Award-winning journalist and author Peter Golden will be at Barnes and Noble and independent bookstores to meet the staff and sign copies of his first novel Comeback Love in the Studio City area this week.
Golden, who has authored 6 full-length works of non-fiction and fiction, and five books of interactive fiction, is best known for his writings on the Cold War, which is the time period that his book, Comeback Love, focuses on.
“I’ve looked at a period that a lot has been written about and tried to make something meaningful out of it,” Golden said.
A Changing World
At its heart, the novel is a love story, but also a reflection of the thoughts and feelings of that decade.
“Because [the characters] were younger when the book occurs and they meet again when they are older, it gives them a chance to comment on things that occurred in the past,” Golden said, “That’s the basic job of the historian, to tie it in to the present so I tried to do that when writing the part of the book that takes place in the present.”
The biggest change in that period that Golden explored in the novel was the women’s movement.
“I asked myself what was the greatest change that occurred during those years and I think it’s the changing role of women,” Golden said. “That’s the most lasting change of the era and we still are trying to work out today how we arrange our families and what the meaning of a family is because of it.”
The reason Golden finds the movement so important is because the way a family organizes itself is essential to a society's culture.
“That changed dramatically in the 1960’s, evidenced by the explosive divorce rate you saw people living together without being married which was almost unheard of prior to that time in this country,” Golden said.
Golden said he used his main character, Glena, to illustrate this.
“When Glena is in med school, maybe seven percent of the medical school students in those days are women. Today that number is about 50 percent. That alone tells you an awful lot about what’s different between now and then,” Golden said.
When he was writing the novel, Golden said he kept a note on his desk which read, “If you can’t be fair to both sides then you can’t write this novel.”
“More than anything else I tried to look as carefully as I could at both lives to show to people what they were like and to capture something essential about the era.”
Golden said understanding both sides wasn't always easy and that struggle to understand the characters philosophies and motives actually became a theme in the book.
“The real message in this book is to have a greater appreciation of people in your life that are important to you. Everybody’s journey is hard and in the 60s there was this sort of competition of whose lives are harder.”
When writing the book, Golden wasn’t looking for a simple connection between his characters. He said for his characters to fall in love, they had form a deep connection, one rooted in that theme of understanding each other’s struggles.
“To me that’s really the meaning of truly being in love with someone, when their emotional security is as important to you as your own. To get there you have to understand what they are going through and I don’t think either of them [the characters] are really very clear on that when they were younger,” Golden said. “[As the book progresses,] Gordon comes to some appreciation of what Glena’s life was like, in a way he didn’t when he was younger, and I think she also has some appreciations for what it felt to be on his side of the equation,” Golden said.
Bringing Color to the Sixties
Also important to include in the book for Golden was the sights and the sounds of the decade.
“I wanted to capture what that city felt like at that time,” Golden said.
In the book, Golden kept in mind the different parts of New York, the Mets winning the World Series in 1969, which Golden said seemed as improbable as the era itself, the generation gap between parents and children, the casual use of drug and of course, the Vietnam war, which was omnipresent throughout the decade.
“These are the kind of details I wanted,” Golden said. “The papers had a morning and afternoon edition back then, so people would look at the newspapers twice a day, and music, and movies which became that overused word iconic. I think in one scene Gordon goes to see ‘Easy Rider,’ which is about running away, and [in another scene I have him described the] the bomb shelter which Glena’s father built under the house and uses as a place to get drunk.”
A Long Time Coming
Golden, who wrote the novel in six months, said that variations of Glena and Gordon had been floating in his head for some time.
“When I was younger I thought about writing a novel about them and then I did start work on them but I scrapped that,” Golden said.
When he sat down again to write it he imagined them as older people.
“Their names changed and a lot of things about them changed, but it was these people that were going to be representative of that era, I knew I wanted to write that.”
In the end of the day, Golden said, the characters evolved from him.
“They’re all pieces of people I’ve known I guess, but really more aspects than me than anyone else."
From Non-Fiction to Fiction
Golden, who has never written fiction before, said that switching from magazines and non-fiction to fiction was easier than one might think.
“The major difference is non-fiction doesn’t stay with me when I write it, when I’m done for the day writing non-fiction I’m done and I turn off my computer and that’s the end of my writing for the day,” Golden said. “Fiction tends to haunt you after you stop so you start taking up things at night, bits of dialogue pop in your head.
He said he made the decision to write the book, because he hadn’t seen a book like it in stores before.
“I like to write books that I can’t find,” Golden said. “If I could find a book in a bookstore or online then I wouldn’t write it. It’s when there’s a book I want to read and no one’s written it that I want to write it.”
Writing one book hasn't cooled his interest in fiction. Golden has plans to continue writing fiction and in fact has already sold the rights to Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, about another love story---this one set in the late 1930s and late 1960s.
In the book the main character’s parents are refugees from Nazi Germany who come to teach at an African American university where he meets a young woman and it’s about their relationship across thirty years.
“It’s a love relationship between a white jewish man and an African American women,” Golden said. “I’ve always been curious about the history surrounding the second book so I wanted to do something with it.”
Coming to California
Golden said he’s very excited to return to California to sign books. He said that in a way, the culture of California influenced his book, even though it was sent in New York.
“I am looking forward to being out there,” Golden said. “I think wherever you’re writing about the 1960’s if you’re writing about New York, California’s in the background; it’s energizing so much of the culture that you have to pay attention to it.”
Golden said that many writers, artists and musicians at the time looked to the west coast.
“If you read earlier stuff of beatniks, the idea of going on the road, going to California, this cross country trip, you hear it from the Grateful Dead… there is some real synergy between the two states.”
Golden, who will be signing books from San Diego to Chino Hills this week, has made it a point to meet with staff and sign his novel at different book stores across the United States.
“The last couple of inches of the book industry is that person handing your book to someone who then gives them money or a credit card or whatever,” Golden said, “It’s nice to meet those people and tell them hi and tell them you appreciate what they’re doing, whether it’s the person running the Barnes and Noble or the person running the independent bookstore or the person behind the cash register.”
For more on Peter Golden check out his website
For a complete listing of bookstores Golden is visiting see attached PDF.