Where are you from?
I grew up in the Orange County when it was still overrun with orange groves.
Who are your favorite writers?
William Faulkner, James Joyce, William Gibson, Chris Ware, Flannery O'Connor, John Barth, Muriel Spark, Laurence Sterne, John Updike
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
This book was most influenced by Tom Franklin's Smonk, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone. There are tips of the hat to these books (and others) everywhere.
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
The Eagles once said, "Don't let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy."
What is your favorite quote?
"I'm never going to accomplish anything; that's perfectly clear to me. I'm never going to be famous. My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don't do anything. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don't even do that any more." —Dorothy Parker
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first sad little attempt at writing a book was in high school. I just wanted to write something long, because I thought it would give gravity to my life. It did, in a way. Or at least, I thought it did—which amounts to the same thing. My first published book, Hummingbirds, was inspired by my abiding fascination with student-teacher dynamics. In my life, I've had a couple terrific teachers and many mediocre teachers, but whether they were good or bad I was always intrigued by the dynamic by which one person, standing in front of the class, brings together so many disparate student minds and guides them through an intellectual odyssey. Following in the footsteps of my most dynamic teachers, I thought, "If I could inspire in other people what these teachers are inspiring in me, that would be success enough for a lifetime." Of course, I was also intrigued by their personal lives, their relationships, what happened behind the door of the Teacher's Lounge. And when I became a teacher, I had the chance to discover that many of the same conflicts, romances and dramas that characterize the student landscape are also in play among the teachers. The economy of popularity among teachers, for example, is measured by the number and quality of "teacher's pet" students you can collect. Raging hormones, quickly shifting loyalties, petty grudges, social awkwardness—I discovered that these are the same furious engines that drive both students and teachers. And this is what Hummingbirds is about: for the characters, the big life-changing discovery is that adult life is no so different from adolescence.
Where do you write?
I write in a small office off the kitchen. Outside the window, the LIRR passes by thunderously a hundred times a day.