Q: The narrator of Boarded Windows is a young man who works in a Minneapolis record store in the 1990s and gets caught in a Halloween blizzard. Um, is this you?
Dylan Hicks: The store is drawn pretty closely from Musicland, where I worked for a long time. But the substantial stuff is invented: I was never visited by a con-man father figure.
Q: You played in bands as the “governor of fun” back then. Were you especially fun?
DH: No. I meant it as a play on songs like Otis Redding’s “Love Man,” an ironic persona.
Q: The book is crammed with cultural references—songs, novels—some fake, right?
DH: I wanted to create a dream world where the reader can’t identify what’s real. For his latest novel, Jonathan Franzen made up a band called Walnut Surprise, which seems ridiculous at first. But after a while it’s like, sure, Walnut Surprise, why not?
Q: The character who can only have sex to John Philip Sousa marches—true story?
DH: She is a friend of a friend. But the rumors may not have been true.
Q: You’re releasing your first CD in years, Dylan Hicks Sings Bolling Greene, as a companion to the book. What inspired it?
DH: Bolling Greene is a country musician who skirts the edges of this book, a kind of intellectual Kris Kristofferson type. For the CD, I wasn’t pretending to be him so much as riffing, like I’m covering his songs from memory.
Q: But he’s not particularly talented, right?
DH: He’s had some transcendent moments but he’s not a truly great artist. I’ve always been drawn to that path of unrealized dreams.
Hicks will hold a release party for Boarded Windows on May 10 at Open Book.