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Interview: Michael Hassan, Author of CRASH AND BURN, Part Two

Debut author Michael Hassan creates a stunning story from the perspective of recent high school senior Stephen Crashinsky about how he prevented classmate David Burnett from blowing up their high school. Alternating between the present and Crash's recollections of his relationship with Burn starting in second grade, CRASH AND BURN is a timely story of heroism, fate and fulfilling expectations. In the second part of this interview, Michael Hassan discusses his inspiration for the relationship between Crash and Burn, what he would like readers to take away from this story and what he's working on next!

- Click here to read the first part of the interview.

Siblings within Crash and Burn's respective families, and even between them, are incredibly important to the story. Is there a certain reason for the play between the families or that both Crash and Burn only have sisters?

One of the things that my research confirmed is how different male and female teenagers view the world. It is a sad fact for boys that girls are generally so much more self-aware and mature. I tried to reflect this in Crash’s world. In both Crash’s case and Burn’s case, their sisters are more objective mirrors of the world that they live in. While Crash superficially appears to disrespect all of the girls in his life, his sister and Burn’s sister allow us as readers to see his, and Burn’s, insecurity about themselves in a more objective way, especially given that Crash, on his own, may not be the most reliable narrator. 

Burn and Crash seem fated --- or at least Burn thinks so and acts on it. Do you see them on par with any other set of hero-antihero? Was there a specific inspiration for their opposing forces?

One of my inspirations for the set-up of the characters was the Shakespearean play Othello. I know it may sound far-fetched, but I remember hearing once that during a particular set of performances of the play, the actors playing these roles were prepped to be able to play both parts. So the guy playing Othello one day would play Iago in the next performance. Crash manages --- through an accident of birth --- to have all of the advantages that he has, all of which prevent him from being Burn. This is something that I wanted to have some fun with in a way that a teen could understand.

I love the idea of heroism that you present. Crash is a totally normal teenager who did the right thing because he felt he had to, and afterwards, he still messes up and doesn't necessarily fit the mold of "hero" that everyone wants him to fit. Do you feel like there is a lot of this kind of pressure on teens to fit a mold?

Going back to that earlier question, for me the real act of heroism is Crash’s ability to finish what he starts --- in the book that he’s writing, proving to himself that he wasn’t going to continue to be victimized by his father’s lack of expectations. I wanted to leave the ADD reader with the feeling that he could do whatever he sets out to do, that his ADD can be used as a positive tool in some respects.

Which of course brings us to the question of fitting a mold, because yes, it has become increasingly difficult for a kid who is labeled at an early age to defy the expectations of others, especially those assumptions from teachers and other professionals resulting from a “negative” diagnoses. You are what you are labeled, and in Crash’s case, it becomes in some respect an excuse for his “mis-behavior” if you want to call it that.

What do you hope teenagers take away from CRASH AND BURN?

In working through the scene that takes place during a middle school performance of a play, I wanted to portray the feeling that every kid in the audience has, in some respect, wanting to be on the stage, wanting to become part of the performance. I wanted to give teens that same experience on paper. More specifically, to have them develop a passion for reading in the same way they are passionate about much faster paced forms of entertainment. I also wanted to leave them with the sense that they themselves “can do this” and give them a desire to write for the sake of expression and expansion of their own creativity.

So, what's next? Will we see more of Crash or Burn? Is there another project you are working on?

I am in the middle of another project, going back to high school again, with a very different view of another set of social issues and a voice as clear in my head as Steven’s was. I’m somewhat superstitious about revealing anything I do until it’s done so I will leave it at that. Well, that and the promise of a number of unexpected twists and turns along the way.

As to Steven Crashinsky and his friends, we still talk now and then. I’ll keep you posted