Lynn Steward 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.
About the Book
Although Lynn Steward’s debut novel, A Very Good Life, takes place in 1970s New York City. it has a 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.
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A: 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. 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.
After meeting with professionals in the entertainment industry, I realized that the main character needed more drama and the plots had to be developed, and I felt the best way to do that was to convert the pilot into a novel. A Very Good Life is the first in a five-book series inspired by the TV show and featuring Dana McGarry.
Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.
A: Dana initially comes across as an underdog. She is extremely likeable, has a soft demeanor, and tries hard to please, but she is being treated shabbily by her husband at home and her superiors at work. Readers start routing for her immediately, hoping she will succeed in her quest for self-fulfillment. Can she find her place in the new world – International Women’s Year – where women can have a voice, or will she allow herself to be manipulated into doing things that go against her growing self-confidence?
Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?
A: I started developing the TV show approximately three years ago, spending the first year and a half researching historic facts, places, and events from the period, and creating the characters. I did not have writers block or any bumps along the way. The story just kept writing itself. Characters I thought would play an important role, never made it to the page, and others that I least expected became my favorites.
Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?
A: I again go back to “Write what you know.” New York City, especially Murray Hill, is home to me. As a child I was often in Manhattan visiting my grandparents in their Italian neighborhood on 106th St Street.There is so much to draw on when writing about a place or topic that is familiar, or part of your soul. I lived many years a few blocks from B. Altman, and I was in the store practically every day, as well as Mary Elizabeth’s tea room, the lectures at the Metropolitan Museum with Rosamond Bernier, and, of course, the exciting costume exhibits at the Met staged by Diana Vreeland. I have great affection and enthusiasm for the real and fictional characters, and the period, and I think that is translated to the page.
Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?
A: No 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 I constantly use it in conjunction with my computer.
Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: 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.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Being at peace with one’s self, happy to face a new day.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?
A: I believe that may be a problem. I quickly learned that writing becomes an all-consuming passion; you effortlessly and selfishly block out everything and everyone. I find author interviews in The Paris Review give good and interesting insight into the minds and lives of writers, and, while all are very different people, they share an intensity that even I, at my inexperienced level, could relate. With that being said, I think if you really long to get that story on paper, you will find a way; structure a routine, a time of day to be alone. It’s difficult to write many hours straight, so you will welcome the company of family and loved ones. Just try to curb your enthusiasm and don’t expect others to care what your favorite character did in the last chapter; trust me, they rather wait to read the book!
Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?
A: Orwell got the driven part right, but I did not have a horrible experience; surprisingly exhausting, considering I was seated in one spot for hours and not running a marathon. But, yes, the editing is stressful and tedious; you pull one thread, and everything else falls apart. The passion, however, or as Orwell said, the demon, returns you to the same place the next day.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
A: I have met the most wonderful people on this new journey: kind, helpful, and patient. I have had two high energy careers, and I am enjoying the peaceful world of not only writing, but of writers.