Jessica Anya Blau

Author Jessica Anya Blau. (David Grossbach, Handout / Baltimore Sun / May 25, 2013)

No, I haven't. And one of the first things my editor said when she read my book is, "We have to change Billy Idol's name."

I said, "No, I love Billy Idol." I've watched interviews he's given and read his bios, and he just seems like this sweet, nice guy who likes to have fun. I think of him as one of the heroes of my story.

So we sent the manuscript up to the HarperCollins Legal Department. A couple of months later, I got a note back saying that as long as Billy Idol isn't promoting any drug abstinence programs and if we didn't mention him in the advertising, it was OK for me to use his name in the novel.

How did you become a writer?

I was a quiet kid who sat in a room and watched everybody and was interested in how they operated, what they did and said. My dad would always say, "Jessie can be in the room, and you'd never even know she's there."

I kept diaries, dozens of diaries, from the time I learned how to write at age 6 or 7. I wrote about what I'd done that day, but also this narrative of what I'd seen and observed. I wrote scenes and dialogue.

Now I'm on the board of 826DC, a place in Washington that tutors kids and teaches them writing skills. Some of these kids come from horrible situations, and we try to show them that narrating your life helps you clarify your own story. You write the narrative, and at the end you start to understand what you're feeling.

That's why it's so important to keep these writing programs in the schools.

About the book

"The Wonder Bread Summer" will be released Tuesday by Harper Perennial. $14.99, 260 pages.