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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 28, 2010
To capture an era
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza has started an independent publishing company, called Staff Pick’s Press; local author Peter Golden’s debut novel will be its first publication.
Susan Novotny, owner of The Book House and Staff Pick’s Press, said she knew she wanted to work in a book store as soon as she graduated from college, and has had aspirations of starting a publishing house for over 15 years.
Golden, who, like Novotny is middle-aged, said he, too, knew his career path from a young age.
“I wanted to be a writer from the time I was very young. When I got out of school, I finally took the plunge,” said Golden. In 1984, he moved to California, and began writing computer-driven children’s books.
“That was my introduction to the high-tech world,” he said. A project that was supposed to last a few weeks turned into several years’ worth of work. Golden moved back to the area when his mother became ill, and he heard about a publication called Capital Region Magazine.
Golden wrote for the magazine, and eventually became its managing editor. While working there, he met Max Fisher, who had done private diplomacy and was looking for someone to write his biography. As he was working on Fisher’s biography, Golden got the chance to interview important political figures, like Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
“That was my first immersion into the Cold War,” said Golden. The experience and interviews would prove to be worthwhile; Golden has written a history of the Cold War, called O Powerful Western Star, which will be published next year.
After finishing Fisher’s biography, Golden wrote another book, about J. Stanley Shaw, who was involved with politics in New York City during the Depression era. As he was wrapping up that book, he got a call from a foundation looking for someone to write a book on the history of the Cold War, and the part that Soviet Jewry played in it.
“I got to interview Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, and one of my most remarkable interviews was Nixon,” said Golden. The former president began writing him letters after the interview, he said.
“I think because of my age, he thought my generation had judged him rather harshly, and he was very interested in telling his side of the story,” Golden said. As he delved further into the information on the Cold War era, he began to think about what had changed most drastically for people over the course of his lifetime.
“For me, it was the role of women,” he said. He became curious about what he would find if he looked into the topic and talked to people who had experienced those changes. The curiosity transformed itself into his first novel, Comeback Love, which is centered around the drastically changing role of women during the 1960s and 70s.
Plunging into publishing
Golden said he had several readers for his manuscript as he wrote it, and one of them was Novotny.
Novotny said she had read the novel, and knew that Golden was “shopping it around” to different agents in New York City. It was hard for him, an accomplished writer, to get published, which Novotny said she thought was due to the downturn in the economy. The recession drastically changed the New York City publishing landscape, she said.
“I saw it as an opportunity; it’s a lot easier these days to take a manuscript, format it, print it, and get it out there to the public,” Novotny said. She sat with some of her colleagues and brainstormed on what to call the publishing house.
“We thought about what we do best, which is read books and recommend them. We have our ‘staff picks’ section in our store. That’s how we came up with the name,” said Novotny. The rest, she said, was surprisingly easy. She got a website, registered the name with a copyright and trademark office, and bought some international standard book numbers.
“All you need after that is some talented authors,” said Novotny. Golden’s book was a natural first choice for the publishing house, she said. She described it as an “easy-to-read, intelligent romance.”
“Any of us that came of age during the 1960s and early 70s will certainly relate to the book, and that’s a big demographic,” said Novotny.
“That generation was the first one to have such a huge effect on culture in the 20th Century music, television, sports; it was the first time people all over the world understood the same cultural language,” Golden said. He said he wanted to capture that in his novel, but do it in a way that allowed two older people to look back and reflect on that era.
Golden said he thought up the two main characters Gordon and Glenna years ago.
“At first, it didn’t feel like I identified with either character; it was like I was watching two people who I wanted to get to know better,” said Golden. He said most people think you can just “make stuff up” when you write a novel, but, in fact, as you get further along in a story, the characters are set, and you can’t make them act in a way that they wouldn’t.
“The difference between history and a novel is that, in history you are bound by the facts you find, and in novels you are bound by the facts you invent but the same chains hold you to make it come out the way it should,” Golden said.
The novel, which moves between the past and present, tells the story of two lovers who came of age together in the 1960s, are torn apart by life changes, and reunite decades later.
The point he was trying to make in Comeback Love, he said, was that the rules did not change for men, they changed for women, but sometimes the men were in love with these women who were struggling with change, and got their feelings hurt.
“The actual stories are a compendium of my stories and the stories of other people, filtered through invention,” Golden said. He said he learned a lot from his wife, who wrote her doctoral dissertation on work and the family, and spent of lot of time talking to women about their roles. From listening to his wife, Golden developed an appreciation of women’s issues, he said.
“I married my Glenna,” he said.
“Novels are dreams translated into words, and dreams are always about the dreamer,” said Golden. The writer is all of the characters in the novel, which is why they are so interesting to write. It is sort of like trying on different perspectives and lives, he said.
Golden said he thought what Novotny was doing with her publishing house was a wonderful idea, which was part of the reason he decided to have her publish his novel. “The company will be a place where a new author can get a start, and hopefully be able to prove to the New York City publishers that they are quite marketable,” said Novotny. “It’s like shepherding them on to a bigger contractor through New York City publishers.” She said that, after the holidays, submission guidelines will be posted on the website for Staff Pick’s Press, and the company hopes to print six books a year.
As for Golden, he has O Powerful Western Star coming out next year, and said he had just finished the manuscript for his second novel.
“At this point, I tend to only want to write things that deeply engage me, and that I have a basis in,” Golden concluded. “One of the things I’d like to do is work on a novel about a historic topic I am working on history would inform the novel.”
Peter Golden will read from his novel on Nov. 6 at 4 p.m. at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, where the book may be purchased.