AF: How long have you been a writer?

I’ve been writing since I was in early middle school. It started as me writing little poems in notebooks and later expanded to me writing prose. For most of that time, we didn’t have a computer at home, and even when we got one, I would want to try to write something longer. The thing is, the only way to save was on 3 1/2-inch floppy discs, and those would get lost or corrupted, so I told myself that once I could get my own computer, I could save longer works-in-progress. When I got my first bit of scholarship money for college, the first thing I bought was a computer. I wrote my first stories that year.

AF: What inspired you to write this book?

A couple things inspired me to write this book. The first was that I worked at a couple gas stations, among other gigs, during grad school. The small responsibilities inherent in the job made me think of how “powerful” the job could make a teenager. That, I thought, was a short story idea–at least a nugget of one. But I remembered something that happened in my hometown of Corpus Christi when I was around 10. Two young men named “John” died in a car accident. As I do with all of my story ideas, I fit the idea into the context of small town Texas, and I thought of how much more “tragic” (not really any more tragic, just more specifically felt) this kind of event would be to a small community. Once I had made adjustments to that initial happening, it became a new story–not one about the young men who really died from my hometown–so I felt comfortable changing the whole story and making it something completely fictional, keeping only the name for my eponymous characters.

AF: How long have you lived in Austin?

I came to UT in 2002 when I was 17. It was a different city then, but also, the way a dorm-dwelling undergrad experiences Austin almost shouldn’t count as living in Austin. But I digress…

AF: Tell us about your family.

My mother was a reading teacher for over 30 years. She still tutors. She taught at the middle school in her neighborhood where she grew up, the one she and her siblings, as well as my sisters and I, all attended. My oldest sister eventually went on to teach there, and my other sister is a hospice social worker and part time college instructor in social work, so there’s kind of a common thread there.

My father worked for years in the oil and gas industry, eventually going back to school as a nontraditional student to finish a college career he left behind for the booming, and eventually busting, oil industry of the 70s. So, among them all, the largest unifying factor would seem to be hard work.

AF: What do you like most about Austin?

I like the kinds of people Austin draws from Texas and all over the world. It’s kind of a port in a very stormy state and country. It calls out to weirdos and dreamers who may not fit into the confines of life out there. It also draws great thinkers to the university and great doers to the Capitol and Californians which, whatever. Austin is simultaneously uniquely Austin and Texan and American. Even for its less desirable qualities, Austin most certainly has an identity.

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