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Interview with Marcia Gloster—Author of “I Love You Today”

Marcia Gloster lived through the actual Mad Men days, working in Manhattan advertising and publishing houses in the 1960s, an era in which women had very few opportunities to move ahead in the industry. Such a bottomless well of information and inspiration gave her the impetus to write her first novel, I Love You Today

A compulsive page-turner that introduces Maddie Samuels, who after being hired at a Manhattan firm promptly falls for charismatic creative director Rob MacLeod, who not only steers Maddie toward bigger and better things professionally but also drags her into his own personal problems: excessive drinking, womanizing and the little matter of his being a married father of two. Her experiences with and without Rob allow Maddie the wherewithal to climb her own ladder of success, professionally and personally, at a time when women were usually seen but not heard—and definitely not listened to.
Author Marcia Gloster
Gloster recently sat down to discuss I Love You Today, her opinion of Mad Men, and how she started writing books: her 2014 memoir 31 Days—A Memoir of Seduction recounts an affair she had in the summer of 1963 with a married British professor in an Austrian art school.
Kevin Filipski: I Love You Today flavorfully describes a particular era: 1960s Manhattan, where male bosses pinched women’s behinds and no one thought anything was wrong. Along with your memories, how did you make the book so authentic?
MG: I am very careful with my research. I have to mention the right movies during the right years: what year was Bonnie and Clyde, for example. When I mention a restaurant, I have to make sure that it existed at that time. The basics were in my memory obviously, because I lived it: unlike Mad Men, whose writers were probably born after that era. I lived that life, and discrimination was not in my vocabulary back then: it was just the way it was. The way men spoke to you was the way it is. Luckily, I worked with men who were respectful, but women had no voice at all. 

In London, where I worked at the time, there was a restaurant in the late ‘60s—I forgot the name of a hot Italian restaurant that was there. So I went on Google, but couldn’t find it. So I thought to myself, “Just make it up.” But finally I saw an article that mentioned it, and once I had the name (La Terrazza), it all came flooding back.
KF: What is your own take on Mad Men? Was it accurate to your experience?
MG: I actually wrote an article about watching Mad Men. I saw the first two seasons and thought they were interesting. Then when they concentrated more on Jon Hamm’s character Don Draper, it didn’t interest me that much. But I did watch the final season, and it was accurate in many ways, but there were other things they missed. I thought the costuming was terrible: we were all wearing mini-skirts, bright colors, stuff like that. It was totally “nerdville” on the show: plaids and stripes, which no one wore. There was a scene at a table where two women were having a meeting with two men, who were literally leaping across the table to try and paw the women. I didn’t think that was true, it was too exaggerated: in meetings men were not that blatantly sexist.
KF: How close is Maddie to your own experience?
MG: Maddie is based on me and other people I knew at the time. A lot of my experiences are in the early parts where she’s interviewing at the agency, where she’s told that she can’t be hired because then the men can’t swear. That’s true. You couldn’t make that up. When I was going for my first job in the industry, discrimination wasn’t in my vocabulary, and I thought that’s the way it is: all these guys like swearing! I actually lived those years. Many of my friends and I interacted with people in publishing and advertising on many different levels, so there is a lot of truth there.
KF: Is Rob a composite of real men you worked with?
MG: Rob is the epitome of the bad boy, and there have always been guys like him. There’s never been a dearth of bad boys. He’s a very attractive character, embodying the desire to grow and be really good at what he does, but he’s hampered by his upbringing in the ‘50s and so is unable to deal with the freedom of the ‘60s. I made him a little extreme in some ways, but you do see him evolve, and Maddie gets caught up in it even if she doesn’t want to because he’s her boss and a married man with children. 

But women get emotionally caught up in these kinds of situations. It did happen, a guy leaving his wife for someone he worked with, but he would often go back. I decided to them together because I felt they had a path they needed to tread together. He was supportive of her, she was supportive of him, but he is going to take credit no matter what. I think it’s a very typical story.
KF: Although these events happened nearly half a century ago, there are certain headlines about certain companies today that makes it seem that the old boys’ networks have not changed much.
MG: I always question whether things have changed at all. When I was finishing the book, all of the stuff at Fox News with Roger Ailes was in the news. There was also an article in the New York Times about women discussing the same thing. I wrote a blog about it and wrote a letter in response to the story in the Times, who published my letter. That said to me that what I wrote was still so relevant and evocative that I was blown away. I hadn’t been in an office in 15 years, so I wasn’t really aware that things hadn’t changed that much. It’s a hook that wasn’t meant to be a hook.
KF: Your previous book, 31 Days, which explores your own affair while you were a college student with an older married British art professor, was only written a few years ago. Why did it take so long?
MG: While I was in college, one summer I went to Europe with a friend. I knew that (artist) Oskar Kokoschka had an art school in Salzburg, and I thought that a summer month in Austria sounded pretty good. Kokoschka started a school because he wanted people to see the world in a different way. He would teach them how to see the world through watercolors.  When I got there, there was this man, and I looked at him, and I practically dissolved. He was 17 years older, wasn’t gorgeous but interesting looking—and he exuded sexuality. My first thought was: “Stay away—don’t get involved, he’s a lot older and he’s English.” I promised myself I would avoid him, but I obviously didn’t keep my promise. 

It was an amazing story, and as it started to unfold, I started writing it down. It was so far from any reality I knew that I just took notes. Years later, I happened to be in a store and heard a song: it resonated, making me think back to meeting him. By the time I left the store, I had my title and the makings of that book.
Marcia Gloster’s novel I Love You Today is out now.

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