What was the county like then?
Someone once told me that there were fewer than a thousand people in the whole Capistrano Valley when I was growing up. There were no tract houses; it was mostly agricultural. Irvine was still a ranch. You could smell the orange blossoms every season, just driving down the freeway. I remember watching the freeway get built.
What surprised you most about going back to the era?
As I was doing the research, I thought, good heavens, this is just like now. The political turmoil was similar. There was a lot of public mistrust of government in general, the population was tired of the Vietnam War, and I think our population is tired of war in general. There was a lot of student unrest primarily because of the war in Vietnam, and I think there’s a lot of generational unrest now that is probably rooted more economically and socially.
Do you have a writing ritual?
I like to immerse myself in the music of the time that I’m writing about. I try to find songs that evoke the mood of an era. I create a little soundtrack to listen to while I’m in the process of writing. For this, I was listening to a lot of ’70s music, obviously. The title of the book itself is a Chicago song. I liked the sound of the music, and it’s a kind of a late ’60s protest song. To me, that’s how the book should feel.