|Q. You're known as an author of picture books. What led you to writing a novel?
A: Madonna. As a writer of picture books, I’ve explained to students and adults the challenge and difficulty of writing quality picture book text. Now that Madonna and Jay Leno write picture books the strength of this argument has been undercut. I decided to turn to young adult novels before Madonna decides she can write those.
Seriously, the seed for CRACKBACK was planted when I was working on the picture book Strong to the Hoop. Liz Szabla, the editor, said that the language and action in Strong to the Hoop convinced her that I had a novel in me and that she would like to see it when I wrote it. The topic that grabbed me was high school football.
Q. What are the challenges of writing for teens?
A. The major challenge is being clear about what is the same and what is different from when I was a teen. Many of the emotions, the fears, the alienation, and the struggle for acceptance are similar. But the pressures on teens from parents and peers, the messages from the larger culture, the media images they are surrounded with are different. As an author it’s important for me to be with teens, to listen to them, and ask questions. It’s also important for me to show them my work and ask what I’m missing and what I’ve gotten wrong.
Q. What led you to the idea for CRACKBACK?
A. When I was a teen, I loved football. I loved smashing into people. Football was the one place that hitting somebody hard was not only okay, it was prized. In CRACKBACK, I wanted to convey that physical love of the game. I wanted to convey how much of Miles’s identity comes from football and what happens when that is taken away.