The L: A little over halfway through the novel, the character Cort gives what seems like an interesting insight into how we should read the novel. “It’s weird sitting here with all of them, like there’s nothing strange about it, like everything’s cool. And maybe everything is, maybe no one else is thinking about how little we have in common these days, or how little we ever had in common…” That, to me, is really the central tension in the book. These people were — or are — the closest of friends. And yet, there are chasms between them. Do you think friendships can last? Or is growing apart just par for the course?
SR: Friendships can last but you have to give them space to evolve. Otherwise, you’re just replaying the same scenes.
The L: I often like the challenge of encountering a novel that presents difficult, even unlikable characters. Some of the people who populate your book are imminently likable while others are more difficult. Ben, on the one hand, is a bit of a jerk but seems mostly good intentioned. Alex is confused and coked-out, but she seems sincere, even vulnerable. Were you setting out to write certain types of characters, or did they evolve over time?
SR: I set out to write from the point of view of the antiheroes. I took the stock characters of modern coming-of-age dramedies — the bitch, the jock, the rebel, and the space cadet — and gave them voice. I wasn’t trying to create realistic “well-rounded” characters so much as trying to inhabit the minds of those who normally stand on the periphery of classic narratives — the bad guys, the clowns — and put them at the center. Because in real life, we can’t all be the heroes.
The L: Following up there, do you find yourself relating to or empathizing with any one of your characters over another?
SR: It changes all the time. I recently did a reading as Shawn and lived in skinny jeans, guyliner and angst for a week. But I’ve always got love for Alex because she can do something I can’t: be a total bitch.
The L: In addition to being a novelist, you’ve also worked as an editor, and I wonder if that helped or hindered your writing process at all? Did it make you a more critical reviser of your own work, or are the disciplines of writing and editing more independent than that?
SR: I’m a perfectionist so I revise and self-edit a lot, maybe too much. But on the whole, editing and reading so many books has helped me understand what I like to read and what I like to write; I’ve read my book countless times and I still love it, so I think that’s a good sign.
The L: What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any more fiction?
SR: Yes. I’m lucky to have a rowdy cabal of voices in my brain, and there are a couple duking it out right now for protagonist status.