Long time Upper East side resident Shari Goldhagen’s second novel, In Some Other World, Maybe was released on January 13th by St. Martin’s Press and was honored by Metro on January 29th as a “Weekend Book Pick.”
Goldhagen, while promoting her latest novel, teaching creative writing workshops, writing celebrity gossip, and caring for her 11-month-old daughter, found time to discuss her latest work, her neighborhood, and family.
Tell us a bit about the story of In Some Other World, Maybe.The novel begins in 1992, when three different groups of teenagers in three different cities — Cincinnati, Chicago, and a small town in Florida — go to the movie theater to see the film version of a famous comic book. They have unique reasons for going, but it ends up being a pretty formative event in all of their lives, and the book follows them across the globe (and of course NYC!) over the next twenty years where their lives intersect and affect each other.
I’ve always been intrigued with this idea of cultural phenomenon — like who you were with the first time you saw Jurassic Park or first heard the Rolling Stones, where you were on 9/11. The book allows me to explore that for these groups of characters.
Your sister is an actress in Los Angeles, and two of the characters in the book also go to Hollywood to try to make it as actors. How much of that is based on her experience? The actors in the book have an experience that is definitely very different than my sister’s, but I did incorporate some bits and pieces of stories she told me.
I’m always interested in relationships where both people are in the same field, and one makes it and the other doesn’t. That was also something I wanted to explore.
Tell us about your first novel from 2006, Family and Other Accidents?I wrote most of my first novel during graduate school and then I finished things up when I moved to New York. Like the current book, Family and Other Accidents spans 20 plus years. It follows the lives of two orphaned brothers who are hugely important to each other, even if they struggle to express their connection.
What were your emotions when you got the book deal?Selling my first book was an interesting experience. For so long, that’s all I ever wanted to do and then it happened and I wasn’t prepared for what to do after that. In a lot of ways it was amazing, but I was still the same person; I still had to tie my shoes and brush my teeth in the morning, so it was also strangely hard. I think that might have been one of the reasons it took me so long to finish a second novel, I just wasn’t prepared for what to work for next.
You’ve spent years covering celebrity gossip, while also teaching writing. Yes, I’ve worked in the celebrity journalism world for more than a decade, and I’ve had some really fun experiences — I’ve gone to strip clubs in Montreal, movie sets in South Dakota, and I’ve sat in the lobbies of some of the world’s finest hotels waiting for various stars. Now I mainly just write in an office, which isn’t as exiting but it’s still fun.
Teaching, of course, is a completely different experience; I really love being able to help someone make a project better.
You bounced around Manhattan quite a bit before settling on the Upper East Side.At first I lived in the East Village, then this sort of non-neighborhood on 35th and 10th (I kept trying to call it BELT — By Entrance Lincoln Tunnel), then the Upper West Side. For some reason, I was really averse to the Upper East Side, but I broke up with my fiancé and had to move quickly; the way, way East Side was one of the few places where I could afford to live alone. So I had this emergency move to the East 70s in late 2006. And it turned out to be the perfect fit for me! I stayed in that apartment until last November, and then only moved because my husband (not the ex-fiancé) and I were expecting a baby and needed an extra bedroom. We literally moved half a block away. I think we might be lifers.
Do you have any favorite Upper East Side places and stories? I love that the Upper East Side is so neighborhood-y — the bodega guys stock Cherry Coke Zero because I like it, the employees at Healthwise Pharmacy ask about the baby, and Finestra is always the perfect place for dinner.
As far as funny stories, well, a few years ago, another writer — whose work I’d read and loved — moved into my building. I discovered this, not because I saw her in the hall or recognized her name on the mailbox, but because the pet store owner told me that she’d been in to get supplies for her cat.
Speaking of pets, we met on the street because of our adopted dogs Tilly and Lycos. Tell us about Lycos, who recently passed away at 15 years old.To call Lycos a good dog would be, well wrong; she was kind of a challenging dog. I adopted her when she was nine, and Lycos took to me immediately — following me everywhere, crying when I left, always running over with her toys. To me she was loyal, protective, and loving, but she pretty much was fearful of every other person and dog, which made things as simple as a walk in the park difficult.
She bit more than one boyfriend; my husband views winning her over after nearly a year as a point of great pride. We miss her every day.
You got married and had a baby in the past couple of years. Will these life changes influence your future work? Speaking of which, is novel #3 in the works?Well, I now realize that the baby in my first book was doing things that real babies never actually do, like speak in complete sentences, so in a way having a baby was great research — kidding!
Obviously these things do influence my writing, probably in ways I don’t even realize. And it’s definitely changed the way I write. I do a lot of magazine work and I want to spend time with my family, so I’ve had to become pretty strategic about finding time to write. I think I drink more caffeinated beverages than most people.
And yes, novel number three is definitely in the works!