Today, Peter Golden concludes his discussion on some of the medical aspects of his new fiction novel, Comeback Love.
In Comeback Love, Gordon meets Glenna when a newspaper editor asks him to write a piece about an organization of medical students at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons who are involved in the lobbying effort to persuade the New York State Legislature to pass a bill legalizing abortion. The medical students, Glenna among them, are spending their time cataloguing the disasters that befall women who seek illegal abortions, and they are scheduled to present their findings at a public hearing in Albany.
Now, I made that part up—about the med students—but the battle over abortion in New York State was a matter of public record, and the controversy surrounding it was covered in detail by the newspapers. Thus, the first part of my research was easy: I simply read the old articles and spoke to a few physicians who knew something about abortion before and after its legalization.
Yet the research that proved to be most valuable went back to an article I’d written for a magazine over 20 years ago. In the 1980s, like now, abortion was highly controversial, and the argument, in the political arena, was an ugly one, filled with charges and countercharges.
So I got an idea for a story and pitched it to a woman editing one of the magazines I wrote for. Suppose, I said, I did a piece about two women who had had abortions, but now disagreed about the issue. Instead of talking politics, we’d talk about their feelings and how they came to their conclusions.
The editor liked my pitch, and I found two women willing to be interviewed. I liked both of them immensely: they were open and eloquent about their feelings; their stories were compelling; and neither view was elevated over the other.
When the story was published, it received more mail from readers than any other story I’d ever written—and this was back before e-mail, when readers actually had to sit down and write a letter. What made the response so interesting to me was that half of the mail accused me of overtly opposing abortion, while the other half accused me of overtly being in favor of it.
The experience taught me a lesson that I kept in mind while writing Comeback Love. That regardless of how one feels abortion, those feelings are intricately threaded through the self, which I believe is crucial information to have when creating fictional characters.
Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist and author. Golden’s Quiet Diplomat, a biography of industrialist and political-insider Max M. Fisher made the Detroit Free Press bestseller list. Among those he interviewed were Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush; Secretaries of State Kissinger, Haig, and Shultz; and Israeli Prime Ministers Shamir, Peres, and Rabin. Golden’s O Powerful Western Star, a history of the Cold War, will be published in the spring of 2012. For that book, Golden interviewed Mikhail Gorbachev.
His debut novel, Comeback Love, will be published by Atria Books on April 3, 2012.