Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Crystal Allen

Hey y'all! Today we have an interview with the fabulous Crystal Allen, author of HOW LAMAR'S BAD PRANK WON A BUBBA-SIZED TROPHY. (Balzer+Bray, February 2011)

Here's a summary of the book:

Thirteen-year-old Lamar Washington is the maddest, baddest most spectacular bowler ever at Striker's Bowling Paradise. But when it comes to girls, he doesn't have game—not like his older brother Xavier the Basketball Savior. And certainly not like his best friend "Spanish fly guy" Sergio. So Lamar vows to spend the summer changing his image fromdud to stud by finding a way to make money and snag asuper fine Honey! When a crafty teenage thug invites Lamar to use his bowling skills to hustle, he seizes the opportunity. As his judgment blurs, Lamar makes an irreversible error, damaging every relationship in his life. Now, he must figure out how to mend those broken ties, no matter what it will cost him.

On to the interview!

1. First off, I love Lamar. Like Lamar, I have asthma (and I understand you used to as well?) and I had an older sister who was queen of the soccer field. I could totally relate to his plight! Where did you come up with his character? Is it based on anyone in real life? 

I'd love to take credit for creating Lamar, but he just ‘appeared’ in my head one day while I was watching a CSI episode.  He was fully dressed, and clearly had attitude.  Some of his minor traits (hand gestures, facial expressions…)  are taken from young tweens I know,  and his asthma is definitely something I could write about through experience.  But everything else, Lamar had with him when he invaded my brain.  J

2. The first thing that hit me while reading your book was your unique voice. Every editor wants a strong and consistent voice, but it's a concept that is so hard to explain, much less teach. Do you have any insights into how you developed the voice in this book?

I tried listening to MG conversations, and some of them were helpful, but overall, none of the styles I heard fit Lamar’s ‘overconfident’ demeanor.  So, I invented his voice; just stepped out there and made one to match his strut.
3. The book has a diverse cast of characters. Was it important for you to write a book featuring underrepresented people, or was that just a natural consequence from writing the book you had in you? (I hope this question makes sense!)

Early on, I was asked to create a funny story based on a group of multicultural children for a possible ghost-writing gig for a famous comedian.  At that time, I had created a cast of characters where Lamar, Sergio and Makeda were members of that cast.  When I didn't get the job, I continued to work on that story, but made it more of my own.
4. Despite the sense of humor throughout the book (seriously laugh-out-loud moments), there are some very tough issues dealt with, from the early death of Lamar's mother to Xavier's anger management issues. Did you encounter any tough challenges trying to incorporate the more serious issues in a middle grade book? Any additional comments? 

I encountered several challenges because I, too, love Lamar and didn't want him to go through the pain, embarrassment, and humiliation of his personal drama and bad choices.  But I had to let him experience those things since, to me, life is a mixture of both humor and heartache.

5. Can you give us a brief overview of your road to publication? Have you always been a writer? Is LAMAR your first completed novel, or do you have others in your drawer, like me?

When my boys were young, I thought they were tone deaf.  Later, I realized they were just deaf to the tone of my voice, especially when it came to doing chores and homework!  J  After trying all different sorts of punishment, I tried writing short stories, making my boys the main characters, where they saved the world in fifteen minute daily episodes.  Soon they wanted their friends added and I ended up writing a chapter book with nine-main-characters. At that time, I thought it was Newbery material!  But through that experience, I realized I loved writing.  So, I began to Google conferences and workshops near my city and attended several even outside of Texas.  I still have that nine- main characters book in the drawer.  Maybe I'll hold on to it for that "end of the world" moment when there's no more firewood.
6. We here at the apocalypsies are sort of obsessed with the end of the world. If the world as you know it were destroyed, and you could escape with one book, and one object, what would they be?

The Bible and a magic stick like the one Moses had!

Thanks so much, Brodi and congratulations to you and all of the Apocalypsies!

Thanks to you, Crystal. 

You can find out more about Crystal (like, did you know she's ambidextrous? And she had two dates to her Sweetheart's Dance?) at her website here.


  1. Awesome interview! This sounds like a really good read - I love a book with a really strongly written MC and a diverse cast of supporting characters. And Lamar sounds like a pretty neat kid to hang out with for a few hours! Thanks for the interview, guys!

  2. Great interview! This book sounds awesome! :)

  3. I had such a fun time reading this. Touching and hilarious all at the same time.