Did you set out to write a "road" book or did that aspect evolve over time?
I wrote most of the first chapter as a short story (that was published in New York Tyrant). When I decided to make it a novel, I had no idea where it would go and didn't really know that it would be a road story. A very early draft had the whole story taking place in Berkeley with Allie running and hiding in various Berkeley locales.
At what point did you begin making the Alice in Wonderland connection?
When the novel was completely finished and, actually, I think it was already sold to HarperCollins, my agent pointed out that it was like Alice in Wonderland. I thought that was interesting. Then, in a later conversation with my editor, she reported that my agent had that to her as well and then we started talking about heightening some of the Alice in Wonderland stuff. The changes were truly minor as most of the Alice stuff was in there already. I find the human unconscious/subconscious fascinating as clearly somewhere in my head I was pulling from that story without being aware of it.
You write convincingly well about a young woman in dangerous situations. What were the most dangerous situations you experienced at that age?
Oh, well, pretty much everything Allie does! I worked at a boutique that turned out to be a coke-dealing business. A guy ran into my apartment once with a bread bag full of cocaine. I was a complete idiot at 20. Well, maybe not complete, I seemed to go to the edge often without ever actually going over the edge. I hitchhiked. I spent a summer in Europe and ended up handing all my money over to a French hospital to pay for my friend who had been injured (we handed over all her money, too) and spent several weeks virtually penniless. We'd come into money from time to time when someone would hear our story and hand us some bills. We slept on trains and in train stations, in a park in Pamplona during the Fiesta San Fermin, and for two weeks on a beach in Greece. I trusted everyone, was dangerously optimistic, and willing to try anything at that age. And that kind of willingness can certainly lead a 20-year-old girl into trouble. Hopefully my daughters won't be the same kind of idiot I was. So far, they've proven themselves to be much, much wiser than I.
Why a Wonder Bread bag? You know, I can't pass the bread aisle now without thinking of large quantities of cocaine.
In real life a guy ran into my apartment with a Weber's bread bag of cocaine. But Weber's isn't as widely known and doesn't sound as wholesome and all-American. I liked the juxtaposition of the drugs with this icon of bland American wholesomeness. And I think it's kind of great that you now think of cocaine every time you're in the bread aisle!
Were/Are you a Billy Idol fan? Have you heard from him since the book was published?
I was definitely more of a Billy Idol the guy fan than a Billy Idol music fan. I didn't own any of his music but I loved looking at him in magazines and videos. I had a mad crush on him at the time--I loved his snarly mouth in particular! I haven't heard from him and don't know if he's read the book. I hope he reads it. He's a hero in the book, one of the good guys.
Nearly all the book rings true and it's a great read, BUT that band name, Mighty Zamboni, is a klunker. What was the inspiration for that?
Haha, you mean you don't think it sounds like the name of a real band?! I had several different band names and nothing felt right. Then Geoff Becker, the Baltimore writer who's in my writers' group said, "What about Mighty Zamboni?" I loved the sound of it and thought it sounded perfectly '70s. The book takes place in 1983 but the fictional band in the book was at its peak in the '70s.
Have you sold the film rights yet?
My fingers are crossed and I'm knocking on wood!
Your books are set in California. Do you anticipate using Baltimore as a setting for a future novel?
I came here in 1994 to go to The Writing Seminars at Hopkins. I left for about two years after I graduated but have been here ever since. One of my kids was born here. I feel like a complete weirdo and outsider but I really love it here. I love the people. When I go back home to California I engage in the bizarre fantasy that I move back to California and then, somehow, I take the population of Baltimore and stick it in California with me. Any way you can help me make this happen?