Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Summer of '69

My newest novel, Summer of ’69 is set 50 years ago, and -- despite being labelled a novel -- is almost entirely autobiographical account of that trippy summer revolving around Led Zeppelin, Free Love, the first manned moon landing, a cornucopia of illegal substances, Vietnam, and Woodstock. In the first chapter, that’s me in a somewhat “compromised” state at the wheel of my psychedelically-painted microbus driving down the Mass Pike. That was at the beginning of the summer , and things would only get weirder from there, ending with the Woodstock music festival and a funeral for someone dear to me who died much too young.

Writing Summer of ’69 was quite possibly the most profound creative experience of my life.  It’s a book I never imagined penning. And were it not for an extraordinary editor, Kaylan Adair, and an equally extraordinary publishing house, Candlewick, I wonder if this novel ever would have seen ink on a printed page.

Not only did Kaylan compose several long and insightful single-spaced editorial letters, but during the three years in which this book came to life, she and I exchanged nearly 500 emails shaping it. As a result of her steady but gentle coaxing I’ve written about painful memories and experiences that I’d never expected or imagined I would ever want to confront or reveal.

There came a moment somewhere near the end of the project, or perhaps just after I finished, when I experienced a sensation unlike any I have ever felt upon completing a novel. It was akin to a sense of closure, of clearing the air, of tying up loose ends -- not regarding a single book, but pertaining to a life-long mission that I’m not even sure I was aware I’d been on. At least not until the moment I felt it. It felt as if I’d not just told another story, but had finally told The Story. The one that had always been deep inside, the one that may have been part of the motivation for why I became a writer in the first place.

Ironically, when we (because as I said, it couldn’t have happened without Kaylan) finally got to the end, I discovered that it wasn’t nearly as painful as I’d feared/imagined. Instead, it felt like a huge relief. As I said earlier, it felt like closure. As if unresolved issues that I’d avoided thinking about for the past 50 years took a huge step toward getting sorted out. There are some books one writes for an audience (ie., to save others' lives), and some written to exorcise demons (to save our own lives).

This is the one I wrote for myself. I hope you'll read it and enjoy it.

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