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Researching roller derby

My novel, Possession, is set in Malta. Last month, I told you about one of the main characters, who spent years in Canada and is obsessed with sports, especially hockey. But since there are no ice sports in Malta, I couldn't give him a hockey hobby. Instead, he became a roller derby nut.

I couldn't actually find roller derby in Malta, either; but it was easy to take creative licence and transport it there, because no ice is required. Malta may not have ice rinks, but there are sports arenas, so roller derby could be done.

Great! But I still didn't know much about the sport. So, I went online and started reading and watching and - it's so cool! I love this beautiful and creative highlight montage of the Rose City Rollers.

Also, I love their core values which, from what I can glean, seems characteristic of roller derby squads.

The montage captures the excitement of the game, but I needed to know the rules. I watched hours of bouts online and especially, listened to the play-by-play call from expert roller derby announcers. I'd need to know the cadence of the language for my story, so we can all see in our mind's eye what the crowd saw.

I also researched roller derby names. If you know anything about the sport, you know the players' names are over the top. I'd need to come up with credible ones for my players. has an entertaining roller derby name page, which gave me lots of ideas.

For good measure, I rewatched Whip It. Such a great movie!

But I still needed to understand the rules of the sport better. When in doubt, turn to kids' books! They have to be super specific and clear. So, I ended up downloading Roller Girl, a graphic novel by Victoria Jamieson. I highly recommend it.

Not only does it explain roller derby in very simple terms - it's a great read. And if you download it as an ebook, you'll get a fantastic visual experience. It was a revelation to me what a graphic novel could be like in ebook format on a tablet.

Roller derby captured me. Unfortunately, during all the time I was writing Possession, I wasn't able to attend a bout. After leaving Malta I tried in every country where I worked and stayed: Spain, South Africa, Georgia republic, Rwanda, Serbia, Ghana, Spain again, Curaçao, Argentia, South Africa again - and no roller derby! I'd ask around and people would shake their heads and say, I've never heard of anything like that. What did you say it's called?

When the pandemic hit, I came back to Canada. I know that in Montréal, under normal circumstance, I could go see roller derby any time, but . . . COVID!!

But one day, one day soon or far, I'll go see a bout. Many, many of them!

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