roan Parrish for several upcoming projects. What was your favorite thing about being part of a writing duo and what adjustments, if any, did you have to make as compared to your usual solo writing process?

I do see! Well done 😉 I love co-writing a lot, and I was blessed to have two co-writers who put up with my occasionally being a scatterbrain and who are really, really organized. Seriously, so organized. I loved being able to play off someone else and their character, it was a really engaging way to write a book. 

I used to do a lot of RP (role-playing) back in my fandom days, so I was already familiar with the concept of collaborating in that sense. But the structure/POV of RP is totally different, so that was the main adjustment for me. I loved it, though! And I’m super happy to have more projects in the works with both Piper and Roan, because obviously I am the most spoiled human that they want to write more books with me. 

5. If you could choose an author, not including Piper and Roan, to team up with next, who would it be and why? If you could pair two of your favorite authors up so they could write a book together, who would you choose and why?

Oh man that’s a tough one because I fangirl so hard over so many authors! I love Cat Sebastian, and I would LOVE to write a book with her. Of course, she writes historicals, so that might be a bit of a problem genre-wise. But I just love her, and her upcoming The Ruin of a Rake – gah! I was lucky enough to read an advance copy and it is, no lie, one of the best historical romances I’ve ever read. EVER. And if there was any way I could collaborate with her I would be all over it. (I have a dream of writing an old-time 20’s hockey player romance…that’s historical, right?) 

As for two writers I’d love to see collaborate – honestly, I want EVERY AUTHOR ever to collaborate because I love reading them. I’d absolutely love to read a Jordan Castillo Price/Santino Hassell paranormal, so they should do that and you’re welcome everyone because how awesome would that be?? 

Also, no lie, I’d love my two co-writers to write a book together. Roan and Piper, get on that!  

6. If you were a hockey player, what position would you play and why?

So, I think about this a lot. More than I should, considering my ice skating prowess and how I don’t have any. Off the bat I’d say goalie, even though I’d think I was responsible for the outcome of literally every game and drown in guilt. But I’m pretty sure I’m weird enough to be a goalie, and I’m flexible?? Clearly the only qualifications, LOL. But I’m also intrigued by the idea of bratty winger, the one who trash talks on the ice but everyone knows they don’t really mean it. 

Honestly, though? I’d rather be the coach. (And during hockey games, I interact with my television as if I am.) 

7. What advice would you give aspiring writers who look up to you as their inspiration?

Probably “make author friends and ask questions.”

I’ve loved making friends in this industry and found it invaluable for so many reasons – having a support and cheerleading system is one of them, for sure. I think there’s a tendency to look at this industry as if we’re all in competition with each other, but I 100% believe that what is good for one of us is good for all of us. It makes way more sense to me that we be supportive and hold each other up when we can. 

And along with that, you can ask them questions! I love what I do and it’s my dream job, but publishing can be frustrating because so much of this industry seems shrouded in secrets. What should I ask for on a contract? What kind of sales numbers can I expect? What are the best promo ideas? I love the idea of a community of authors who are comfortable answering these questions for each other, and so many authors have been awesome at doing just that for me. Sometimes I think it can feel scary to reach out and ask about business-related things, but I think it’s such a great way to demystify the whole process. 

That, and of course, write the story you want to read. I think that’s always been my favorite writing advice ever. 


Thank you to the amazing Avon Gale for honoring with her time and for answering my questions so thoroughly and thoughtfully, and thank you to Judith Utz of A Novel Take PR for facilitating. This was one of my favorite interviews ever. 

About Avon Gale
Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a “Space Hat” hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it — even if it was a bit weirder than the other, more normal hats. Like all of Avon’s characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after — though she’s pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.

Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal Midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert and will never say no to candy.

At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.

Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

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