Somehow I was late to check into the Rosebud Motel, despite being a huge fan of Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. I’ve seen Best in Show at least a dozen times, probably the same number of times I’ve seen Dirty Dancing. (More on that later.) But I had a long queue of shows to work my way through, and since I write comedies all day, I usually unwind by watching documentaries about serial killers and cults, or shows about women slowly poisoning their husbands with Arsenic. Schitt’s Creek took a backseat, even though I knew I would love it.
But I could ignore the show that swept the Emmys no longer after my third novel, The Floating Feldmans, ended up in not one, not two, but three round-ups of books to read if you love Schitt’s Creek (Bustle, SheReads, and Elite Daily). I wondered what my book about a dysfunctional family aboard a cruise ship to celebrate their matriarch’s seventieth birthday had to do with a family of disgraced millionaires forced to live in a Podunk town. It turns out, a lot.
The major similarity is that, in both, the characters are forced into togetherness. The Roses, a family of four, were used to peacefully going about their business at a comfortable remove from one another. But after the government seized their assets to pay off back taxes owed thanks to a fraudulent business manager, their only possession left is a … town. A really crappy town. The four of them move into two adjoining rooms at the local motel, much like the Feldmans — used to 3,000 miles between them — are stuck at sea together. And just as it does for the Feldmans in my novel, the proximity makes the Roses closer. They take over the local motel and the rest is … very funny.
While I was in the middle of watching the second season, my then nine-year-old daughter asked me what Dirty Dancing was. It was one of those pivotal parenting moments when I wanted to sweep her in my arms and say something like, “Come here, child. This is going to take a while.” She had seen a reference to the famous Patrick Swayze – Jennifer Grey lift on one of her tween shows. Feeling inadequate to even begin to describe the movie, I decided to just put it on. I knew some of the plotlines were inappropriate — abortion, namely — but the tradeoff was worth it: my daughter watching Baby carry the giant watermelon and dance the cha-cha in Johnny’s muscular arms. It came as no surprise that my daughter was hooked. And I couldn’t get the damn soundtrack out of my head for weeks.
There’s a creative energy that overtakes me as an idea for a book takes root in my brain — I become manic, organizing closets that are already neat and baking nonstop. This freneticism lasts until I am certain of what I want to write about, and then I channel all my shpilkes into creating a novel. While I color-coded sweaters and perfected oatmeal-raisin cookies, the same thoughts kept swirling around in my head. I love watching the Rose family transform the ailing motel. I love the Catskills. I miss Baby. I want to have the time of my life! And I want my readers to have it, too!
And so it was that Dirty Dancing and Schitt’s Creek shared a little too much Manischewitz and got pregnant with The Golden Hotel.
And so it was that Dirty Dancing and Schitt’s Creek shared a little too much Manischewitz and got pregnant with The Golden Hotel. Once I had the eureka moment, the rest came easily. (By easily, I mean four drafts, a ton of caffeine, and me crying more than once at my laptop and then furiously wiping the tears so the keys didn’t stick.)
I decided to set the book in present times. The Golden Hotel is the last remaining Catskills resort, co-owned by two Jewish families, the Weingolds and the Goldmans. The grandparents are the devoted founders; the millennial grandchildren only care about TikTok; and the generation in between is tugged in both directions. A company makes an offer to buy The Golden Hotel in order to convert it to a casino, forcing the two families back to campus to negotiate the future of the hotel. It was once the reigning queen of the Catskills; now the furniture is duct-taped together. Can the Golden be saved? Should the Golden be saved? Will the hotel continue to serve gefilte fish or is organic, vegan cheese the way forward? These are some of the themes I explore in the novel.
I hope you will “check in” on May 18 when it’s out in the world. Nobody puts my books in the corner!
Elyssa Friedland is the author of five adult novels and teaches creative writing at Yale, from which she graduated. She also holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School. The Museum of Lost Teeth is her first picture book. She lives in New York City with her husband and three children.