Oh Mylanta…She’s back!
We are pleased as peanut brittle to celebrate the latest, greatest release from author and BBS contributor, Crystal Allen, also known as The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown (Balzer and Bray).
We asked Crystal for some inside scoop on the creation of her new chapter book series. Our conversation went as follows:
BBS: You are known as a phenomenally talented MG author. What made you decide to write a chapter book?
Crystal: I was asked by my publisher. It was very difficult at first to change my writing from middle grade to chapter book, but as the voice of this sassy new character came alive, the writing took on a life of itself. It’s been so much fun!
BBS: What was the biggest difference craft-wise in writing a chapter book? Was it more difficult than you anticipated? If so, how so?
Crystal: Oh Mylanta…
Plot. There is such a big difference in the plot of a middle grade novel versus the same in a chapter book. With Middle Grade, it’s okay if things don’t tie together in a nice, neat, little bow. It’s alright if the characters don’t live happily ever after. But that’s not the case with chapter books. The plot must be simpler. As much as I love creating MG plots, they are too elaborate for the young chapter book reader. That was one of my biggest adjustments.
Also, the main characters in my two middle grade novels, Lamar and Laura, talked lots of trash, and had a language identifiable to the reader as fun, sometimes hilarious. Mya and her friends have a few created words, but not many.
BBS: How did the idea for this specific series come to be? Did you set out to write a series initially, or did that idea evolve along with the manuscript?
Crystal: My publisher had an idea for a type of character, but didn’t have a look or a voice for her. After writing How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy and The Laura Line, my publisher believed that I might have the voice they were looking for. It turned out that I did! The Magnificent Mya Tibbs was always billed as a series.
BBS: Tell us about your main character, Mya. How do you think she’s different (or similar) from other well-known series MC’s?
Crystal: If we’re going to talk about well-known series MC’s, we would have to talk about Ramona Quimby and Clementine. Neither Ramona nor Clementine were cookie-cutter characters. By that, I mean they were not stereotypical girlie girls. Ramona and Clementine were allowed to do things wrong, make bad decisions, say what was on their minds, and figure out how they were going to fix their own problems. They were so relatable and because of that, their books are still relevant today.
Mya doesn’t always make the right decision and her personality isn’t always “girlie”, but she’s a good friend and very comfortable with her love for everything country and western. Hopefully Mya will be relatable to today’s young girl.
Both of those chapter book heavy-weights were strongly considered as I created Mya. However, the biggest influence for me came from Fern Arable of Charlotte’s Web.
BBS: Tell us more about Fern’s influence. Also, what’s your overall goal in writing this series? What need are you hoping Maya fills among the contemporary works of today? Is there something specific you hope readers experience after reading Maya’s stories?
Crystal: To me, there’s a difference between creating a character and providing a friend. Back in the day, when I read Charlotte’s Web, I had just moved to a farm and was the new kid at school. I was friendless, bullied, and on the verge of hating everything and everybody. When the librarian gave me Charlotte’s Web, I realized Fern was just like me. She lived on a farm, loved animals, and didn’t seem to have many friends. I needed her. She looked like me, in ways other than skin color. That’s what I’m hoping Mya does for someone else.
BBS: What’s the next title in the series? When is the pub date?
Crystal: The next title is called The Wall of Fame Game. It’s pub date will be in 2017.
BBS: Any other projects you want to share?
Crystal: Nope. I’m just having fun with Mya!
YOUR FRIENDS AT THE BROWN BOOKSHELF WISH YOU AND MAYA A VERY HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, CRYSTAL!
To learn more about Mya, Crystal, and her other books, please visit Crystal’s website: CrystalAllenBooks.com