I was ten and living in Poughkeepsie, NY. Not far from the three-day event known world-wide as “Woodstock.” The music and message of peace and love from the concert has always stayed with me. In fact my XM radio stays on a station playing only classic rock. On a visit to Bethel Woods last year I even had a chance to stand on the hallowed concert grounds. To say it was awesome would be an understatement.
Since I love everything Woodstock, I’m thrilled to share with you my interview with fellow Blue Ridge Literary author Michael Murphy. His novel, GOODBYE EMILY, centers on three baby boomers who relive their 1969 trip to Woodstock.
This road trip is more than a vacation. It’s a chance for sixty-year-old Walt “Sparky” Ellington to regain his deteriorating health. The loss of both Emily and his job as a professor has turned him into a bitter man. Closure over losing the love of his life is a step towards better health, the reason he decides to scatter her ashes at the place where they met…Woodstock. To recreate the original trip, he brings his friend, Buck, whose scars from serving in Vietnam rest a layer beneath his surface and Josh, who has been living in a nursing home due to the onset of early Alzheimer’s.
Michael deals with the sensitive topics of aging with insight, humor and a lineup of memorable characters.
Thank you, Michael for joining me. What gave you the idea for this story?
So much has been written over the years about Woodstock’s great performances, but little about what led nearly half a million to come for all over and endure the rain and mud and stay for the music. The famous cover photo for the album and documentary of a couple wrapped in a blanket particularly inspired me. They met at Woodstock and eventually married, like Sparky and Emily.
As I get older, it seems life takes on clarity that can only come from experience. Do any of the characters in Goodbye Emily find that to be true?
The road trip the three men take is also metaphorically a journey of self-discovery. In Young Adult novels, characters come of age. In Goodbye Emily, they come to a similar, though belated, self-discovery, so that at the end, they’re looking forward to life’s challenges.
What message would you like readers to take away from Goodbye Emily?
That growing older doesn’t mean we have to grow old. By that I mean we don’t want to become the grumpy “get off my lawn” kind of person. We should laugh and love no matter what no matter what our age.
Were you at Woodstock?
I was not at Woodstock, but as a west coast guy (Arizona) I went to the Monterey Pop Festival after graduating high school in 1968.
You’ve also been blogging about Woodstock. Have you learned anything new about Woodstock that you didn’t know before?
Plenty, like Jimi wasn’t Jimi Hendrix’s real name. His manager gave him that name in 1965. He was born Johnny Allen Hendrix. And Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese got his start as a film editor working on the 1970 documentary Woodstock. Lots more on the blog, http://blog.mjmurphy.com
What will appeal to baby boomers the most about Goodbye Emily?
Baby boomers love that I’ve portrayed people in their sixties as funny, smart, driven, still idealistic and optimistic about the future. It’s how we are, after all.
Who’s your favorite group that performed at Woodstock?
There are so many and I have even greater respect for them than I did before I wrote the novel. My favorite group has become Country Joe (and the Fish) because I’ve gotten to know him over the past year, after he read Goodbye Emily and raved about it. He still performs, is active and his next door neighbor is Wavy Gravy.
Michael, thanks for joining me today. I loved your book and wish you much success! Anybody care to share about Woodstock, rock n’ roll or how visiting the past helped them move forward?
GOODBYE EMILY IS AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.COM