On April 21, 2008, Steven "Crash" Crashinsky saved more than a thousand people when he stopped his classmate David Burnett from taking their high school hostage armed with assault weapons and high-powered explosives. You likely already know what came after for Crash: the nationwide notoriety, the college recruitment, and, of course, the book deal. What you might not know is what came before: a story of two teens whose lives have been inextricably linked since grade school, who were destined, some say, to meet that day in the teachers' lounge of Meadows High. And what you definitely don't know are the words that Burn whispered to Crash right as the siege was ending, a secret that Crash has never revealed.
Michael Hassan's shattering novel is a tale of first love and first hate, the story of two high school seniors and the morning that changed their lives forever. It's a portrait of the modern American teenage male, in all his brash, disillusioned, oversexed, schizophrenic, drunk, nihilistic, hopeful, ADHD-diagnosed glory. And it's a powerful meditation on how normal it is to be screwed up, and how screwed up it is to be normal.
Interview with author Michael Hassan
Tell us a little about yourself and your latest/upcoming release.
Emma E., the 11 year old daughter of one of my good friends, sent me a letter after reading the very edited version of “Crash and Burn” that her father gave her (approximately 22 pages). As an aspiring writer, in her letter, she describes herself in the following way:
“i’m not somebody who keeps a strong chain of hope wherever they go, or somebody who keeps a chain of worry on the neck. i’m just “average,” if average means completely weird.”
I guess to describe myself in Emma’s terms, I would no longer be “average”.
As for the book, Daniel Kraus, in his starred review for Booklist, wrote that Crash and Burn was:
“Sprawling, messy, vulgar, sexy, irreverent, violent, bighearted, harrowing. These are just a few of the many adjectives about to be hurled in the direction of this roaring freight train of a debut. In telling the tale of a tumultuous decade-long antagonism between two boys destined to fulfill their yin/ yang fate, Hassan constructs three of the most vividly alive characters in recent YA fiction.”
That pretty much sums it up for me.
How much of the characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
The character of Crash is hugely influenced by my son who grew up with ADD. I learned a lot from him and his friends, got deeply into the culture that they created for themselves, immersed myself in the language, which was like music for me. Spending time with them during their high school years gave me a chance to grow up all over again, and yet not completely. The characters are an amalgamation of this group and everyone else I know.
Describe the world you've created in six words.
First love, first hate, real danger.
Growing up with a different mind.
What scene was your favorite to write?
Probably the Thanksgiving scene, not because of the unexpected turn of events, but because when I finished that particular chapter, I knew that I had laid the groundwork for every subsequent scene in the story.
What scene was the hardest for you to write?
The story of the siege covering the last chapters of the book. Originally, it encompassed around eighty pages, and in order to keep the continuity of the scenes, I checked into a cabin in the woods (just like Crash did) and wrote for sixteen to twenty hours a day until I got through it. And then, I revised it almost a dozen times
Did you set yourself some strict rules while writing?
Unplug the routers and turn off the tv, the cable and the internet except for research. Otherwise, you will lose months of your writing life to everything from the Food Channel to SpongeBob.
If you could pick a soundtrack to match your main characters life, what would it be?
Crash actually does that in the book. I became addicted to the music of Nine Inch Nails during the writing process, thought that every album was relevant, but that Downward Spiral was the perfect background for the events that occur in the book.
Can you share a teaser of Crash and Burn with our readers?
“That’s your talent, isn’t it? Manifesting the things that you imagine, like magic,” she said, more than asked. “I believe that everybody comes into life with at least one special talent. Yours is a really really extraordinary one, it’s what attracts other people to you, among other things. Unfortunately, it also victimizes you because you never learned how to work for anything. So you have decided that you don’t need to concentrate on what you consider to be useless information.”
On my way out, I had to ask.
“What’s yours? Your special talent. You never said.”
About Michael HassanMichael Hassan lives in the Northeast. CRASH AND BURN is his first novel.