Please welcome my special guest, Lynn Steward! Lynn is a successful business woman who spent many years in New York City’s fashion industry in marketing and merchandising, including the development of the first women’s department at a famous men’s clothing store. Through extensive research, and an intimate knowledge of the period, Steward created the characters and stories for a series of five authentic and heartwarming novels about New York in the seventies. A Very Good Life is the first in the series featuring Dana McGarry.
Welcome to Blogger News, Lynn. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
I always enjoyed business-related writing and thought a non-fiction self-help book, with life-lessons I learned along the way, would be a fun project. But, as often happens when you put yourself out there, I discovered another path and took it: I developed a TV pilot about New York in the seventies because, as they say “Write what you know” and I know New York. I’m a native of Long Island, and between attending school and working, I spent twenty-two years in Manhattan, including a career in the fashion industry. I was so overwhelmed with ideas, the TV series expanded to five seasons! Appropriately placed in the New York City of 1975, which was International Women’s Year, the plots in the series intermingle fashion legends, business icons, real events, and untold stories, providing a behind-the-scenes look at inspirational women in the worlds of art, fashion, and business. It is a time and world I know very well.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
A few years ago, when I started putting my ideas on paper for the TV series. That let to creative writing and endless storytelling.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
Although my debut novel, A Very Good Life, takes place in 1970s New York City. it has a kind of timelessness to it. Dana McGarry is an “it” girl, living a privileged lifestyle of a well-heeled junior executive at B. Altman, a high end department store. With a storybook husband and a fairytale life, change comes swiftly and unexpectedly. Cracks begin to appear in the perfect facade. Challenged at work by unethical demands, and the growing awareness that her relationship with her distant husband is strained, Dana must deal with the unwanted changes in her life. Can she find her place in the new world where women can have a voice, or will she allow herself to be manipulated into doing things that go against her growing self-confidence?
A Very Good Life chronicles the perils and rewards of Dana’s journey, alongside some of the most legendary women of the twentieth century. From parties at Café des Artistes to the annual Rockefeller Center holiday tree lighting ceremony, from meetings with business icons like Estée Lauder to cocktail receptions with celebrity guests like legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Steward’s intimate knowledge of the period creates the perfect backdrop for this riveting story about a woman’s quest for self-fulfillment
I wanted a writing project, and would often discuss ideas with friends. In our conversations, I reminisced about my early jobs in the fashion industry, inspirational women I followed throughout my life, Rosamond Bernier, Diana Vreeland, to mention just two, and my favorite New York places and events. I found many story ideas in books about iconic women in my personal library, and I was fascinated how interwoven their lives were. Then, one day, after a year and a half of researching and planning, I made a time line for the pilot, now the opening scene in A Very Good Life: November 29, 1974, the day after Thanksgiving, in front of the holidays windows at B. Altman, a storied New York department store. I purposely made Dana McGarry the public relations and special events coordinator to highlight the glamorous parties and
Did your book require a lot of research?
I easily spent a year and a half researching – a minimum of three hours a day, and over thirty hours many weekends. I studied historic events, iconic women, not only individuals, but how they related to each other, and interiors of famous locations, such as B. Altman, Café des Artistes, Kenneth Salon, etc. I drew inspiration from archived newspaper articles in The New York Times and The New Yorker. Most important, I organized the notes and articles by date, made spread sheets of events, for example, every costume institute show at the Met from December 1974 through 1980. Quickly reaching for the right file is crucial when an idea is sparked at the keyboard.
Who is your target audience?
I believe the audience is multi-generational. A young career woman today can relate to the personal and professional pressures of the protagonist, Dana, and baby boomers will bring their own memories to the period. The themes are universal and the life-lessons timeless.
What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?
A little of both. My life experience in Manhattan provided good information to write, I hope, an authentic story, and the characters and plots were joyfully created in my imagination.
Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
I get my best ideas in my office and library, inspired by books, archived articles, photographs, and magazines. Sometimes a song will express an emotion or idea to develop, and often a photograph will capture an interesting personality to explore.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
Describe your working environment.
I have a sunny office with an organized workstation, Asian inspired wallpaper, personal photographs, piles of books, and, my prize possession, a William IV green leather desk chair.
Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?
Once the plots are structured and the storyline developed, each written chapter is edited along the way.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?
I know not everyone will like the story, so I am prepared; and, since I tremendously enjoy the writing and research, a few harsh words will not deter me.
As a writer, what scares you the most?
Not having a story to write.
Are you a disciplined writer?
Yes. I work on the story, writing, researching, marketing, or promoting, every day.
When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?
My favorite time to write is early in the morning, preferably around 5:30 a.m., when my mind is clear, it is peaceful, and there are no interruptions. I won’t allow myself to even peek at e-mails, I don’t want anything to distract me for at least three hours. I am always surprised and disappointed how fast that time goes.
Do you have any unusual writing quirks?
My writing uniform. I always write in black cotton leggings and a white stretch cotton long sleeve T-shirt.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
No writer’s block or anxiety at all. I think it helps to be prepared with good research, photos for inspiration, and organized files, readily available when an idea is sparked at the keyboard. I think, no matter your subject, organization is key. Your mind cannot possibly keep everything neatly filed and available when you need it. My iPad has been tremendously helpful for note taking, and cross-referencing, and I constantly use it in conjunction with my computer.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
After working tirelessly for three years, researching, developing, and writing, I was ready to publish, but knew that, as an indie author, I would probably have to wait another few years more to be picked-up by an agent , and then a traditional publisher. It was clear, if I wanted to see the book printed, I would have to self-publish, and I immersed myself with everything on the subject I could find on-line. When the time came last February to put the pieces together, it was a smooth and pleasant experience. A Very Good Life is available on Amazon.com , the print book and digital edition for Kindle and all devices that support the Kindle App.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
Volume Two: “April Snow” beings with Dana in London on holiday. While shopping at Jaeger’s on Bond Street, she is inspired to create a similar women’s classic clothing boutique at B. Altman, but, once again, Helen, the junior buyer, is an impediment. Back in New York, she finds a new love interest, Mark, who introduces her to Irwin Berger, a menswear manufacturer. After Dana learns that Brooks Brothers is opening a ladies department with fashions made in the cutting rooms of menswear manufacturers, she convinces Irwin to work with her to design a private label collection of tailored clothing, using menswear fabrics, to present to senior management at B. Altman. When Mark’s daughter suffers a serious horseback riding accident, she is faced with a new heartache, and, the always resilient Dana, concentrates on her work. Dana meets a mysterious woman, Abby, in London, and she invites her to speak at a luncheon program at the Colony Club, but Abby doesn’t show. The book ends with Dana receiving a letter from Abby’s husband, and this correspondence sets the stage for Volume Three.
Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!