Let me explain. The story behind the book goes back to early 1991, when the news hit the hallways of my high school that two of our former classmates had been murdered by their stepfather. We had something like eight people die my senior year—car accidents, overdoses, the usual teenage fare—and I was getting a little tired of all the dying going on. But there was one detail about this spectacularly awful death that bothered me. According to the high school rumor mill, the boy my age (we’ll call him “K”) had been shot while hiding in his closet.
It was a detail that bothered me for years. So much so that twenty years later, when a paramedic at my old job mentioned his hobby was researching—ancestry, court cases, that kind of thing—the first thing I asked him was if he could find out what had happened to K’s killer. I knew the guy had been caught, but didn’t know much past that.
My paramedic came through. Besides reporting that the murderer had been sentenced to four consecutive life terms, he mentioned one small, monumentally important detail. K hadn’t been hiding in his closet at all. The rumor mill had gotten it wrong.
The weight of the world lifted off my shoulders that day. Wonderful news! I mean, sure, K was still dead, but no longer did he haunt my mind, crouching in the closet, holding his breath, hoping his stepfather’s wrath would pass him by. What a relief! All those years, I thought that poor kid was hiding . . . hmm. You know, that would make an interesting twist in a . . . oh, book, or something.
So I started outlining a story about a kid growing up in the ’80s, trying to navigate his way through puberty, avoiding the school bully, making a friend and finding a girlfriend. I knew where it was heading. As much as I adored my main character, Curtis Price, his sense of humor and his vulnerability, things would not end well for our friend Curtis.
I didn’t know K well—I knew nothing about his hobbies, his friends, whom he dated, what kind of music he listened to, or what kind of car he drove. I’m certain Curtis resembles him not at all. The town, the details of his life, the neighborhood where he lived, the number of siblings he had, none of these remain the same in Ordinary Boy. But still, that sense of being an ordinary boy in an ordinary New England town who wasn’t really noticed until this one horrible thing happened—that came from K.
I can only hope I did all right by him.
“Reading Stacey Longo's Ordinary Boy is like opening presents on Christmas morning: the excitements of pathos, humor, terror, and surprise keep coming in this touching and relentlessly honest tale of growing up in small-town America. Longo is an original, and Curtis Price, the protagonist and narrator of her novel, is an inspired and wholly believable creation. Ordinary Boy sounds the depths of youth, adolescence, and young adulthood in a voice at once deft and ghostly and heartbreaking. Huck Finn, Nick Adams, Holden Caulfield—they all would've ‘got’ Curtis Price perfectly.” ~ David Daniel, author of Reunion and White Rabbit
Ordinary Boy is out now! You can buy it here: http://tinyurl.com/ordinaryboy