4Qs for Nick Burd

1. In your novel, The Vast Fields of Ordinary,  is the main “love story” between Dade/Pablo or Dade/Alex. How so?

I think the real love story is between Dade and Alex, but that’s not to say that the relationship that Pablo and Dade have isn’t significant in its own way. Pablo is way too closeted and messed up to be “in love” with Dade. The fact that Alex is the one who sort of draws Dade out of his shell and helps him be more comfortable with himself and his sexuality is what makes their story a real love story, at least in my eyes.

2. What where you like as a teen? Did that influence any of his characters?

God, what was I like? I was sort of an indie rock kid, I guess. I was really into Sebadoh, the Spinanes, and a bunch of other Sub Pop artists. I shopped at thrift stores with my friends, skipped school, smoked cigarettes in the school parking lot. Like Dade, I worked at a supermarket with all my friends. But at the same time I was a good student. I was always writing fiction and poetry and reading books. Teachers liked me. I was shitty at science. I played the saxophone in marching band and played Dr. Van Helsing in the school production of Dracula and my accent was off the hook. I also played guitar in a couple of bands that never really went anywhere. I was notorious for getting ungrounded and then racing out and doing the exact thing I got grounded for. I talked a couple of guys into making out with me as well. I like to think I was a pretty fun person to be around.

3. Can you talk about your teacher/mentor at The New School, Dale Peck, and how that relationship affected your writing?

Dale Peck is such a great reader and so supportive of all of his students. He was my thesis adviser and he’d have me and the two other people in our thesis group over to his apartment every other week and we’d talk about our work for hours. He helped you see all the angles of the story and was always really tuned in to what was and wasn’t working. It was so weird to me that he had this reputation for being a snarky hard-ass when I always found him so genuine and supportive. He’s very serious about writing, which I love. There were a couple of times when I wanted to throw the book out the window and start again. Dale was good at talking me off the ledge.

4. I want to ask about cliches in LGBT YA lit. Which ones did you wish to avoid when writing your novel?

I didn’t want “finding love” to be the ultimate goal of the novel. I think Dade as a character is in search of so many things, love being just one of them. I also wanted to make sure that whatever salvation he found was because of him, not because of some guy. Granted, he does meet a great guy in the book and experiences all the wonderful trappings of first love, but in the end I wanted the story to be more than that. It’s about him carving out his place in the world and figuring out who he is on a variety of levels.
Photo: Eric Luc