Lynn Steward, a veteran of the New York fashion industry and a buyer on the team that started the women’s department at Brooks Brothers, created the Dana McGarry series, set at a transformational time in the 1970s world of fashion and in the lives of multigenerational women. What Might Have Been is the second volume in the series. A Very Good Life, Steward’s debut novel, was published in March 2014.
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Interview with the Author:
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
About five years ago. 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 started developing a TV pilot about New York in the seventies because.
How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
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. It is a time and world that I knew very well.
I realized at some point, however, that the main character, Dana McGarry, needed more drama and the plots had to be developed, and I felt the best way to do that was to further develop the story in a novel. A Very Good Life, inspired by the pilot and first season, was published in 2014. . What Might Have Been, is based on season two.
Tell us about your writing process.
The Dana McGarry Series takes place in the 1970s world of the New York fashion industry, and required tons of research to supplement my personal experience. I easily spent a year and a half researching – a many hours every day, and more than thirty hours some weekends. I studied historic events, iconic women, not only individuals, but how they related to each other, and interiors of famous locations, such as the B. Altman department store, 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 notes and articles by date, and made spread sheets of events. Quickly reaching for the right file is crucial when an idea is sparked at the keyboard.
What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
When Dana finds a shrewd way to retake the selling floor space she needs for her British boutique. I can feel her sense of accomplishment and see her character arc as she grows more confident, and cunning. Her determination is relentless.
Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Most definitely, Dana: an underestimated over-achiever.
What is your most interesting writing quirk?
Perhaps it’s a throw-back from my school days, but I like uniforms. Not surprisingly, I always wear black leggings and a white long sleeve stretch-cotton T-shirt when I’m writing.
Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
I’m constantly reading, although not always novels. Being an Anglophile, I especially like British authors, and one of my favorites is Ian McEwan.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Write what you love and know, and just keep writing. Don’t worry about style and grammar, that’s why we have editors.
What would be the Dream Cast for you book if it was to be turned into a movie?
Dana: Felicity Jones ~ Mark: a serious Ben Stiller ~ Brett: an obnoxious John Krasinski ~ Dana’s mother: Blythe Danner ~ Mark’s daughter: Kiernan Shipka
What do you have in store next for your readers?
I am tirelessly working on a pilot script for the Dana McGarry Series.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
If you read the series, and can see the characters and stories alive on the screen, please tell the world in your Amazon review!!
About the Book
Title: What Might Have Been
Genre: Literary fiction/women’s fiction
Author: Lynn Steward
Buy it from Amazon
As a fashion buyer at one of New York’s most glamorous department stores, Dana McGarry is a tastemaker, her keen instinct for fashion trends and innovative ideas coupled with a razor sharp business sense. But like the elegant and conservative store that employs her, Dana is caught between two eras—between being liked and standing her ground, between playing by the rules and being a maverick. Dana is sensitive and beautiful, but what you see is not what you get. Behind the cool and attractive facade, Dana is both driven by her need to control yet impeded by her expectation of perfectionism. As she competes to replace women at the top of their game, she is challenged by jealous colleagues. And when a wealthy love interest wants to open doors and support her ambition, she embraces Coco Chanel’s mantra of “never wanting to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” As the women’s movement paves the way, Dana finds a path to the career she wants at the expense of happiness that was not meant to be.
Steward captures the nuances of 70s life in New York City and provides the perfect backdrop for an independent woman determined to make her mark. What Might Have Been is a story that transcends any period.