Where are you from?
Syracuse, New York
Who are your favorite writers?
I love Kate Atkinson, Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, Jane Smiley, Richard Russo—I could go on. And there's nothing in the world like a vintage Stephen King and a glass of iced tea on a lazy summer day.
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game blew my 10-year-old mind with its multiple characters, multiple plots, multiple red herring, try-to-solve-it-yourself mystery. And years later, John Irving's The World According to Garp was an object lesson in absolutely stuffing a book to bursting—with characters, with ideas, with absurdity—and yet making it all ring true.
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
I watch movies all the time: the good, the bad, the unspeakably awful (the better to mock; thank you, Mystery Science Theater 3000).
I'm also a collector of everything from old records to antique post cards. I've never met an antique mall I didn't like.
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
My father once told me to never forget that TUMS spelled backward is SMUT. I'm not sure how to quantify the ways in which this advice has changed my life, but I've never forgotten it.
What is your favorite quote?
"Still and all, why bother? Here's my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone."—Kurt Vonnegut
What is the question most commonly asked by your readers? What is the answer?
Where did you get your ideas? And the answer is: I...kind of don't know. Does anyone? I imagine my brain as a melting pot of everything I've absorbed about the world—from my family, my friends, my coworkers and teachers; from movies and music and books—that simmers quietly, just waiting for me to decide to see what's cooking.
What inspired you to write your first book?
This Must Be the Place was inspired by many, many things: the art of Joseph Cornell; the Pixies' "Doolittle;" the true story of John Myatt, an art forger who happened to be a single father (which got me thinking: what would it be like to have a forger in the family?); and a burning desire to justify the student loan payments I owed on my MFA.
Where do you write?
I like to write in noisy cafes. Anywhere there's plenty of ambient energy and easy access to a great cup of coffee.