YOU CAN OR CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN? DISCUSS. You definitely can, and I love visiting my family and friends, but . . . I need to be careful. I think a place sort of freezes in time the moment you leave it. When you go back home, you sleep in an 18-year-old's room stuffed with an 18-year-old's stuff, so naturally your psyche can revert, at least a little, into an 18-year-old's. When I stay at my dad's house, I can easily morph into this angst-ridden, insecure, self-righteous kid who doesn't think she's good at anything and doesn't know where she fits in.
And of course many of the experiences I've shared with my Rhode Island friends are a kid's experiences. I always feel terrible that I don't know more about their jobs, dreams, day-to-day lives; instead I'm always like, "Remember that time when we found the syringe at the Johnston Motor Lodge?," which I imagine can get old after a while.
IN THE BOOK, CRANSTON BECOMES GALESTOWN. WHY CHANGE THE NAME? TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT/GUILTY? I wish there were an exciting reason, but it was mainly a geographical one. For instance, I used to drive around the Scituate Reservoir to think, smoke, and generally act angsty, and I could easily imagine bad things going down in the surrounding woods. But the Reservoir is inconveniently located (for fictional purposes, anyway) on the outskirts of Cranston. In Galestown, it's more central.
CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF SKETCH OF YOUR FORMATIVE YEARS IN CRANSTON? Hmmm . . . After listening to the Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America album, I'm pretty sure those guys and I led parallel lives.
Like my characters, I was a nerd as a kid; I got good grades, had great parents and friends, played a sport every season. But for as long as I can remember I also wanted to be a badass. I strove for badassdom in two ways: First, I became something of a delinquent. Drinking, smoking, drugs, skipping school, fighting with my parents, staying out late — the suburban works.
The other, far less destructive, way was to like cool music. I can't speak one decent sentence in Spanish or remember the difference between calculus and trig, but I can recite the lyrics to thousands of rap songs from the early '90s, if you're interested.
ANY ANECDOTES FROM YOUR RECENT HOMECOMING READING AT BORDERS? Oh, it was terrific. Lots of great friends and family members were there, as well as my kindergarten and ninth-grade English teachers. At the request of my father, I read a censored version of the book, sans swear words.
WHAT WOULD BEN AND CORT AND ALEX AND SHAWN BE LISTENING TO TODAY? I think Cort would be off the festival circuit by now and would be into obscure classic rock, as well as rootsy/Southern-tinged modern rock bands like the Kings of Leon and Illinois.
Ben would be bemoaning the current state of hip-hop and taking solace in mash-up artists like the Hood Internet and Girl Talk, or anyone that mixes old-skool rap up with power ballads.
Shawn would listen to all the other up-and-coming New York bands like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Violens, the Beets, but would not admit to liking them.