Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on author, advice columnist, and features reporter for The Boston Globe, Meredith Goldstein! Meredith will be in our 65 James Street store signing her YA novel, Chemistry Lessons on Wednesday, June 27, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM.
Meredith Goldstein has been writing her column, Love Letters — a daily dispatch of wisdom for the lovelorn — since 2009. In 2018, she releases two books: Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist, a memoir; and Chemistry Lessons, a young adult novel about a teen who tries to use science to manipulate her love life. Meredith is visiting ABSW for Chemistry Lessons, a book very much inspired by her day job helping the brokenhearted. The novel was also inspired by a story Meredith did in 2008 about how genetics can affect our mate choices. Meredith was born in New Jersey, raised in Maryland, and lives in Boston.
Thank you for joining us for an interview, Meredith! For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from your books?
I have two very different books out this year – a memoir about my life as an advice columnist, and a young adult fiction novel about an 18-year-old who uses science to manipulate her love life. They’re different genres, but in many ways, both books are exactly what I’m about. Even with Chemistry Lessons, my YA novel, it’s all about how we love, how we cope with loss and rejection, and how we build community. I like to say they’re companion books, but Chemistry Lessons is written by my “id,” as opposed to Can’t Help Myself, which probably comes from my ego (if were talking Freud here).
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
The most important part of my research involved shadowing a lab at MIT so I could write about that kind of environment. I’d always thought that labs were be emotionally cold, and that scientists were too absorbed in their work to socialize, but the lab I shadowed was the opposite. People were fun, friendly, supportive, and made each other laugh all day. I loved the camaraderie. As for the science itself, I read a lot of studies about pheromones and genetics, and asked a few experts to check my work. The science in my book isn’t real, but it’s based on genuine research, so I wanted it to seem as authentic as possible. … As for the subplot about a Shakespeare production, I sought the council of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. It was a big help.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
My main character, Maya, has a best friend named Bryan, who’s an incredible talent (a theater star) – and also the book’s voice of reason. The character Bryan was based on my own real-life friend Bryan – who’s from Worcester! – and everyone tells me that the Bryan scenes were the funniest and their favorites. Bryan is hilarious (as is the real Bryan) and keeps all of the other characters together. … I spent a lot of time focusing on Bryan and Maya because I wanted to show how difficult it can be to leave a best friend when you’re going away to college. Maya spends the book coping with the loss of a relationship and a parent, but she’s also preparing for Bryan to leave town for the first time. I wanted to write him as the kind of character that no one wants to let go. When the book was finished, I missed him.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
With this particular book, Cambridge, Mass., specifically, was such an important setting. I’ve seen so many movies about Boston, and they’re all about the same places. Southie. Harvard Square. Fenway. Etc. Ever since I moved to Boston in 2002, I’ve been obsessed with the area around MIT, which looks like the future. Maya’s version of Massachusetts is filled with modern buildings, labs, and my favorite building, MIT’s Simmons Hall, which looks like a concrete sponge. If you’re taking a Chemistry Lessons-inspired tour of the area, make sure to visit the Miracle of Science bar, which displays its menu as a periodic table of elements. Maya and her friends dine there frequently in the book.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
Anywhere you get your books, and on boston.com and BostonGlobe.com.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Thank you again for the great interview, Meredith! We’re excitd to have you at our 65 James Street store on Wednesday, June 27, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM!