PORT TOWNSEND — “Halfway to You” is the story of two women: Maggie, a young journalist, and Ann, the famous author she sets out to interview.
Their time together is a tortuous path, since the author starts out refusing to let the reporter record her for the podcast she’s producing. But as the tale unspools, it reveals much: lies, secrets, love, romance and, finally, the truth about the connection between the women.
These two crisscross the country and the globe: to Venice and Rome, Italy; Santorini, Greece; Chiang Mai and Bangkok, Thailand; Colorado; New York; Oregon and at last to San Juan Island, where the interview happens.
This is a book written during 2020, when the author, who loves to travel, couldn’t.
“Halfway to You” is the third novel from Port Townsend writer Nicole J. Persun, who uses the pen name Jennifer Gold. She’ll give a reading, answer questions and sign copies during a launch party at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Imprint Bookstore, 820 Water St., in one of the store’s first in-person events in years. From Lake Union Publishing, the novel is in paperback, e-book and audiobook.
Like Gold’s first and second novels, 2019’s “The Ingredients of Us,” and early 2020’s “Keep Me Afloat,” “Halfway” explores what people do for love. It delves too into the mistakes lovers make — oh, the biggies — and the second chances they’re given. The author has received feedback to the effect of “these characters feel real; they’re people who are flawed,” which she takes as “a huge, huge compliment.”
Ann Fawkes, the older heroine of the new book, follows the man she loves across Europe, only to carry on a long-distance relationship with him after he returns home to the United States. As their relationship develops, Ann wants to get closer to him, but both partners have reasons to hold back.
Gold is exploring a theme that fascinates her: Distance, both emotional and physical.
“I was writing this during the pandemic,” she said, “when I didn’t see my friends and didn’t see my family,” while living far out in the country in Quilcene.
Is it possible to be emotionally close while separated by geography? Emotionally distant when in the same bedroom? Yes to both; Gold’s lovers learn about it all.
Gold wrote “Halfway” to be a book-club book and included nine discussion questions about keeping secrets, telling lies, traveling and kinds of love. She composed the questions with input from her editor, Alicia Clancy, and her literary agent, Michelle Richter, two women she thanks profusely in her acknowledgements. This novel went through many, many iterations, she notes.
Fortunately, “I love writing more than anything else in the world. This is the thing worth waking up at 5 in the morning for,” Gold said.
She offers advice to fellow writers. “Turn inward. And understand why you’re doing it in the first place,” and when you have that reason at the front of your mind, find the joy that goes with it.”
Gold’s sources of joy include travel, which she’s been able to return to in recent months. She took a December trip to Costa Rica, which could be the setting for her next novel.
Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend.