- The controversy over Jessica Tsai's artwork is based on a real ruckus—including the headlines and protests and op-eds and lawyers and criminal charges—that was made over my friend Hans Evers's sculptures, which were exhibited in Cambridge's City Hall Annex in 1994. Thanks to Hans for letting me revisit the episode.
- The epithets "banana," "Twinkie," "yellow cab," and "rice chaser" are ones that I heard in California. Most of the others in the book are made up.
- The phrase "Orientalist masturbatory fantasy figures" is an homage to Darrell Hamamoto, who originally coined the term when discussing the character played by Lucy Liu on the TV show Ally McBeal. A professor at UC Davis, Hamamoto is one of the most provocative personages in the field of Asian American Studies.
- The joke told by Joshua that Eric thinks is familiar was uttered by Willie Nelson in The Electric Horseman.
- The Dark Room Collective, a group of young African American poets who ran a reading series in Boston/Cambridge, served as a partial inspiration for the 3AC (only the good qualities).
- Everything about Vincent Chin is factual.
- Jessica Tsai's artwork—especially her earlier drawings and table sculptures—was influenced by the work of David Opdyke, whom I met at Yaddo.
- The Collective arose from defeat. I began working on a novel called Every Now and Then in November 2008. I wanted to write from the first-person, which I'd never done before. The novel was going to be narrated by a drug-addicted, suicidal, female poet amputee who was stalking her Cambridge neighbor. I wrote notes and researched for six months, then went to Yaddo, the artists' colony, where I charted the whole thing out—practically every scene—and wrote the first thirty pages. I then did a reading from it at Newtonville Books, and it seemed to go over well. I gave the thirty pages and outline to my editor and agent, and they said go for it. But although I knew it was a solid idea of a book and I could probably pull it off, I just didn't have my heart in it. So I made what felt like a devastating decision in September of 2009 and abandoned the project—the first false start I'd ever experienced with a novel. I was mortified and petrified. I thought I might never write another book.
- I began The Collective on September 22, 2009. On November 7, I had the first 20 pages. On March 17, 2010, I had 46 pages. On May 20, I had 69 pages. On June 13, I had 90 pages. On July 23, I had 185 pages. (I had a huge breakthrough during my six-week Lannan Foundation residency that summer in Marfa, Texas.) On September 4, I had completed the first draft, 262 pages. On November 10, I finished two more drafts, 288 pages, and gave the book to my agent. The book's sale to Norton was officially inked in early January 2011. My editor, Alane Mason, my agent, Maria Massie, and I all agreed that I needed to do some substantial revisons to the second half of the book. I delivered the "final" manuscript three days before my deadline on August 29, 2011, 337 pages. I did at least seven more drafts until I was no longer allowed to make any more changes on February 26, 2012, 335 pages.