Interview with Carrie Allen, Author of Michigan Vs. The Boys

Hey, everyone! Today I am extremely excited to be hosting an interview with Carrie Allen, the author of Michigan Vs. The Boys. I read Michigan Vs. The Boys in May and I loved it! It was amazing to see another book with girls in sports because there are so few and the book overall was super inspiring!
Here’s a little bit about the book:

Michigan Vs. The Boys | Carrie Allen

Published October 1st, 2019

304 Pages | ebook

Content Warnings: bullying, attempted sexual assault, use of date rape drugs

Michigan Manning’s whole life is hockey. This is her team’s year, she knows it. But budget cuts at her school are keeping the girl’s hockey team away from the ice. Her team won’t be playing this year.
Determined to play hockey no matter what it takes, Michigan tries out for the boy’s hockey team. Even though the boys are just about the opposite of thrilled to have a girl on their team, Michigan is determined to play hockey, through whatever they throw at her. After all, this is the year that colleges are taking note.
But one ‘prank’ on Michigan crosses the line to assault and she has to decide whether she wants to risk hockey in order to speak up.

All summaries are my own unless otherwise stated. Parts of the summary may be borrowed from goodreads.

When did you first decide you wanted to be an author?

I started writing in elementary school– my first books were written on binder paper, trimmed and stapled to resemble “real” books. I always had an urge to write, and to read, but high school English classes chased me away to the sciences. After college and grad school, I had trouble finding books I connected with, and I hadn’t written in years. Until one day, I was traveling with the collegiate volleyball team I worked with, and we’re all lounging on the nasty airport floor waiting for a flight. Our outside hitter said, “Carrie, you HAVE to read this!” and passed me a copy of a book with a pair of hands holding a red apple on the front. And wow—there was suddenly this whole shelf of books that I hadn’t been reading because I was supposed to be A Grown Up. Then, when I semi-retired from sports medicine to stay home with my first baby (who is about to turn ten!) I binged the Hunger Games trilogy. As soon as I finished the last page of Mockingjay, I turned back to the first page of Hunger Games and binged the whole series again. As soon as I finished it the second time, I started writing my first manuscript (the first of a terrible, terrible dystopian trilogy that we will not discuss further.)

What inspired you to write Michigan Vs. The Boys? How did you first come up with the idea?

Michigan Vs. The Boys is actually my second hockey manuscript. The first was about a girl who spent her whole childhood playing on a boys’ hockey team, and when she’s invited to a USAH development camp, she has to transition to playing on a girls’ team. It was super fun to write, but as soon as I finished it, I knew I had to write the harder story—for the girls who didn’t get to have my MC’s positive experiences. I love hockey and I want my sport to be the best it can be, on and off the ice. In writing Michigan, I wanted to support the athletes while shining a light on the work that still needs to be done.

What are some things that you hoped to accomplish by releasing Michigan Vs. into the world?
Why do you think that it is important that there be more books like yours published?

My first goal with Michigan was to support the athletes like Michigan, because I’ve been there. I’ve been the only girl in the room or on the ice, and I’ve faced things I shouldn’t have had to. Every girl in hockey has; most girls in sports have. But I also saw a need for books like Michigan—the gatekeepers in publishing haven’t let a lot of sports-centered books through. There are so many real life Michigans, and I want them to see themselves represented on the bookshelves, to have their stories told. 

But I also wrote Michigan for the readers who don’t follow sports, readers who don’t think they like sports. I can’t blame them—mainstream sports media isn’t really my jam either. Women receive only 4% of sport media coverage. Four percent! You really have to work to find the sports that I follow, which means there are so many amazing athletes whose stories we never get to hear! Not only that, but women in sports and YA fiction have a lot more in common than readers might realize—starting with the fact that many women in sports ARE young adults! I know YA readers would love these athletes if they could gain more access to them.

What did you learn while writing Michigan Vs. the Boys? How did you grow by writing it?

Michigan was actually an easy book to write– don’t hate me for it, because I’ve had my share of not-easy manuscripts! Because I spent twenty years playing, coaching, reffing, and covering hockey as a Certified Athletic Trainer, I didn’t have to research much. I kept a USA Hockey rulebook nearby to double check facts as needed, and luckily one of my best friends grew up in the U.P. and was able to help me with the setting. 

I grew by writing Michigan because it was brutal to put her through the trials that I did. Those were both some of the hardest and easiest scenes to write. They’d flow easily from me, but leave me emotionally wrecked. I just kept picturing the lone girl at so many rinks across the country and thinking, “I’m doing this for you!”

What sorts of books would you like to see published in the future (plots, rep, etc.)?

Oh, wow, we need more sports books like you wouldn’t believe! We need joyful books and books about the problems in sports and books about team dynamics and individual athletes and non-traditional sports and trans athletes and queer athletes and racism in sports and body positivity and toxic femininity and sports journalists and non-American sport settings and Paralympic athletes and recreational athletes and Olympic athletes and everything in between! It never ceases to amaze me that approximately half of all high school students are athletes, but YA sports books take up only a teeny tiny sliver of the bookshelves. Sports are so much more than a sixty-minute game or seven innings or one hundred meters, and I’d love for YA readers to be able to connect to the athletes and experience the whole story.

What is one or more things that helped keep you going when you were stuck with writing this book? This can be a specific food, a pet, family member, hobby, etc.

My number one way to get unstuck is to walk the dog—literally. I actually thanked my dog Ivy in Michigan’s acknowledgements, because our early morning rambles were how I fixed all of Michigan’s sticky spots! Now I take my cattle dog mix, Torrey, for walks or runs to mull over ideas I want to explore or to imagine my characters. Dogs are awesome– they never look at you weird when you’re dictating out-of-breath notes about imaginary people while hoofing it up a hill.

There’s a scene in Michigan vs. The Boys where Mich goes for a run and she’s feeling isolated and lonely, so to push herself, she pictures her former teammates running with their teams, or Jack training in the pool by himself. She feels less lonely knowing that somewhere out there, someone else is training, too. I feel that a lot when I’m writing. Somewhere out there is an athlete who needs my book, and that gets me working.But also, tea and peanut butter M&Ms 😊

And finally, what advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Write for you first. Write your passion, write the book you want to read. I’ve written probably twenty novels and short stories. Even if I’m incredibly lucky, I’ll still only get to share a small percentage of my work with the world. But each one of those stories has meant something to me, and that’s what gets me working on the next one.

The other advice is to find your people. It is scary and hard to make friends in the book world, but it’s also much easier to create when you’ve got people who believe in you. And critiquing for friends is the best way to learn to write and revise. Publishing is a team sport!

I loved conducting this interview with Carrie. She was a delight to talk to and I think that all her answers are so thoughtful and amazing. As most of you probably know, I play softball so books with girls in sports are really inspiring to me and I definitely agree that we need more! The book community is a lot better because of Carrie’s book and I hope that more authors or aspiring authors will find her book and decide to write one of their own sports books.

What’d you think of this interview? Have you read Michigan Vs. The Boys by Carrie Allen? Do you play any sports?
As always, thank you so much for stopping by to read–it means the world! Please, stay safe and keep on reading!

Our thoughts on teens in YA

Hey everyone! As you might recall, if you’ve been around my blog a bit, I did a discussion post last month (it was actually a collaboration with April @Booked Till Midnight!). I had a whole lot of fun writing that post and so I decided to write another discussion!
Unfortunately I decided to procrastinate on writing this post until just about the last minute and now I’m tired and rushing and this post is nowhere near as good as that other one (which you can find here). Sooooo I’m super sorry about that and hopefully you still enjoy the topic. I promise that the post coming next week will be better. It’ll be one of my famous* wrap-ups so, yeah, there’s that to look forwards to if you enjoy those anyways (and I’m sorry if you don’t?)
*This is self-proclaimed fame. I honestly feel like my crazy wrap ups are the thing I’m most known for at this point (but especially my absurdly long January wrap-up).
This is a really interesting topic that I’m sort of conflicted on, and I’m wondering what all of you think. I really hope you enjoy since I’ve been thinking about this for a while and can’t wait to hear your own opinions on this topic!

In YA books, teens or people in their young twenties are almost always the main characters, the heros of the story. They’re books that really show how young people can be strong, can be the heros, in a world where oftentimes it’s older people who take the helm, from parents to government officials, etc. But how well do authors, who are oftentimes adults themselves, portray teens? Where is it okay that they make the character act a little older/younger than they are and where is it just weird? What books write teens well and what don’t?
(I know people have addressed the wordpress editor font weirdness before but for some reason it just changed for me and I do not like this times new roman font size twelve or whatever)
I just want to start off by saying that all opinions are my own and not everyone might agree with me!

First of all, I wanted to discuss younger teens in YA books, maybe teens who are thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old, ages that I don’t see portrayed that often in YA. I, personally, don’t enjoy how books portray characters these ages a lot of times and I’m going to cite a book that is loved by a LOT of people for this: Eliza and her Monsters. In Eliza and her Monsters, the main character, Eliza, is 17/18 years old. Now, in this book she has two online friends who she talks with a lot, one of whom is 14/15 years. And throughout the book, Eliza and her other friend who I believe is a little older than her (honestly, I’m shocked I remember even this much, I read this in September and info from books slips through my brain like water through fingers.) constantly talk about how young this character is and just make her seem a lot younger than 3 years. Guys, fourteen year olds aren’t actually that young. At all. I promise. They’re teenagers, they act like teenagers, three years isn’t that big an age gap at all. Also, I listened to the audiobook for part of this (it’s a terrible book to listen to on audiobook because there are some pictures) and whenever Eliza was talking to this 14 year old, Em, Em’s voice was so high like she’s a first grader not a fourteen year old.
This isn’t the only instance when this happens in books, it’s just the one I remember most (because Em’s voice was so high and it was in my ears aaack) but the verdict: I believe that younger teens are portrayed as much younger as they are in real life in YA books and I’d love to see some more books with characters who are on the younger age range of the teen-spectrum (not sure if that’s a thing but sure, I just made it up). Oftentimes, teens these ages are the main characters in middle grade books or supporting characters in YA and I think we need more main characters these ages. What do you think?

Next up: Do authors write teens in books too old, sometimes?
Well, in my opinion, yes there are definitely times when teens are written much too old (looking at you, Six of Crows). These are seventeen or eighteen year olds who act like they’re nearly thirty. Does this dampen the enjoyment of reading? It depends what you read for. If you’re reading these books specifically to find characters your age who act like you but who do these super heroic things, yeah, it might. If you spend the entire book telling yourself ‘a teen couldn’t do that. This is super unrealistic,’ and contemplating how un-teen-like this entire thing is, then that will definitely not be a fun read. But I’ve found, at least in my case, that it’s possible to enjoy a book even if the teens aren’t realistic. I pay more attention to the plot than I do to the characters, most of the time and that means that even if these eighteen year olds are acting like thirty year olds, they’re still doing awesome things to help the plot forwards so I still enjoy the book. How does the way characters act affect your enjoyment of a book?

What makes a good teenage protagonist in a YA book?
Well, I think this varies depending on the genre of the book. If you’re reading a YA realistic fiction/contemporary, you probably want a relatable protagonist. Contemporary/realistic fiction is about growing up, learning new things, so the protagonist you’re reading should be relatable. Someone who you can connect with. If not relatable, at least realistic. You want real problems, real emotions, not some sort of barbie-doll plastic mold of a teenager.
(disclaimer: I don’t read many realistic fiction/contemporary books and I also do not analyze the characters a whole bunch so I’m sorry that that part was super short)

In a fantasy or adventure or basically anything that isn’t a realistic fiction book, I think that it’s a little different. Of course, you want a teenager who acts like a teenager, once again a thirty year old-acting teen is prooooobably not the best character, but I feel like there’s also certain ways you want a teen to act. You know, you don’t want a damsel-in-distress teen (unless it’s the beginning of the book and they get an arc) because you don’t want to read about other people helping the protagonist. They’re the protagonist, you want to read about them doing their own things! Usually, in a book you’re looking for a strong, determined, loyal* character who can hold their own and who is the star of the story, not some sort of side character while the action is taking place somewhere else.
*this is something I see in a lot of characters in books but obviously not all of them. Keep reading, more on this below.

But then, there’s a type of character we haven’t talked about. A type of character that a lot of people seem to love (I actually don’t fit into that category, something I’ve discovered recently). Morally grey characters are not really your typical YA protagonists.
Why?
Here’s the thing. There’s one trait that sets them apart from characters I discussed above: loyalty. Oh, also things like a moral compass…okay there are several things. Man, that sentence sounded dramatic and now I have to go add things to it.
Anyways. People love these ruthless, grey characters because they’re different. I think. I’m not one of these people so maybe I shouldn’t be speaking on this. But I had to add this in here! So onwards I go. Morally grey characters are different and oftentimes these really strong characters who are willing to do anything to get what they want which can be an admirable trait. And they can just be plain, downright fun.
Gosh, I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore.

Well, that’s a wrap on this post! Again, sorry for the content, it definitely wasn’t up to my usual level of chaos over here on my blog and wow maybe I should stop apologizing and actually just write something I’m proud of but nope I’ve been busy (and yet if you asked me to name a single thing I did this week I’d probably sit there staring at you (or my computer screen) blankly.).

Just a reminder to everyone that there is one week left to enter the giveaway for ‘A Bite of Revenge’ by Setayesh Kazempoor. Check out my post where I interviewed Setayesh, and then head on over to enter the giveaway! You can also find the giveaway here and the goodreads page for this book here.

What do you think of this post? Do you agree with me or have some different opinions? What sorts of things do you enjoy seeing in your protagonists?
As always, thank you so much for stopping by–it means the world! Everyone, please, stay safe and keep on reading!