On Tuesday, June 2, Shut Out, Kelly Jamieson’s latest hockey romance releases world-wide. While Kelly has written numerous hockey-based love stories, this is her first foray into college hockey. More importantly, Shut Out tackles serious issues that have increasingly become front page news.
The Bayard College hockey team isn’t where Jacob Flass thought he’d be a season ago. He was a rising star in the Canadian major junior league, cruising toward a spot on an NHL roster—until a single disastrous night on the town brought it all crashing down. Now he’s out of options, except for playing well, studying hard, and staying away from girls. He’s not supposed to be flirting with the hottest, sweetest chick he’s ever met. But how could he possibly stay away?
Skylar Lynwood knows that Jacob is out of her league. She’s just trying to go with the flow, which isn’t easy when six feet and four inches of total hockey hunkiness is making a play for her one moment, then giving her the cold shoulder the next. Skylar’s head tells her that this rugged athlete isn’t worth her time, but her body says something altogether different. Risking her heart for Jacob may be the craziest thing she’s ever done . . . but she won’t let him shut her out.
In anticipation of Shut Out’s release, Kelly was gracious enough to sit down with me and talk about these issues and her love of hockey. Here’s part one of series. Part two can be found here.
1. In Shut Out you tackle an issue that is both sensitive and timely. What led you to this?
Interestingly, I wrote this book just BEFORE the Patrick Kane rape accusation happened in the summer of 2015. I wrote it because of a number of stories that had been in the news about junior and university teams up here in Canada. Players from the Cobourg Cougars Junior A hockey team were investigated by police over allegations of a sexual assault at a house party. Apparently there were comments on social media like this Tweet:
“Whoever hooked up with the most broads last night gets the cup #consentisoverrated.”
In another incident, a woman filed a complaint alleging sexual assault involving four players from the Gatineau Olympiques hockey club in a Quebec City hotel room in January 2014. And the University of Ottawa announced it was dismantling its entire hockey program and starting fresh after an internal investigation found that the team was too rapey to continue playing. There were also a lot of news stories about college sports teams in the US.
I read comments about how men’s sports teams become “tribal” and contribute to the prevalence of rape in that world, and that misogyny is deeply woven into junior hockey culture.
I love hockey and I hate to think that this could be true. So I wanted to write stories about “the good guys”, because I do believe that most men want women to be safe.
And I know there’s a counter side to the story—I’ve seen how girls chase after hockey players. We call them “puck bunnies” which is usually pejorative and slut-shamey (as Skylar notes)—but what’s really wrong with a girl going after what she wants sexually? And if that’s a hockey player, or two, or three what’s wrong with that? The guys get celebrated for having sex with the most women, but the women get shamed (there’s more about slut shaming, victim blaming and double standards in book 2).
All this made me think a lot of “what if” questions—like, what if one of the guys involved in those incidents didn’t really do anything wrong, but was punished along with the others anyway? What if the girl really did want it?
But I learned more about consent myself as I wrote and researched the story, and some of the uncertainty about what consent is and isn’t made its way into the book.
It also changed how I thought about the Patrick Kane incident. There were people with very strong opinions on both sides of that issue but what I realized is, the only two people who will ever know the truth about what happened that night are the two people involved.
2. Jacob is falsely accused of rape, yet still feels responsible. You even have Jacob and Skylar refer to “gray areas” towards the end. In your research did you find that there is a place that responsibility ends in these situations?
There’s a quote from Robert Evans that says: “There are three sides to every story—your side, my side and the truth. And no one is lying – memories shared serve each differently.”
Like I said, the only people who will ever know the truth about what happens in a situation where a sexual assault may have occurred are the two people who were there. And even though their stories may be different, it’s possible neither of them is lying–their memories of the incident can be different.
Jacob starts out absolutely believing he did nothing wrong. He knows he didn’t touch that woman. He doesn’t know for sure what happened after he left. But as he learns about consent and bystander intervention, and has his mind opened, he realizes that he did have some responsibility for what happened, and he learns from that.
3. Did you base SAPAP on an existing program?
Yes. There are colleges that do have such programs and I combined elements of them. I invented the mandatory training for freshman and transfer students, because for the purposes of the story, I needed it to be a program Jacob is forced to attend—it couldn’t be a volunteer program. What is super cool is that the college Bayard is loosely based on started a mandatory education program for freshman very similar to this, in September 2015–after I wrote the book!
4. Will you continue this issue throughout the Bayard series? There seems such potential in telling Ella’s story.
Yes. I’m just finishing up Bayard Hockey Book 2 and yes, it is Ella’s story. She is touched by rape because of what happened to her friend, and we will follow-up with Jacob’s proposed program for college athletes, although there will be more about that in Book 3. But Ella has different things to deal with—losing a friend to suicide, and the impacts of how she chose to deal with her grief and guilt.
Look for part two of this series on Monday. Meanwhile, you can preorder Shut Out at these booksellers: