Hello, Authors’ Lounge readers and authors! One of the themes I’m most intrigued by in life is how people can go from being so in love they decide to spend the rest of their lives together to that same couple not being able to stand each other. In other words: from marriage to divorce. It can take a long time—in the case of Jeremy and Cassie in “The Last Birthday Party” over 25 years. But, as their son, Matty, points out, it doesn’t happen overnight. Still, how does it happen? I use this question as a springboard to explore how L.A. writer Jeremy’s life falls apart the day after the 50th birthday party he didn’t want—and how it all comes back together in a series of most unexpected ways. It’s about love and family and second chances and the crazy twists of fate that most of us never see coming. And how they make all the difference.
I’ve been a professional writer for many years—a screenwriter, playwright and journalist—but never seemed to find the time to write a novel. One day, a few months before the Pandemic began, I decided it was now or never so I sat down and plowed forward. I wanted to write about midlife—what’s behind us and what’s ahead of us—but in a funny, authentic and ultimately hopeful way. I’m an optimist at heart (how could I have embarked on a career as uncertain as that of a writer if I wasn’t?) and wanted to create a character who learns optimism at a point when the chips are totally down. Jeremy’s story is not my story, even if there are a few external similarities, but I tried to have him experience some of the life lessons I’d already learned, maybe the hard way, and come out on top when it’s all said and done. He’s a good guy and he deserves it—but he has to work for it. Enter Annabelle, an occupational therapist who comes to work with him after he has a temporarily life-altering accident, and a romance develops without either of them looking for it. Aren’t those really the best kind? Well, maybe…
I’m finding that the book appeals to a much wider age range than I might have expected as, it turns out, its issues about love and career and life choices are pretty universal—and relatable. You don’t have to be 50 to end a long-term relationship and fall into another; your career can make a head-spinning leap earlier than it happens for Jeremy—and also later because you never know. Though my main character is a man, women readers have embraced the book, largely (I’m told) because of their affection for the endearing, if sometimes lost Jeremy and how he’s rescued by the charming Annabelle—and vice-versa. Men (particularly men of “a certain age” or on their way to that age) seem to connect to Jeremy’s evolving place in life, his predicaments and how he digs himself out of them.
I also think readers are relating to how Jeremy, not to mention others in his world (including 20ish son, Matty; 80ish mom, Joyce; ex-wife, Cassie), go through their own sorts of reinvention. Mostly, though, I hope people are inspired by the story’s notion that good things can happen if you say yes to life’s possibilities.
I also recently adapted the book into a screenplay as my goal—because you have to say yes to life’s possibilities—is to get it made into a film. I think it’s got that kind of “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Sideways,” “You’ve Got Mail” potential, but with a great part for a meaningful lead actor who can play 50 (You know who you are—have your people call my people!). Who knows, maybe it’d make a cool limited streaming series, I hear those are popular these days (grin-wink emoji). But most importantly, I’d love the book to reach as wide a readership as it can and to share Jeremy’s surprising journey with all who might enjoy it.
Writing my first novel inspired me to try my hand at a second one, so last year I wrote a family drama called “The Mother I Never Had,” which, I’m fortunate to say, will be published this fall. It’s different in tone from “The Last Birthday Party,” a more meditative look at parents and children and the ties that do—or don’t bind—when confronted with a startling secret from the past. Still, I was happy when my editor, after first reading the manuscript, said that I’d found humor in some of the darkest places. Who knew? Please follow me on Twitter and IG @GaryGoldsteinLA, check out my website: www.GaryGoldsteinLA.com, and if you get a chance to read “The Last Birthday Party” (https://amzn.to/3AhPqcL), please drop a review on the book’s Amazon .