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.
Q: Please tell us about your book, and what inspired you to write it.
A: What Might Have Been is the second novel in a five book series featuring Dana McGarry. A Very Good Life, my debut novel and book one, was published in March 2014.
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 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.
My inspiration: 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 and the fashion industry in the 1970s 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 in the fashion world, I spent twenty-two years in Manhattan. I was so overwhelmed with ideas, the TV series expanded to five seasons! The plots 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.
At some point along the way, I realized that the main character, Dana McGarry, needed more drama and the plots had to be developed. I felt the best way to do further develop the story was to write a novel.
Q: What themes do you explore in What Might Have Been?
A: Quest for identity and self-reliance.
Q: Why do you write?
A: After two careers in competitive, fast-paced industries, I have found writing to be the most relaxing and pleasant work I have known. Ideas for stories develop as I research real life female characters in the worlds of fashion, art, and business and events in the archives of newspapers and magazines. Once a flicker of a story is sparked, I can spend endless enjoyable hours developing plots and characters on the page.
Q: How picky are you with language?
A: I don’t allow myself to stress over grammar or language, although I frequently reference The Chicago Manual of Style and try to get it right. I have an excellent editor and proofreader.
Q: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
A: Pleasantly so!
Q: What is your worst time as a writer?
A: When I see “rewrite” in the subject of my editor’s email.
Q: Your best?
A: When the reviewer wants to see the next book.
Q: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
A: At the moment, no. I have the synopses and outlines completed for the remaining three books in the Dana McGarry series and I look forward to finishing the manuscripts.
Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
A: I spent eighteen months researching every detail of the period for A Very Good Life, and was I humbled by this review: “Lynn Steward highlights the nuances of 70s life in New York City that are rarely featured in books or in films set in that decade. It is a New York story told in New York style.” –Ask a New Yorker
Q: Is writing an obsession to you?
A: Every day, and for many hours, I am either writing, marketing, researching, or promoting the Dana McGarry series, so, yes, I’d say I’m obsessed!
Q: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
A: I am certainly influenced by my life and work in Manhattan. I would say the story is autobiographical in feeling but not in fact.
Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
A: I often read author interviews in The Paris Review, and I believe that is true and the reason why writers like solitude. They don’t want distractions to invade their story’s world.
Q: Where is your book available?
Q: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?