Tuesday, February 15, 2011
In Which Crystal Allen Drops By to Chat about Characters and Voice, Plus a Contest
(Want to win a copy? Read to end of post!!)
Crystal Allen rocks! As you may know, we share not only an agent - the fabulous Jen Rofe - but also a city - Houston - and a love of breakfast food. Crystal says I always out order her. I say it's a rough competitive world. PW gave her a starred review. I'm entitled to my pretty breakfast quesadilla at Empire Cafe. We also share a release month; Haunted came out on 2/1 and Crystal's much anticipated debut MG novel, How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy is due out on 2/22, from Balzer Bray, a division of Harper Collins. It is getting all sorts of well-deserved buzz. Plus it has bowling. Which is totally cool. Yes, Crystal makes bowling cool! In fact it is entirely possible that I will have to make Ethan take Anne bowling in the final book of the Dreaming Anastasia trilogy. Maybe Baba Yaga, too. Seriously! A witch with detachable hands bowling? It boggles the mind.
Here's wha that fabu PW review had to say about Lamar:
“Cocky, sharp-tongued, and a known prankster, 13-year-old Lamar Washington is a protagonist readers won’t soon forget… Debut author Allen gives Lamar a singular (and often comically misguided) way with words …Under all the braggadocio is a boy with a big heart, and from the first sentence Lamar will have readers hooked.”
I asked Crystal to stop by and talk about what it's like to write a character as strong-voiced as Lamar. Here's what she had to say. (And at the end, a CONTEST!!)
Lamar has a dominating personality. He demands attention, and he began his quest for it while I was focused on an intense episode of CSI. He just popped up in my head, fully dressed in jeans, Michael Jordan sneakers and a T-shirt, and began strutting around my brain like he lived there. At that time, I had no idea who he was and immediately thought I needed some serious medication. I was so outdone by Lamar's presence and even tried to figure out if he was someone from my past or someone I had recently met, and why all of a sudden he was so strong in my thoughts.
His face wasn't nearly as clear as his actions at the time, but I knew he wanted to take me somewhere. In the middle of my freak-out, I got a visual of a small town street. Lamar rhythm-walked down that street toward a bowling alley, opened the door and went inside. The sounds the smells, the music inside the bowling alley were vivid. It was then that I realized I was hanging out with Lamar.
See, months earlier, I'd developed a storyline with a bowling alley as a secondary gathering spot for a group of multicultural elementary school characters. That story included Lamar, but the story wasn't told from his perspective. It was actually in third person at the time. So, for him to step out of the crowd and man up in such a big way, surprised me. :)
Lamar has taken me through an emotional beat down. I've laughed at him, cried with him, hollered at him, turned off the computer on him, told him "No! I'm not writing that!" and then wrote it anyway, and had many, many conversations with him about his life and how he was choosing to live it.
As a mother of two boys, it was difficult to watch Lamar make decisions that make mothers cringe. But, I had to allow him to make those mistakes and keep my own inhibitions in check.
Now that How Lamar's Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy is finished, I've had problems getting Lamar out of my head. As I've attempted to write stories about other male characters, Lamar's voice rings in my ears, calling my new characters 'weak' or 'chumps' or saying something only Lamar would say. I've had to work extra hard to shut him down! :) But, I believe over time, I'll take the mental duct tape off of his mouth, and write another story about my most favorite character; especially since that's what he's trying to make me do anyway!
Thanks for such an engaging post, Crystal!
Until 2/22 when you can read Lamar yourself, you can find out more about Crystal at her website: http://www.crystalallenbooks.com/
CONTEST: Want to win an autographed copy of Lamar? Comment on this post and tell me and Crystal why you think bowling is cool. Best responses will go into the contest hat! May the best bowling commentator win! Contest is open until 2/22.