NEW YORK -- Get ready for boxing and books with the CBS New York Book Club's latest Readers' Choice.
Author Harold Rogers' debut novel "Tropicália" packs a punch. CBS New York's Mary Calvi recently spoke with Rogers at Church Street Boxing Gym in Tribeca, where he is a boxing coach.
"I started writing, really in secret for a long time, when I was 17," he told her. "I didn't share it with people for a long time, because I was kind of embarrassed about it."
You don't usually find a novelist in a boxing gym, but Rogers is no ordinary creative writer. A couple years out of Columbia University, he got a book deal and published his first novel.
"Tropicália" explores the heartbreak and hope of what it means to be from two homes and two worlds. The book is so exceptional, it became our readers' choice with 4,000 votes.
It's an infectiously vibrant debut that he felt wasn't ready for the spotlight until after many, many drafts.
"The tension wasn't there in the story and there wasn't this propulsion. There was no beat to the story, and after a certain point, it really was sagging," Rogers said. "So I was like, I've got to get this tight, and I want this story to go all the way to the last page, I want it to be really going the whole time."
The book also moves from one place and one person to another, moving and moving fast. But one thing in Rogers' life has always been constant -- his love of boxing.
"I started boxing when I was 10 or 11. Right in Rio, right across the street from the apartment I was living in, which is the apartment in the book," he said.
He told Calvi he used his own experience to create the setting.
"That was like the starting point -- Rio and Copacabana, specifically," he said. "My mom is Brazilian... She would take us out of school, me and my sister, and homeschool us in Brazil for several months out of the year, and then bring us back. And it was like really this back and forth, being one place to another."
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It may have just helped in the path to becoming a published author. He said writing is a lot like preparing for a match.
"Like being back in the training cycle, where it's like every day it's a daily grind. It beats you down, sometimes you can't figure out, some days are better than others," he said. "You have your successes throughout writing, and some days it's just like, I got beat up."
Three years from writing his first word, "Tropicália" was born.
"Just keep pushing. It's like boxing, too. You might not see all the progress right away, but it happens. People come to the gym, they get better and they get to where they want to be," he said. "It's the same with writing a book, you show up every day and things happen."
The CBS New York Book Club will be hosting a special presentation with Mary Calvi and Harold Rogers today at 1 p.m. on our streaming channel CBS News New York.
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