Coming from Chicago, Simone Elkeles says there’s no getting around being a big sports fan. “I think the nurses stick something in your blood when you’re born,” she quips. And being sports-crazed means a love of football. But it’s not the sport itself that the author wanted to write about; it’s the players. “Football players are misunderstood,” she says. “They aren’t the dumb jocks people think they are.”

Four books are planned for her new, football-themed Wild Cards series (Bloomsbury/Walker), each narrated by a different teammate. The first installment, Wild Cards, will be released October with a first printing of 125,000 copies.

This series is dear to her heart, not only because of her love of football but because one of the main characters, Derek, deals with something Elkeles herself has dealt with: the loss of a parent. “I lost my dad when I was younger, and I know what it’s like to lose a beloved parent,” she explains. “It’s hard because my dad can’t see my kids and can’t see them play sports. I would have a limb cut off if I could have five or 10 minutes more with my dad, and Derek feels the same way I do.”

Over the years, Elkeles has heard from many readers about how much her books have helped them, and Wild Cards will surely elicit more strong responses. She says one of the best parts about writing is being able to touch the lives of the people who read her books. “Through Facebook, a girl contacted me and said that she stopped cutting herself because of my books,” she says. “And two dads have sent me letters that said my books changed their daughters’ lives. I send them packages with T-shirts and posters because, come on... that’s the coolest.”

Elkeles has attended BEA before and is again looking forward to meeting her fans. “I’m so excited to be sharing a new series,” she says. BEA is a big attraction for her for other reasons as well. One is its worldwide presence. “It’s not just the U.S.,” she says. “There are people from lots of different countries. And it’s booksellers, bloggers, and people in the industry all together. And of course, all those free books.”

Today, she signs galleys of Wild Cards, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., at Table 25 in the Autographing Area.