READER QUESTIONS ABOUT A GOOD SOLDIER
Why did you choose the title, A Good Soldier?
It’s from a Tori Amos song called Mother. Tori Amos was a very influential musical force for me during many years of the book’s timeline. The lyrics really work, because I always just tried to be this good kid, fighting a war for my mother’s life.
How did you remember so much detailed information from your childhood and young adulthood? Is some of it approximate?
I kept journals from the time I was very young, around nine. In particular, I wrote about my mom and my romantic relationships A LOT, so most of those details are pretty accurate at least according to my perception at the time. However, I haven’t kept an active journal since 2008, so if I ever want to write that level of detail about my life now, I think I’m screwed!
How difficult was it to just put your story out there? Do you have any regrets?
It was scary. I published under a pen name, which helped, but still I let some people from my personal life know about it. Most of them did not know 50% (or more) of what’s in in the book, either because I really was as “close to the vest” as I appear in the book, or because 2008 was before their time and why mention the past? I felt super vulnerable, had to have some uncomfortable conversations, etc., and, I’ll be honest, I haven’t always been in a good place this year. But I don’t really have regrets. The book is doing exactly what I hoped it was do, and that’s help other people in similar situations. And the more I speak in public and get reader questions like these and thoughts in email, the better I feel about it.
The book ends in 2008. Why did you wait until 2016 to publish it?
The simple reason is that it wasn’t finished. I wrote some of Part I and all of Part II during 2007, the very difficult year of my mom’s suicide. Then I had a premature baby right after my mom died, and a few years later had another premature baby. I was in survival mode with young children for many years and didn’t have the emotional energy for this. But in 2016, I noticed that the global mental health crisis was worsening and I wanted to contribute. There were also some things going on in my personal life that prompted me to want to close this chapter.
Why does the book end where it does? Why not conclude it closer to the present? Will you write more memoir?
My life had come full circle by the end of 2008. I was a daughter, now I was a mother. Also, my mother had died, and the story is mostly about her, and how my relationship with her impacted me. In terms of continuing to write about my life, I generally think memoirs are a bit self-indulgent. I’m only going to do it if I have something of significance to say that will help others.
How are Andy and your dad doing?
Andy is in his late thirties and lives with two roommates in an apartment 10 minutes from where we grew up. He does not work. My dad still lives in New York City. He has a long-term girlfriend and is retired. I see my brother once every few years and my dad a few times a year.
Are you still with Sam? What does he think of the book?
Sam and I have been together for 20 years and married for 13 of those. Sam thinks the book is pretty good – and he was a tougher editor than my actual editor. It was never difficult for him to read because he lived a lot of this, and he pushed me to publish it because he thought it would be good for me. He understandably doesn’t love the Ryan relationship, though – either the portrayal or the reality.
What happened to all your exes? Did Ryan ever come out of the closet?
Jack is divorced, lives in Pennsylvania, and works as an accountant. I haven’t seen him in a few years but we talk over Facebook. Ryan lives in New York City and did indeed come out of the closet after college. We continue to suffer from strange coincidences but don’t talk. Jesse went into IT and lives and plays hockey in Chicago. We are still good friends.
How does your mother’s life and death still impact you today?
The biggest and closest to the surface impact is that most of my friends have supportive mothers or mother-in-laws as they raise their kids, and I don’t. I love my children, but they aren’t easy, and I don’t have anyone in my corner. Honestly, this hurts a lot. The other thing is that I still have trouble getting close to people, and I’m often disconnected. The person Ally is in Part III is more or less the person I stayed. It has just been safer to be alone, not to rely on others. The more I care about someone, the more likely I am to brush it off or distance myself from them. I am working hard to get better at this.
Do your two careers intersect at all? Do you plan to do more mental health advocacy in your professional life?
At the moment, they don’t. That’s by design. The book has given me a strong platform to do more advocacy work and I’m enjoying that, but for now I plan to keep it separate from my “job.” And by the way, this is why when you search "Ally Golden," you don't get the list of my professional accomplishments or publications. You'll have to trust me that they exist!