There has been speculation that your main character is based on Justin Bieber. Is there any truth to that?
The Simon & Schuster legal team has determined that any resemblance to real persons living or dead in my novel is purely coincidental. And there is definitely not a lawyer leaning over my shoulder, carefully monitoring me, as I convey this statement. And his name is not Jonathan F. Klein, Esq., and he absolutely didn’t eat something garlicky for lunch.
Is there any of your own preadolescent self in Jonny?
Probably some, but I relate more to Jonny now on a professional level. “Jonny” sounds like “Teddy,” and “Valentine” sounds like “Wayne” (that parallel only occurred to me after I finished the book). It’s his second album; it’s my second novel. He’s touring across America to play dozens of corporate arenas for thousands of fans; I’m about to embark on a book tour through five cities at independent bookstores with three people in attendance. He stays in luxury hotel suites and I’ll be crashing on friends’ couches .… Maybe I don’t relate to him, after all.
The novel has elements of dark irony, humor and sadness and through it all is a coming-of-age story. How did you strike a balance between all these elements?
I’m always seeking to capture the intersection of comedy and melancholy. To me, they’re flip sides of the same coin; one is usually the absence of the other, but sometimes, when you’re lucky, they can be conflated. It might be easier in a coming-of-age story. Not only does growing up provide so many potentially comic episodes — especially in the sexual realm — but there’s something inherently sad about leaving behind childhood.