The book was started on April 1, 1995
The final draft was sent to the publisher on July 3, 2000
The last third of the book was completely rewritten in the
About 20,000 words were cut from the book's length during the
Final wordcount: 220,866
First draft wordcount: 82,142
Original target wordcount: 40,000
A first draft was completed on 9/15/95, but contained just a
fraction of the final product.
Based on a short story by the same name written in late 1994 for a writing class.
Part of the story is in chapter 38. A slightly cleaned-up version of
the standalone story is here
The interview with Type O Negative contained in Chapter 35 really
did happen when Jon Konrath was a DJ at WQAX in 1992. Later, when
their landmark album Bloody Kisses was released, they thanked
John Conner from WQAX. This is where the name for the main character
Early drafts contained lyrics from many Death Metal bands, but they
were removed in the final draft to avoid permissions problems.
The band Nuclear Winter was a basement/joke band containing Jon
Konrath, Larry Falli, Ray Miller, Derik Rinehart, and others. The
song lyrics quoted are real.
The story's timeline is carefully scripted to match Indiana
University's actual 1992 academic calendar.
Jon Konrath went back to the IU Bursar's office and purchased a
complete recapitulation of his Bursar's account to reverse-engineer
some of the dates and dollar amounts in the book.
The report cards and letters from the college with regard to grades
In chapter 32, a letter from the Dean of Students is signed by Juan
Schwartz. This is the pseudonym Trey Parker used in his film
Cannibal: The Musical
In chapter 21, John falsely predicts that the World Wide Web will
never catch on.
Almost all of the mails sent from John Conner were actual emails sent
by Jon Konrath in 1992.
Several scenes and characters were cut completely from the book:
The original draft had an ending that took place years after the
original summer. It told what happened to John Conner, and some of
the other characters in the book. It ended with a paragraph that's
partially stolen from Charles Bukowski's Post Office:
- A job interview for a computer support position at Bryan Hall.
- Going on a horrible blind double date to see Cool World with a female friend and her
- An interview with Death Metal band Unleashed
- Several sequences involving me tutoring a friend in computer
- Another female interest late in the book that acted as a foil
Then I started reading, reading guys like Henry Miller, Jack
Kerouac and Charles Bukowski. I saw their lives through their prose,
and it started me scribbling in spiral notebooks, hoping to free
myself by journaling. The scribbling helped mold me, and as I felt
better about my own little world, the pile of filled spiral notebooks
began to grow. Then, I decided I should just write a novel about all
of it. And I did.
In early drafts, Amy leaves John for another man at the end of the
In real life, WQAX closed its doors forever at the end of 1992.
Nick's original name was Marco.
The first trip to Elkhart was much longer. It was cut in half during
edits. One scene removed contained John's father.
The entire book was written using emacs. It was stored in text files,
a file per chapter.
A printout of a draft from 6/18/99 is in the Library of Congress.
This was the second-to-last draft.
Amy's apartment in chapter 37 (Colonial Crest, #144) was Jon Konrath's
actual apartment in the 1993-1994 school year.
The cover photo is Showalter Fountain. The photo was taken by Dave
Gulbransen, but the publisher messed it up during design, so it looks
Amy's personal name in her email says "The more things change, the
more they stay the same" in French.