~Interviewed by Xander, TPC
Describe your book in 10 words.
Brendan Road-trip adventure, dual love story, lots of rock and roll.”
Is there a lot of you in your characters?
“Absolutely. Teddy Hendrix, the narrator, is a cool but quiet poet guy, and that’s like me in high school. I was always hanging out on the side, all the cool kids were in the middle, but I was close enough to see what was going on. I felt like I had a language for what was happening but I didn’t always feel like I was participating. I also feel a lot like Corrina; she’s a young woman who wants to get the heck out of town to go jump start her music career across the country, and I too growing up wanted to be involved in things. I felt this yearning to leave home, so I feel like Corrina as well. The grandfather in the story is directly taken from my own grandfather. The grandfather in the story has Alzheimer’s, my grandpa had Alzheimer’s disease, and the book is actually based on a real-life adventure I had with my grandpa when he had Alzheimer’s. So, it’s very much me! This book is super super personal for me.”
You said you “wanted to get the heck out of there,” so where did you want to go?
“I grew up in Boston, and I really wanted to get out of Boston. I always wanted to move to one of two places: New York City, or LA. LA ended up being too far away, and when I graduated college in Ohio, I knew I had to follow my heart and my dreams to try to make it in New York. It took a little longer than I wanted, but hey! I’m feeling good know!”
“I co-wrote All American Boys with Jason Reynolds, who is an awesome human being, one of my heroes in the world of literature. No joke, I had a post-it note on the wall next to where I was writing that said “What would Jason do?” because he inspires me. The sheer productivity and the style of craft in his work, it was exciting to partner with someone who I really admire, and to be so conscious that we were writing a book about race racism and how it affects law enforcement. So, as a white dude, I wanted to be really careful about how I approached this subject because I could step in the proverbial pile of you-know-what. It was a great process because Jason and I had become friends ahead of time, and we had spent so much time being super honest and vulnerable about the same conversation, racism. That gave us the kind of trust that we needed to partner. We wrote a little bit of our first chapters, swapped those just to make sure the world seemed the same, and then we were like “you go, I’ll go, we’ll do our thing” and come back and there was so much trust that it was almost like we knew what the other person was doing. It was just intuitive, one of the most amazing experiences, and the reason I say “one of” is because we continue to travel and talk about that book and I get to continue to deepen my friendship with a man that I care deeply about.”
“That’s a great question. I love love love (not to overuse that word) the cover of The Last True Love Story. It has that beautiful hand-drawn lettering that makes you feel like this it’s a throwback adventure story. And the night sky that has the swirling stars is exactly my kind of feel for the story. Corrina and Teddy are tearing off across the country, the story is a road trip from Los Angeles to upstate New York; like if you imagine the road rising, they’re kind of just taking off, almost like soaring up into the stars. I love the cover, because it feels exactly like I wanted the book to feel like.”
What is a YA book you read recently that you really loved?
“Wirewalker. It’s a book that I believe will be on shelves this fall or early next year, I really recommend it to everybody. It is an amazing story about a kid who wants to become a neighborhood superhero, but it’s the real world, and as we know in the real world, there are no real superheroes. It is fantastic.”