This month, local author, Marilyn Gottlieb, debuts her first novel, Dance me Younger. A resident of Quogue for over 15 years, Ms. Gottlieb started her writing career in the mid-1970s with humor columns published under another name in Dan’s Papers. Since that gentle beginning, she published numerous articles in magazines and literary journals and was a VP and SVP at two multi-billion-dollar international advertising agencies. Simultaneously, Gottlieb was an adjunct professor teaching public relations at the New School University for 18 years. Inducted into the YWCA’s prestigious Academy of Women Achievers, she was also a member of the Board of Advertising Women of New York. Ms. Gottlieb recently left her computer to chat about her books.
Dance me Younger, your third book and first novel, is about a middle-aged woman faced with retirement, children who have grown up and away, and an aging face. Is this your story?
Oh my goodness, no. Though I have been faced with the need to reinvent myself as the years have gone by, this book is a creation of characters with personality flaws that represent many of us. It is a fictional, humorous, romp that shows the need to be validated at any age. The main character, who is married to a plastic surgeon, flies from her home on Park Avenue to Italy where the adventure begins. The only similarities to my life are that I worked at an ad agency and my deceased mom provides advice in my head. I bet yours does, too.
How did you get your start as a writer?
In 1974 I wrote a comedy column on the singles scene in the Hamptons. I sent it to Dan Rattiner and, to my surprise, he hired me to write one a week.
How did you jump from writing small pieces to books?
After working as a publicist in advertising agencies for over 20 years, I enrolled at Stony Brook Southampton to earn a Masters in Creative Writing and Literature. I had not been a student since I earned my first Masters degree at NYU in 1964. I had the most amazing instructors as well as the benefit of other students’ feedback. The book became an obsession. I lived with my fictional characters. In fact, I became friends with them, if that’s possible. They will live on in my next book, a mystery entitled, Girl in the Wall.
Your first book, Life with an Accent, is very different from your novel. It’s a true story about an immigrant (your husband) adapting to two new countries. Was that easier to write?
It was much harder. Telling my husband’s story from his point of view as a child and then as an adult was quite a challenge on our marriage. His memories often didn’t match historical facts. Fortunately, it came out well. The American young adult version debuted earlier this year. A publisher in Israel will bring it out in Hebrew in the fall. The book is a great way for students to see how current events impact our lives and it reminds people that our nation has been built upon the success of many refugees.
Did you also conduct research for your novel?
Absolutely. I visited ALL the places mentioned. My husband and I attended ballroom dances at studios to make the dance scenes as realistic as possible. That was also a challenge on our marriage. And, of course, I spoke with plastic surgeons. The process was both enlightening and fun. I hope people will have as much fun reading the book as I had creating it.