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.
Thanks for letting us interrogate you! Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
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.
Somewhere along the way, I realized 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 write a novel. A Very Good Life, inspired by the pilot and season one, was published in 2014. What Might Have Been is based on season two.
Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be? I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
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. The only demands are the ones I put on myself; overall, it is the most wonderful experience.
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
I self-published What Might Have Been, as I did A Very Good Life. I spent three years researching, developing and writing before volume one was finished, so by then, I was ready to publish. I knew it could take years to find an agent, and more time to be picked-up by a traditional publisher. In preparation, I did extensive research on the self-publishing process, and found bloggers tremendously helpful. I also hired a good team: a graphic designer, a formatting company, two editors, a proofreader, and a lawyer to vet the manuscript. The Amazon community was great and responsive, and the whole process went smoothly. I am grateful for the opportunity to self-publish, and I appreciate the opportunity to be discovered by a traditional publisher if I am successful on-line. I also happen to have a strong marketing background and am not only knowledgeable about design, I enjoy the creative process. Even so, I have a graphic designer to help me as there is just never enough time to do it all. Social media and promotion are crucial and must be done regularly before and after publishing if you want your book to be discovered. I strongly recommend hiring the right people if you can’t do it yourself.
Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?
I do not have children, very few family distractions, and understanding friends. The good news is that I manage my own time, the bad news is that, without boundaries, I don’t know when to take a break.
In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?
I turn off my cell phone, and put it in another room. I skip dinner many nights.
What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?
I’m happy to say all went smoothly and I kept my sanity.
How about the social networks? Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
I try to keep my Facebook page current, I have over 500 Likes, and I work on Pinterest every morning. I haven’t been too active on Twitter. However, I don’t think social networks are working that well for me. I will be hiring a consultant for advice. Another learning curve in the world of self-publishing!
Book sales. Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)? How are you making the sales happen for you?
Sales are good when I take advantage of Amazon’s promotions, but, as I have read repeatedly, the more books available, the better the sales. I am hoping that What Might Have Been will increase sales of book one, A Very Good Life.
What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
I was number one for twenty-six hours on Amazon’s list of Top 100 Free Books.
I was watching the list on my iPad while I was working at my desk, and saw that A Very Good Life was number 42, then every time I glanced at the screen, it was running up the chart. When it reached number five, I thought, OMG, could it really….and then it hit the top….and sat at number one for twenty six hours over Memorial Day weekend. BTY…free books are a must if you want to garner reviews.
Okay, too much sugar for you today! Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in. Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?
I love the independence, the solitude, and the creative process.