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.
First off, describe Crash & Burn in 140 characters or less!
From the starred review in Booklist: “Gutsily conceived, written, and edited, this is, quite simply, a great American novel.”
What made you decide to write a YA novel?
Visit a random school on any given day and you will find that it is filled with more alien life forms than the bar in Star Wars. Somewhere in the novel, Crash mentions that “everything that happened since happened because of who we were by the end of sophomore year”. While I don’t completely agree with him, I think that as adults, in some way, we still carry the anxieties, insecurities, resentments, friendships, moments of power that we experienced during those four years for the rest of our lives.
I am completely fascinated with this process.
What kind of research did you do for Crash & Burn?
I built an extensive time line of music and movies and political and pop culture events to coincide with each year that is represented in the book. Then, I played the appropriate music in the background while I wrote, sometimes checking out scenes in particular movies. Of course, Wikipedia is an incredible resource for much of this, but I used a multitude of other sites for verification and accuracy.
What do you find to be the hardest part of writing?
Maintaining continuity from one day to the next, especially if I am doing other things in between.
Sometimes its like starting a very old car on a cold day, basically, you are sitting in the snow, cranking the engine over and over, hoping that you don’t die of frostbite until the motor finally revs up and then, you are suddenly off on an adventure and it’s a lot warmer and you forget that you will have to deal with the engine the very next day.
Do you have any must-haves while you are writing?
Headphones. I tend to play very loud music when I’m working and I want the sounds to be as close to my brain as possible. Also, I do my best writing late at night and would otherwise wake the rest of my family.
Can you share anything about what you’re currently working on or what’s next?
I am back in high school again with another unique character who has a very different voice than Crash and who is perceptive in an entirely different way and constantly funny to me.
Thanks so much!
Thanks for having me.
About the author:
Michael Hassan lives in the Northeast. CRASH AND BURN is his first novel.