Natasha Lester: A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald

Plan your research trip | Australian author Natasha Lester in New York City

Author Natasha Lester, photo by Stef King.

Glamour, music, stunning costumes — with a few short sentences, you’re transported right into a vivid, bustling revue show scene. Natasha Lester writes about the 1920s. 

The author lives in Australia, but despite that, Natasha took the time and trouble to travel to the USA, and to conduct research in several New York City archives. “Nothing beats sifting through archival material”, she says, “because you find things you didn’t even know you were looking for.” 

 

What was your favourite research trip, and why?

Natasha Lester: Definitely New York, in order to research A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, but the second time I went, not the first. The first time I went I was stuck in Hurricane Sandy, in downtown Manhattan with no power, no phones, no running water — it was a nightmare! I wasn’t able to do any of the research I had planned.

I went back 6 months later, in summer and with my family, and I had a wonderful time poring over old documents in dusty archives for a few hours a day and then taking the kids out in the afternoon. Nothing beats sifting through archival material because you find things you didn’t even know you were looking for.
I was specifically going to the Columbia Medical School archives to look for information on the experience of the first female medical students in the 1920s and I’d organised with the archivist to have some boxes of material ready for me. I’d done the same with the New York Public Library, specifically in relation to the papers of Billie Burke, Florenz Ziegfeld’s wife. The Ziegfeld Follies — a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway — are a key setting in my book.

 

A few of the infamous Ziegfeld Follies girls, the revue show which Natasha’s protagonist Evie joins in A Kiss for Mr Fitzgerald

Natasha Lester: A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald
Images via public domain 1.0
A music sheet from the theatre, “Some sweet day”, created in 1923. CC 2.0 via http://digitalcollections.nypl.org

 

What’s your favourite device to use while documenting the setting of your novel? Your mobile phone, audio recordings, photos, your journal?

Natasha Lester: My favourite device is definitely my phone. I take photos of every document I want to refer back to, so I now have lots of pictures of 1920s subway maps, lecture notes from a female medical student at Columbia Medical School in 1922, wages sheets from the Ziegfeld Follies in 1925 and much more.
I also take lots of pictures when I’m out on the street, walking around, so I can remember what the buildings in the area looked like.
I’ve referred to these documents, especially the subway maps, for my next book, as well as for A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, so I’m really glad I took the pictures, rather than just making notes in a notebook.

 

Can you describe any particular moment(s) when seeing the setting with your own eyes profoundly changed the way you related to your protagonists, or enabled you to understand their motives more fully?

Natasha Lester: I travelled out to Newport, Rhode Island while I was in the US and was so struck by Newport that it made it into A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald too.

The enormous mansions there are so grand and opulent and it made me really feel just how wealthy and used to luxury one of the characters in my book would be, and it also made me imagine very vividly how Evie, my not-so-wealthy main character would feel when steeping though the doors of one of those mansions for the very first time.

It was literally a tip your head back and stare upwards kind of moment, and I could feel Evie doing exactly the same thing, but with all the more at stake because she was there with the man she loved.

Personally, I am looking forward to reading this book so much, as the 1920s is my favourite era. Also, the book cover is simply stunning! The team at Hachette Australia have created an amazing book, to be published in April 2016. Want to know more about Natasha’s novel?

 

Cover: Hachette Australia

It’s 1922 in the Manhattan of gin, jazz and prosperity. Women wear makeup and hitched hemlines – and enjoy a new freedom to vote and work. Not so Evelyn Lockhart, forbidden from pursuing her passion: to become one of the first female doctors.

If Evie does fight Columbia University’s medical school for acceptance, how will she support herself? So when there’s a casting call for the infamous late-night Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway, will Evie find the nerve to audition? And if she does, what will it mean for her fledgling relationship with Upper East Side banker Thomas Whitman, a man Evie thinks she could fall in love with — if only she lived a life less scandalous?

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald will be published in April 2016.

You can already pre-order a copy at Amazon by clicking here, or at iBooks by clicking here, or at Kobo by clicking here.

Natasha Lester also frequently publishes essays about her work as a writer at her author website >> natashalester.com.au 

 

Read Natasha’s essays >>