Oklahoma City native Maya Sloan returns to release debut novel 'High Before Homeroom' 

Maya Sloan
7 p.m. Tuesday
Barnes & Noble
6100 N. May

Doug Schaffer, the teenage protagonist in Maya Sloan's "High Before Homeroom" isn't exactly fond of his home state.

"Somewhere else, on the East Coast maybe, in an alternative reality, I would be prized for my insight," Doug muses. "I might not be the hottest guy, but women would flock to me, unable to resist my self-deprecating charm and sharp insight. I've seen Woody Allen movies. I know these things can happen. They just don't happen in Oklahoma City."

Sloan, 33, was a lot like her main character growing up in Oklahoma City, always itching to get out. But, she says, time and distance have changed her view of her home state.

"It is easy to make fun of a small state when you are a teenager and already angsty," she said. "But then you leave "¦ and I've lived in LA and NYC and other large cities "¦ and there are things about Oklahoma you can't find anywhere else."

Sloan, now based in Brooklyn, has developed an appreciation for the state she once gave such a hard time.

"My two best friends from Oklahoma live near me in New York City," she said. "I'm still close with a lot of people who live in the state. And one thing we all seem to have in common " we grew to appreciate Oklahoma later in life."

And, in Sloan's case, she's come to write about Oklahoma, too.

"High Before Homeroom" is very much based in Oklahoma City: Doug works at Penn Square Mall; he talks about Classen; he mentions Cock O' the Walk. Those are details no outsider would ever think to include. Doug may deal with his hometown bluntly, but it's all part of his character. He's frank " and often very funny " about everything.

The state even figures into the cover of the book, which features a photo of a woman with a tattoo in the shape of Oklahoma on her back. The model that sat for the photo? Sloan herself. And the tattoo? Real. How's that for changing your teenage view of home.

For Sloan, "High" was the first time she'd ever considered setting anything in Oklahoma.

"I've actually never written much that takes place in my home state," she said. "I've mostly written about other places I've lived since. But once I started writing about Oklahoma, it came fast. It is a place I know and love. It was under my skin, and so the novel pretty much wrote itself."

The book also deals with another subject very much a part of Oklahoma life: meth. Sloan's Doug ventures into the world of meth on purpose for the sole end goal of going to rehab and forcing people to take a second " or in some cases, first " look at him.

It's an interesting take on the idea of renewal that Sloan said came to her quickly.

"I was really interested in this reality show about interventions "¦ because it is so heartbreaking seeing this family have to come together for an addict," she said. "But they sit around and read these letters to the person " say all the things we never say in real life about how much we love and mean to each other. Then I got this crazy idea: What if a teenage boy, an outcast, wanted an intervention? Went as far as to get addicted to drugs on purpose for the intervention?"

Those questions are answered in "High Before Homeroom," which will celebrate its release June 22 at Barnes & Noble, 6100 N. May. The 7 p.m. event will feature a reading by Sloan accompanied by her boyfriend, Danish artist Thomas Warming, on the electric guitar. She will also screen the trailer for her book.

Sloan said she chose to release the book in Oklahoma City because it gave her a chance to come home. Plus, she credited that particular Barnes & Noble with being one of her havens as a teen. On top of that, one of her good friends " and the basis for one of the main characters " works at the store, so it will be a homecoming all around.

Sloan is now busy writing a screenplay for "High Before Homeroom," which is in the development phase of becoming a movie. Although she said she isn't sure if she'll set another book in her home state, she still has Oklahoma on her mind.

"Recently, I was at the Academy of Arts and Letters Awards for writers "¦ of a handful of writers getting top prizes, two were Okies," she said. "For a small state that some East/West Coasters are quick to dismiss or can't even locate on a map, we end up creating great work." "Jenny Coon Peterson

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