Q: Gary's hometown is an essential part
of NOWHERE FASTit's as if his whole
sense of self is marked by being in the
same place all his life. Where did you grow
up? How did it affect you?
A: I was born in Bedford, Pennsylvania,
but moved to Indiana in 4th grade. I went
to high school in Greencastle, Indiana,
a very small town. Greencastle was the fundamental
model for NOWHERE FAST. I love the town,
and I respect many people I know there;
but there's no place quite so frustrating
for an adolescent as a small town. Teenage
years are tough as it isyou have limited
freedom, yet you have growing responsibilities,
and you know just enough to be dangerous.
I think a small town only inflames that
sense of confinement. For myself and many
of my friends, there was a sense that we
somehow needed to "escape" the
town, yet many of us weren't sure if we
ever would. I tried to make that feeling
apparent in Gary.
Q: The voice you write in is so completely
in character that I'm sure a lot of readers
are going to assume that the book is entirely
autobiographical. How much of this is based
on your own experience and how much is it
about feelings (but not specific instances)
A: The sense of confinement in a small
town is autobiographical, as I detailed
above, and there are certain landmarks in
the bookthe bridge, Gary's workthat
spring directly from my personal memory.
Still, the events in the book are NOT autobiographical.
I tried to create Gary and Wilson out of
a combination of people I knew in high school.
There's probably a little bit of me in Gary
(I was always on the precipice of real trouble,
butthankfullynever fell over
the edge). Wilson kind of symbolizes what
I saw, sometimes respected and sometimes
feared in my most rebellious friends.
Q: A lot of readers have felt that Gary's
conflicting emotions about Lauryn is very,
very real. What do you think it is about
teenage boys that makes love so hard to
A: I think it's that sense of confinement
and frustration that is almost inherent
in teenagers. Certainly, the pent up sexual
frustration isn't helping matters for guys
like Gary. But instead of dealing with it
in some constructive way, they place all
those frustrations on someone else's shoulders.
This is, of course, terribly unhealthybut
I think a lot of teenage (and, too often,
older) boys don't know how else to deal
with their frustrations. Gary genuinely
cares about Lauryn, but his impatience and
frustration always get the better of him.
Of course, his situation is complicated
further because of the behavior he sees
in his father, who consistently sets a horrible
Q: There are so many relationships that
are drawn in this bookfrom Gary and
Wilson's friendship to the strange rapport
between Gary and Roverson. How as a writer
did you explore these different relationships?
Which of your own relationships informed
what you wrote?
A: We've all met people that know how
to push our buttons, right? They prey on
our anxieties, and find those little spots
of worry in our opinions of ourselves. Well,
those people can be really damaging if they
misuse that power.
Gary's a smart kid, but he can't see how
much Wilson and Roverson both misuse him.
Wilson's use of Gary might be somewhat unconscious,
but Roverson's is entirely conscious. Still,
Gary so desparately wants their approval,
or wants them to view him as a "man"
(justifications he can't get from his father),
that he falls for them every time.
Sadly, the one person who doesn't try to
use Gary is Laurynyet she's the one
he listens to least.
Q: One of the most tortured relationships
in the book is between Gary and his father.
Now, I know that this is not the kind of
relationship you have with your own father.
What was it like to write these scenes?
A: I have a great relationship with
my father, so, frankly, it was a bit awkward
to write these scenes. Where I'm lucky,
though, some of my friends were not: I remember
friends that had poor (and sometimes abusive)
relationships with their fathers. There
are few things that can be as damaging to
a young boy, and when I saw the frustrations
and anger they felt from it, I realized
how deep it ran. While I thankfully never
experienced anything like that first-hand,
on the page I tried to re-create the frustrations
I saw in others.
Q: You are currently going for your
MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) in creative writing,
which I sense is something a lot of the
PUSH readers are interested in doing themselves.
What's that like? How has it helped your
A: The graduate school experience helps
my writing tremendously. From word choice
within a sentence, to details and nuances
of a theme throughout a larger work, it
forces me to think critically about the
choices I make as a writer. And I must say
that the program at Alabama exceeds all
expectations; it's truly a supportive and
Of course, it can be quite fun, too. All
that confinement I mentioned earlier? Well,
I'm still in a relatively small town, but
have a TON of freedom.
Q: What are your literary influences?
A: My first big influence was Raymond
Carver, and I must say I kept thinking back
to him during the writing of NOEWHERE FAST.
Currently, Don DeLillo and Hanif Kureishi
are carving formidable spaces on my literary
landscape. James Baldwin, Annie Proulx,
Ralph Ellison, Milan Kundera and Joan Didion
are never far from my thoughts, all for
different reasons. I've recently been introduced
to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and am thrilled
by his every word. But I will alwaysalwaysreturn
to Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and
Robert Penn Warren's ALL THE KING'S MEN.
(another benefit to living in the South:
I sometimes go watch football games at a
place on Harper Lee Drive)
Q: What are your musical influences?
My default answers are: favorite artist,
Bob Dylan; favorite group, The Rolling Stones.
But it's not that simple. Today, my answer
would be Dead Prez, The Star Room Boys,
Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Beth Orton and
The Makers (is that enough?). But if I'm
writing, I can't listen to music with lyrics,
so jazz has become essential for me: Art
Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingusthey
seem to be in the headphones a lot when
I'm at the keyboard. Or maybe R.E.M., because
I've never understood a word Michael Stipe
has said, but I enjoy the sounds he makes.
Q: How soon is now?