Initially published with an independent press, Peter Golden is finding renewed success after Simon and Schuster’s Atria imprint saw the untapped potential in Comeback Love.
With a bit of fine-tuning and a beautiful new cover, Comeback Love is ready for its close-up.
Peter, you’re no stranger to writing non-fiction. Has that experience informed your fiction writing? Do you approach these projects differently?
Narrative is narrative, and you are still bound by the facts you discover or create. For instance, the end of The Great Gatsby would have been far less satisfying if Jay Gatsby decided to give up the good life and go to rabbinical school. On a personal level, fiction haunts me when I’m done for the day and often shows up in my dreams. Nonfiction does not.
Does Comeback Love have any autobiographical aspects to it?
Yes, it does, but the reality has been so transformed I’m not exactly sure where it came from. Also, rereading it, I see much of myself in all of the characters.
You first published Comeback Love with an independent bookseller, and then Atria found you. Was it a different experience working with a major publisher?
All of my experience with Atria has been pleasant. At every level, I’ve found people to be enormously helpful, starting with my editor, Greer Hendricks, and everyone else in the art, publicity, marketing, and sales departments. Smaller publishers don’t have the resources to offer this level of support.
Was there a lot of research involved in developing Glenna’s character and the experience of female professionals in the time period?
I know a lot of professional women from that era—my wife, my sister, and many of my friends’ wives. All I had to do was keep my eyes open and listen. Actually, I think that’s a big part of the job of writing fiction, because you burn up your own experience rather quickly.
Much of the book is set in the 1960s and 70s. Why do you think Comeback Love will resonate with both baby boomers and younger readers?
Baby boomers have reached the point in their lives where many of us are trying to understand where we fit into post-World War II history and what precisely happened that differentiated us from our parents’ generation. My novel deals with this question.
As for younger readers, my son is in college and his friends have been passing around a copy of the book and sending me e-mails. I think the 1960s has a grip on their imaginations, and the novel not only helps illuminate their parents’ experience, but catches some of what they are going through—deciding who they are, making their way in the world, and loving and losing their first loves.
Ok, so let’s get to know a little about you. You made one of your characters a Mets, Jets, Rangers fan. That’s not the usual combination. Were you raised that way?
That was one area my parents didn’t oversee. I rooted for any team I wanted to. I was a huge Sandy Koufax fan. Still am, and he’s retired. Always liked the New York teams (except during the 1963 World Series when Koufax pitched against the Yankees), and just rooted for one of the local teams to move ahead in the postseason so I could keep watching until the World Series, Super Bowl or NBA championship were over.
What was your least favorite job before you became a writer?
Being an unpublished writer. All of my other jobs—from working in a locked psychiatric ward to an advertising agency were fascinating and gave me plenty to think about.
I can see how that would give you a few things to ponder, especially as a writer. Strangely, my parents wanted me to be a writer, whereas most worry that you can’t support yourself doing it. Did your parents support your decision?
You’re fortunate that your parents supported your choice. Mine did not, but looking back I can understand their worry about the financial implications of a writing career and why they thought medicine or law would be a wiser choice. Of course, I was young when I started writing and only worried about the future in that charming, philosophical way young people have of never thinking too far past next weekend.
What is your favorite genre to read?
Fiction, history, and biography, which is why I love to write historical fiction.
What are you reading right now?
Stanley Karnow’s Paris in the Fifties; Tyler Stovall’s Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light, and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Opposite of Me.
Is there a book that you’re looking forward to?
Thomas Hart Benton by Henry Adams, and American Pastoral by Philip Roth.
Are you working on another novel or book?
I’m working on my next novel. At the moment, the title is The Winter of Julian Rose. It takes a look at the years from 1929 to the mid-1960s and tells the story of a Jewish refugee scholar from Nazi Germany who comes to teach at an African-American college in the South. His family is part of the story as well, which will also take place in postwar New York and Paris, and then later move on to the suburbs of New Jersey. It is a family saga that moves back and forth through time.
Wow, that sounds truly interesting. You manage to fit so many strong topics into your writing, without making it feel muddled and crowded. I, for one, will be looking forward to that.
Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions.