Although he now lives in sunny Los Angeles, author Jan Goldstein is a
self-proclaimed “Burlington boy.” Born in Burlington and a graduate of
Burlington High School and the University of Vermont, Goldstein’s first two
novels, “All That Matters” (2004) and “The Prince of Nantucket” (2007), have
recently been optioned for film.
His latest novel, “The Bride Will Keep Her Name,” just went into its fourth
printing and Goldstein has found time to return to the Burlington area this
weekend to promote the work. The novel follows 28-year-old Madison
Mandelbaum as, a week before her wedding to NBC investigative reporter Colin
Darcy, she receives a mysterious e-mail asking her, “Do you really know the
man you are about to marry?”
As anonymous phone calls and text messages begin to follow, Madison embarks
on some investigating of her own. With the help of her best friends, Katrina
and Abby, the women find themselves digging deeper into the murder of a call
girl in which Colin may have been involved.
Goldstein says the book was inspired by a friend who told him a story about
how, as a young woman, she felt a connection with a charismatic man who had
come to town and swept her off her feet. After they split up, he went his
own way and it was not until a year later when she saw him on television
that she learned he was serial killer Ted Bundy. That story combined with
the comment of a recently divorced friend who said he never really knew his
ex-wife, caused a thought to begin to brew for Goldstein.
“I had this experience in the back of my mind that was rather jarring,”
Goldstein said. “What grew out of that was just a question: ‘Do we really
know the people we’re about to marry?’”
BFP: The plot centers around a young woman and her two best friends. How
would you describe their individual personalities and their relationship
with each other?
JG: They’re the sisters they all never had. Female bonding is a very, very
powerful thing. In some ways they fulfill one another. I grew up in a home
with very strong female characters. I think that in many ways, to be
Katrina, Abby and Maddie are all different facets of me and of the women
I’ve been raised with and been able to raise. The ones who question and ask,
and the ones who go through life with the most upturned face and upturned
heart, which is Abby, and who are warm and yet can be strong. The beauty
that Maddie finds in this book is that she gets to draw on both of them and
gets to find her own voice.
BFP: The women investigate Colin’s personal history. In a relationship, how
far do you think a person should probe for information and what do you leave
JG: The book asks the question, “Do you trust your head or your heart?” I
think you need both. But ultimately if I had to pick one, I’d go with my
heart. I believe that we have something inside, we have some instinct. We’ll
make mistakes but we have to trust our hearts, but don’t forget our heads.
BFP: What was the hardest thing about writing a mystery novel?
JG: This is a different genre for me. The difficulty is it’s like building a
house. You got to have brick by brick; this piece has to fit in here or else
the whole house will fall down. It’s painstaking. Mystery really is built
from the bottom up but oftentimes you find that you start to build a house
and you find you’ve used some wrong materials and you have to go back and
pull pieces out and reconnect them again. Part of writing the mystery is
making sure all the building blocks are there and the fun of it, of course,
is that you discover part of the adventure while you’re writing it because I
really didn’t know where it was going.
BFP: Your previous novels had New England settings. Why did you decide to
set this novel in New York City?
JG: As a young boy I had uncles down in New York City so my dad and mom
would take us down. To me it was a fantasyland. Once I got bitten by the
theater bug, I was, “Let’s go to New York! I got to go Broadway!” It’s
always fascinated me. I lived there for a couple years and loved discovering
the different pockets of it. There are wonderful pockets of history and I
tried to touch on those. Some of the latest reviews that we’ve just seen
have talked about the New York City flavor, which kind of tickled me because
that’s what I was going for.
BFP: What do you miss most about Vermont?
JG: Autumn in Vermont is everything. I used to drive around just to drink in
the beauty in the hillsides. I miss that closeness that I had in the
community. I miss the beauty of looking down over Lake Champlain. I love
Stowe. It’s the people and the community, but things like maple syrup,
wherever I am, I judge a place on, do they have Vermont maple syrup? When
you’re raised in Vermont with the real stuff you can’t touch anything else.
BFP: What are you working on now?
JG: In my next novel, I’m coming back to Vermont now. It’s actually a
trilogy and tentatively titled “The One and Only.” It’s about a Harvard
professor of Romantic poetry in his 40s who has never been successful in
relationships. He gets this invitation to a New England inn, which is the
Trapp Family Lodge. Waiting for him there is a mysterious woman from his
past who is going to grant him three wishes that he had expressed to her
years earlier. It’s really about sometimes you might meet the one and you
might not be ready. It’s about a reconnection. It’s ultimately about the
journey they take together.
BFP: When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
JG: I used to play in a rock band in Vermont and I still play guitar and I
love that. My wife and I are involved in an organization that works with
inner-city kids out here where we’ve introduced the arts into an
after-school program. I’ve been fortunate to be part of that. It’s called A
Place Called Home and that’s been terrific. Now I’ve just been named to the
board of advisors of the National Center on Family Literacy so that’s taking
up a bit of my time. I think it’s an important cause.
BFP: What is on your summer reading list?
JG: I’ll always read anything by Chris Bohjalian. Alice Hoffman’s new book,
“The Story Sisters,” David Baldacci’s “First Family,” “Gilead” by Marilynne
Robinson, David Wroblewski’s “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.”