"I knew the boys in my novel weren't as raw as they could be, weren't real
. I knew they were failing as characters because I wasn't pushing them to assume the reality that my real-life boys, Demond among them, experienced every day. I loved them too much; as an author, I was a benevolent God. I protected them from death, from drug addiction, from needlessly harsh sentences in jail for doing stupid, juvenile things like stealing four-wheel ATVs. All of the young Black men in my life, in my community, had been prey to these things in real life, and yet in the lives I imagined for them, I avoided the truth. I couldn't figure out how to love my characters less. How to look squarely at what was happening to the young Black people I knew in the South, and to write honestly about that. How to be an Old Testament God."