Today, I bring you a fantastic interview with award winning author Gary Goldstein. Gary also writes for TV, film, and the stage. Gary's first novel, the romantic comedy 'The Last Birthday Party', was published August 2021 by Hadleigh House. It won a 2022 IBPA Benjamin Franklin award for Excellence in Fiction. His second novel, the family drama 'The Mother I Never Had', will be published October 2022.
Gary has also been a regular contributing film reviewer and arts feature writer for the Los Angeles Times since 2007.
A New York native, he resides in Los Angeles. So, lets find out more !
How long have you been writing?
Well, if you count my “official” writing start as a film reviewer for my high school newspaper, let’s just say a LONG time. But with regard to writing novels, it was only two years ago. I’ve been a screenwriter, playwright and journalist for many years now, but only recently decided to expand into the book world. It’s been a joyous journey so far.
What inspired you to write your chosen genre?
The bulk of my writing has been in the comedy, romantic comedy and dramedy space, so I kind of automatically leaned into that when writing “The Last Birthday Party.” The book turned out to be funnier than I’d planned (or at least that’s what readers tell me) but there’s still a core of seriousness to the themes it explores.
What do you enjoy about writing your chosen genre?
I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh (I was that kid in class who was there with a joke when my teachers probably least appreciated it) so if I can do so with my writing, it’s a nice bonus. But I’d like to think that I can present authentic themes with the sort of amusing bent that engages readers and viewers—keeps things light but still, hopefully, meaningful.
Tell me about your novel titled “The Last Birthday Party”
I’m fascinated with the idea of what brings people together romantically and what splits those same people apart. I also wanted to take a look at midlife in all its angst, confusion and possibilities. But, again, in a humorous way. Add in a new romance for my main character, Jeremy, a writer whose life falls apart the day after his 50th birthday party, and it’s ultimately a tale of reinvention and hope.
What inspired the main character?
I like to say that I teach Jeremy some of the lessons that I’ve already learned in life (often the hard way!) and send him off to a happy future as a result. I’ve made him a film reviewer and a screenwriter who lives in the same L.A. neighborhood as I do, but that’s about where the similarities between us end. Still, a lot of friends who’ve read the book say that they hear my voice in Jeremy’s, which I guess is inevitable. Despite what we may think, we’re usually our main characters—in one way or another.
How much does your work as a screenwriter and journalist influence your works of fiction?
Well, certainly in writing this book, I was able to draw on my observations and experiences of working in and around Hollywood to create Jeremy’s world, for better and worse. And I probably wouldn’t have thought to make him a film reviewer if I wasn’t one myself. In general, though, my journalism background has helped me write tight, punchy dialogue and narrative—and avoid, as they say, “burying the lede.”
As a screenwriter and playwright, I’ve spent so much time creating and telling stories that the “how to” do so—that is, how to effectively structure a story from start to finish—is pretty much tattooed in my brain by now. It takes some of the guesswork out of the “what happens next,” not mention how to keep the story balanced and moving forward with the endgame squarely in mind. Writing, whether it’s books, scripts or feature articles, is like a sport: the more you do it, the more you exercise those muscles, the easier or more natural it becomes. Or at least it should!
Are you working on anything at the moment?
Yes, several things. I wrote a second novel last year, a family drama called “The Mother I Never Had,” which is coming out in October. We’ve finished the editing phase and are now in the marketing/pre-release period, so I expect to be pretty busy with that through the end of 2022. I also recently wrote the screenplay version of “The Last Birthday Party,” and am trying to move it forward as a theatrical or streaming film (it could also be reconfigured for a limited TV series). Wish me luck!
In addition, I wrote a TV movie that’s slated to be shot and aired this year, so there will be additional work to do on that as well. And I continue to review a film or two a week for the Los Angeles Times. Lots going on, happily!
What comes first for you? The plot, or the characters?
Usually the plot, though in the case of “The Last Birthday Party,” I’d say it was my main character.
Tell me about your writing process.
Well, like most writers, I tend to work faster with a deadline than without one. That said, I try to get as much done as I can every day, including weekends, as I find the momentum creates a certain kind of energy that shows up in the writing. I’m a pretty structured person and normally don’t have a problem sitting my ass down in the chair and writing. I also like to outline as much as I can, though I have to say, with “The Last Birthday Party,” while I mostly knew where I was going with the story, I did less outlining than usual.
What would your spirit animal be and why?
I’m a big dog person, so I have to say dog. Can they be a spirit animal? I think so. I feel such an emotional connection to dogs, especially the many dogs I’ve had, that were any animal to guide me, I would trust them the most.
What advice would you give a new author?
Aside from having an idea that excites you, one that will keep you coming back to your computer, be sure first that you understand HOW to tell a story. Study up on it, take a fiction writing course, take a journalism course, read the best books in your genre, start slow and share your pages with more established authors. Learn how to structure and sustain your story as well as how to mine your theme, plot and genre to maximum effect. But also know: You can do it! And never let perfect be the enemy of good, as they say.
What do you like to do when not writing?
I’m always reading books, mostly fiction, and trying to catch up on movies and TV shows (an impossible goal these days!). I love cooking (and eating), hiking, catching up with friends and family, and jamming in some relaxing time as well. Oh, and spending time with our dog, Betty, who’s pretty old now so every day is a gift!
Thanks for the chat, Hayley!
You can follow Gary on Twitter and IG
Check out his website:
If you get a chance to read “The Last Birthday Party”
(https://amzn.to/3AhPqcL), he asks that you please drop a review on the book’s Amazon and GoodReads pages.