In this episode, I'm chatting with Nicola Harrision, author of two novels featured on Art In Fiction: Laguna Beach in the Visual Arts category and The Show Girl in the Theater category.
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Hello and welcome. I'm Carol Cram, host of the Art In Fiction podcast. This episode features Nicola Harrison, author of Hotel Laguna, listed in the Visual Arts category on Art In Fiction, and The Show Girl listed in the Theater category on Art In Fiction.
Born and raised in England. Nicola moved with her family to Southern California when she was 14. She's a graduate of UCLA and received her MFA from Stony Brook University. Prior to writing novels, Nicola worked as a fashion journalist in New York City where she lived for 17 years. Now she resides in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband, two sons, and a high maintenance chihuahua named Lola. Welcome to the Art In Fiction podcast, Nicola.
Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be on your podcast.
I really enjoyed both Hotel Laguna, your latest novel, and The Show Girl, both starring protagonists that are engaging with the arts, Visual Arts in Hotel Laguna and Dance and Theater in The Show Girl. Let's start with Hotel Laguna. What was your inspiration for this novel?
So, I started thinking about this novel in the spring of 2020 at the height of Covid. I had turned in my last book, The Show Girl, and it was time to start thinking about what I wanted to write next. And everything felt very uncertain. And we were on lockdown on the East Coast, and I had this moment where I was like, I'm never going to be able to write again because, you know, I was home with two kids and everything. I couldn't travel for physical research. So I thought to myself, well, where do I want to live in my imagination for the next year and a half or two years, or however long it takes me to write my next book? Because I had a feeling that there was going to be a lot of that sort of me-in-my-mind thinking about it and writing about it without being able to get out into the world too much.
And I kept coming back to the idea of Laguna Beach, California. It's an artists’ community in Southern California. And it's a place where I have a lot of fond memories. I lived there right after college for about a year in a little tiny shoebox of an apartment, but it was all mine. I didn't have any roommates. I had my first job with a paycheck, and I felt my first taste of independence. But also, both of my parents are artists. My dad paints oil paintings and my mom does watercolor, and they had both exhibited in some of the galleries in Laguna Beach and some of the art festivals down there. It's just a place that I love. And I kept coming back to the idea of setting a novel in Laguna Beach. And once I had settled on that idea as a setting, and then I did some research in what was going on in Laguna at various times.
I settled on the time period of the 1940s, right after World War II. And then through some of my research I learned about the 6 million women who worked on the home front during World War II as Rosie the Riveters. They worked in airplane factories and ammunition plants, helping build aircraft and doing all kinds of things to help win the war. But the book came together in that way.
It's the story of a woman who's been working in one of the airplane factories during World War II, and then the men come home from war and they take their jobs back and the women are told, thank you for your efforts, but now you can go back to being housewives and mothers. And my protagonist, Hazel, she really loved the job. She was thriving in the position. She loved doing what was considered a man's job and thriving in it. And she was kind of disappointed to have to give up her job. And that's when she ends up in Laguna Beach, randomly, desperately taking a job working with a famous artist, Hanson Radcliffe. But she ends up working with him as an artist model and then his assistant, and she becomes very involved in the art world down in Laguna Beach. So that's how it got started.
Oh, and it's so much fun. There are so many elements to this novel that I enjoyed. First off, the whole Rosie the Riveter thing, that was a really great idea to get a character who, you know, had been one of the workers. And then what were they going to do afterwards? Because I'm sure there were a lot of women who were rootless, like they had a sense of purpose and suddenly they had nothing.
Exactly. Yes. And many of them moved across to different parts of the country to take on these positions. And actually my husband's grandmother was a Rosie the Riveter. And I didn't know this until I had started researching this book and had read about these women, and I told him about it, and he was like, oh, yeah, my grandma Ruth did that. So, you know, as a historical fiction writer, and I'm sure you, you feel the same way when you come across little nuggets of information, especially tied in with your family. I was like, hold on a second, how did I not know about this? That was a good inspiration.
Well, no kidding. I was wondering if you had read some memoirs and that kind of thing because it was very vivid, your descriptions of her working in the factory.
Grandma Ruth is no longer alive, but my mother-in-law knew a lot about that time of her life and remembered a lot of the stories in detail. So that was very helpful. And then I found out about this association called the Rosie the Riveter Association, where their whole point is to celebrate the legacy of these women and what they did and getting their stories down. And through that organization, they introduced me to three living Rosies as they're called now. And they all live in a senior living home close to where I live. And I got to go and visit them and interview them. One of them was 102, one of them was 95, and one of them was 90. They were amazing. That, combined with the stories of my husband's grandmother, really brought this character to life for me.
Oh my goodness. How wonderful that would be to actually go and interview them. That's like a historical novelist’s dream come true.
My current novel is set too far back. Everybody's gone by now. And I wish I'd talked to my grandmother and my great-grandmother when I had the chance, but of course you don't know.
You mentioned that both your parents were artists because my husband's an artist, so I'm very familiar with a lot of the things you talked about, stretching canvases and preparing canvases and everything. And I was wondering how come you knew all that so well, and that explains it, that your parents were artists.
Yes. They're artists. And also my dad for a long time taught painting classes in our garage, actually. Well, he used to do it in a studio, but then just ended up being in the garage. All these people came over and he would set everything up and they just loved him. And so I was around that all the time. Just that smell of oil paints and linseed oil and canvases being stacked up and, you know, still kind of damp, so you couldn't go anywhere near them. I was just around that a lot.
Well, I gathered that must have been the case. That also gives the novel an extra sort of flair because you really feel like you understood what it was like to be an artist. And as someone, as I said, who lives with an artist and smells that all the time, well, when he works with oils, you know, I really appreciated that because it's nice to have an artist or author who knows what they're talking about when it comes visual art.
Another thing that I loved about the novel was the whole Pageant of the Masters, which I had never heard about. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
Yes. Iit's funny because I didn't even think this was going to be part of the book until I was about maybe like a third of the way in. So the Pageant of the Masters, and it's hard to describe, but I'm going to attempt to. The Pageant of the Masters is a big festival that they hold in Laguna Beach every summer from July through September. And what they do is they do living pictures where they recreate famous works of art the size of the stage. Basically, people are in the paintings sort of posing in the paintings. And you would recognize these paintings and works of art because they're pretty famous. It used to be that you had to be a Laguna Beach local to be in these tableaux, but then it became so popular, they now open it up so that anyone who lives in Southern California can audition to be in the show.
And through amazing makeup and costume and lighting, they really trick you into believing that you're looking at a two dimensional image of this famous work of art. And they're held in Laguna Beach in a big canyon, and it's an amphitheater with 2,600 seats. And every year this show attracts a quarter of a million visitors. It's become really, really popular and just such a unique production. My character gets involved in putting on this show in the forties right after World War II. And what I learned when I was researching this book was that the Pageant of the Masters had actually started in 1932. It was the same year that the Olympics were going on in Los Angeles.
And the artist community down in Laguna Beach saw and heard about all these visitors and tourists going to the Los Angeles Olympics, which is about an hour up the road. And they were like, wait a second, how do we get those people to come down to Laguna Beach and to know about our art and our studios and art? So they opened their studio doors, they put out their art, and then they put on this show, which was the very early days of the Pageant of the Masters, which at the time was a bit of an amateur act. They just sort of held up a large picture frame and had someone sort of posing behind it. But then each year it became more and more professional because they had the local artists volunteering to paint the backdrops and the props and help with the costumes. And it became so popular that they were really excited about opening it the following year. But then, of course World War II happened and it got shut down for four years. And in my book, Hazel, the protagonist, is involved in helping get the show back up and running again for the first time after World War II. The only other time that the Pageant of the Masters did not run was for the year 2020 because of Covid.
I didn't know it was still going. That's amazing. What a wonderful thing. I always love historical novels that help me learn something new. What an undertaking.
It requires hundreds of volunteers to put on the show, and it's really a great production. If you ever have a chance to come down to Laguna Beach, you should go see the show.
I see that you have an upcoming event on July 31st in Laguna Beach. Is that to talk about your novel, I presume?
Yes, actually, that is, we're going to go with a group of people to the Pageant of the Masters. We're going to go to dinner first to take a look around the real Hotel Laguna that's right there in Laguna Beach, and then go to dinner, and then we're going to go to the show, the Pageant of the Masters. And I think I'm working on it. I think we're going to be able to get a backstage tour.
Well, that sounds fantastic. And I was thinking about your main character, Hazel. She's fascinating because she’s definitely of her time, but she's also a bit of ahead of her time. What themes were you wanting to express using Hazel as your protagonist?
I always seem to be drawn towards writing about strong female protagonists who don't really want to be boxed into a predetermined role. So there's definitely a feminist theme that I keep coming back to again and again. You know, I just love the idea of Hazel working this job in the airplane factory and, you know, just doing so well and loving it and thriving at it. And then after she has a taste of something more, it sort of allows her to dream bigger for the rest of her life, or at least for this story. So, I agree with you. She's definitely a little ahead of her time. She's a little rebellious. Well, she might not be considered rebellious by today's standards, but back then she was, you know, right after World War II after the women had worked in these roles and they had worn their overalls and their boots and their goggles and everything, they were sort of told, okay, ladies, now go back to wearing your skirts and get back into your feminine roles because that's now the patriotic thing to do.
And she sort of rebels against that a little bit. She still wants to wear her pants.
And another thing I really liked about her just from the point of view of writing a good character is that she made so many mistakes and was really quite flawed a lot of the time, which actually just made her more endearing.
Yes. It's a lot more fun to write a flawed character who's slipping up and making mistakes than someone who's getting it right all along. I don't think that's any fun to read about.
I think you're right. And that's a good message for writers too. Don't make your protagonist too good.
Right, exactly. Exactly.
Because then we can relate to them. So would you like to do a short reading from Hotel Laguna?
Yes. Yes. I thought I would read a little piece, a little section from when she is first getting involved with the Pageant of the Masters. So they also set up these booths where people can browse artwork available by local artists before the show begins. And in the previous section they've been setting up these booths and she shows up with her overalls and her work boots and she's like, I can help. And she's told, well, you know, we've got the men doing this, you can go and help out in the costume department. And she's a little disappointed, but that's where she ends up.
I walked toward a large, ripped and faded poster mounted above the entrance to the seating area. It pictured a statuesque woman with a crown, wearing a long gown, looking out over orange groves with the mountains in the background and it read Pageant of the Masters and The Festival of the Arts, Laguna Beach, Orange Co, California 1941. It was still up from the last show before the war.
Gladys Moynahan was bent over double with her head in a trunk of what appeared to be costumes.
“Mrs. Moynahan? Hello, Mrs. Moynahan.”
She was digging out swaths of fabric and throwing them behind her in the tiny, closet-like space. Finally, she stood up, her back to me, and rubbed the palm of her hand up and down her spine.
“Mrs. Moynahan?” I tried again.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” she yelped, spinning around. “Child you gave me a start!”
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to alarm you,” She looked crazed, her frizzy chin-length hair wild, her face still flushed from being upside down. “Floyd said you might need a hand in the costume department.”
“Oh, could I ever?” She wiped a hand across her perspiring brow and sat down on an old trunk, visibly relieved. “Oh, bless you, I could use a hundred hands to help with this mess, but I’ll take whatever I can get.” She pushed some clothes off a small upright box and patted it.
“Here, take a seat, let’s have a little break and a cup of hot chocolate before we dive in, shall we?” She reached down, picked up a flask off the ground, unscrewed it, and poured a steaming chocolate milk into two cups. “Here you go love,” she said handing one to me.
I smiled, took a sip, then pulled it away, quickly feeling the milk burn my tongue.
“Steady on, there,” she said, “It’s hot, boiled on the stove just before I got here. Let it cool.” She blew on hers and leaned back against the wall, pleased, it seemed, to have an excuse to rest for a moment. “So, what sparks your interest in the costume department?” she asked.
“Well,” I sighed, not wanting to disappoint the lady. “Truth is, I did offer to help build the booths.”
“Ah,” she said, as if everything suddenly made sense, my outfit, my shoes, the bandana.
“But they didn’t want a woman doing a man’s job.”
She gave a few sympathetic nods. “They can be a stubborn lot.” I thought we might continue the conversation, that she might sympathize with the way we women were treated as if we were incapable of anything unless it involved dressing someone or nursing a child. But she was focused on the task at hand. “Well, I think we’re getting closer to having a final decision on the paintings we’ll be presenting this year.” She smiled and lifted a large book from a pile on the floor. “There are going to be a total of sixty-four pictures presented in three separate programs during the twelve performance nights. That’s twenty-one pictures each night.”
“They don’t just do the same show every day?”
She shook her head. “No, that’s not the way we do it. Many folks will buy tickets to see all three presentations just so they can see the complete sixty-four pictures. It’s a lot of work when you think each picture, along with the people holding still in it, is only displayed for ninety seconds, but it’s well worth it when you see the final result. Magnificent,” she smiled and looked up to the ceiling of the small space we were crammed into as if she were picturing the whole thing right there and then.
“So, you have to dress a lot more people, then.”
“One hundred and seventy-five Lagunians will be posing in this year’s paintings—unless they change their minds about the program again—but here’s what we’ve got so far.” She opened the book on her lap and took out a newspaper clipping tucked into the book. It was a photograph of six marines raising the American flag atop a mountain in the Pacific right at the end of the war. I’d seen the image in the Sunday paper, and it had been reprinted in lots of magazines and papers since.
“Flag Raising on Iwo Jima,” Mrs. Moynahan said solemnly. “In the past we’ve focused on the old masters, but everyone seems to agree that this photograph is especially powerful and relevant. We’ll have to find six strapping fellas to cast in that one.”
She placed the photograph back into the book and turned to a page marked with a strip of paper. “This one’s ‘The Birth of the Flag,’ by Henry Mosler, another patriotic one but this is from 1777.”
The painting was of four women dressed in floor length, corseted dresses and cloth bonnets, sewing the first flag.
“We’ll need a lot of fabric for this one, four dresses and a flag,” she said. Old is best though, table clothes, curtains, you don’t want anything too new looking.”
She continued showing me various pictures, many of which I’d never heard of: “Indian by Firelight,” by E. Irving Course, “The Mill Girl,” by William Strang. Others were well known, such as the sculpture, “The Discus Thrower,” by Myron, for which the young man portraying it would need to have not an inch of fat on his body and a lot of muscles. I wondered if someone of that stature lived in Laguna Beach. And then, “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci.
“We always finish with ‘The Last Supper’,” Mrs. Moynahan said, a look of pride on her face. “Though we’ll have to find a few new disciples this year, two of the young men who played Peter and Matthew didn’t make it back home.” She made the sign of the cross and closed her eyes for a brief moment. Then she stood up and screwed the lid back on her flask of hot chocolate.
“Come on then, let me show you what we have that’s salvageable.”
Oh, thank you. That was wonderful. That was a good description of what the Pageant of the Masters was. I'm still amazed that they could do this. This just seems such a wonderful thing.
I know, it's really quite unique and seems like a lot of work.
Yeah. And I'm just amazed I've never even heard of it.
Right. I've been on a book tour and it's funny because if I'm talking to people in Southern California, most people know about it and many people have been to see it. But I was just on the East Coast in South Carolina and Delaware and people had not heard of it before.
I'm really surprised I haven't. Now your main artist in the novel is Hanson Radcliffe. I presume he's fictional.
He is fictional, yes.
Is he modeled on any artist in particular from that period?
I did a lot of research about the artists at that period, and what was very popular then in that area was the California Impressionist movement. And they were inspired by the French Impressionists, but very influenced by the sunlight, basically the Southern California sun. And that, you know, changed the colors of things so they would paint it exactly as they would see it. If they painted at dawn, they would paint the ocean deep purple if that's what it looked like. And the palm trees might be burnt orange. And so they paint in very vivid colors with loose brush strokes.
And so I read about those artists and, but I didn't want to make this character based on an actual artist, because then I would have been restricted by his actual life. I would've felt very obligated to write exactly about that artist's life and the time period. And I wanted to have the freedom to fictionalize. So yeah, he's loosely inspired by these artists, but not based on any one particular artist.
Yes, I thought so. You did him very well. Again, as someone who lives with an artist, I could definitely relate.
Hopefully not too much.
No, hopefully not. No, not quite as bad as that, for sure. And my husband doesn't do figurative work. Not really. He does more abstract.
So let's talk a little bit about The Show Girl. Of course, the arts connection there is the Ziegfeld Follies. Can you tell us an overview of that novel?
Yes. So this book came out in 2021, and it takes place at the end of the Roaring Twenties. And it's about a young woman, Olive McCormick, who's from the Midwest. But she basically gives up everything, including her disapproving family, to pursue her dream of becoming one of the Ziegfeld Follies as a show girl on Broadway. And after briefly meeting the famous Broadway producer, Florenz Ziegfeld, she shows up in New York unannounced and sort of storms into his office and basically demands that he give her a role in the glamorous Broadway show. And so it's a fun book. And we go on this wild ride with her, on her ups and downs on her journey to becoming a show girl on Broadway.
I was intrigued by how those Ziegfeld girls were both empowered, but they were also exploited. What do you think about that?
Yes, they were, but it's interesting because at the time, the Ziegfeld Follies was one of the most spectacular reviews on Broadway. You know, now when you go and see a Broadway show, you kind of expect it to be fabulous, and you know that there's going to be good talent and singers and performers. But back then, the standard wasn't that high yet. And so Florenz Ziegfeld really elevated that standard, and he invested. I mean, that's why he ended up being broke at the end of his life because he invested so much money into costumes and the stage design and the sets and everything.
And he really put these women on a pedestal. And he said that they were the most beautiful women in the world, but he also had, you know, insane standards. Like, he wrote articles or was interviewed for articles for magazines where he would say the exact specifics of how tall his women needed to be, what size feet they had to have, you know, the shape of their nose had to be a certain way.
Unless you really fit into what he thought of as beautiful, then you couldn't be in his show. You had to be very talented to be one of these performers in his shows. You had to either be able to sing or dance or both. And at the time it was also quite scandalous because they were a bit scantily clad for the time period. And so it was an amazing form of entertainment. And, in some ways, he treated these women very well and sort of gave them their opportunity to shine, but in other ways they were, you know, exploited. And he also slept with a lot of these women.
And of course another element in that novel is the great Adirondack Camps in the 1920s, something else I didn't really know much about.
Yes, that was really my way into this book. I didn't think that I was going to write a book about a Ziegfeld Follies show girl. I actually had written an article for a travel magazine about a hotel that was opening called The Point up in the Adirondacks. And it was a former compound or vacation home for the Roosevelt family. And it had since been made into this fabulous hotel. And what these wealthy industrialist families used to do back in the twenties is they would build these compounds that they called rustic retreats up in the woods in the Adirondacks, but they weren't rustic at all. I mean, they were, like, very, very glamorous. And they would have dinner parties where you had to be in cocktail attire and everything, and they would have chefs and butlers and everything up there at their rustic retreats.
And so this hotel was sort of recreating the feel of that time. And I was writing about it for an article, and then as I learned about it, I realized there were lots of these, what were called great camps, up in the Adirondacks, with these families. And I thought that would be a great place to set a novel at one of these great camps. So I went up to the Adirondacks and I visited one of the great camps, and I took a tour with a local historian, and he was telling us all about the architecture and the lake. The property was on the lakeside, and he was just telling us about the history, but nothing was quite grabbing me for a story until he mentioned that the owner of this particular camp that I went to visit, that his wife had been a Ziegfeld Follies girl, and that she used to bring all of her theater friends and show girlfriends up to the Adirondacks, and she would throw these wild parties up there in the woods. And she used to insist that no one should have to walk more than 500 feet without having a cocktail in their hand. So she set up bar carts and bartenders along the hiking trails and, you know, and I heard that and I was like, she sounds like a lot of fun and quite the character. So that's where this story took off.
Yes. And you have that in the book, don't you, about the bar carts every 500 feet.
But it ended up being a smaller part of the book. It wasn't like the main point, the main part of it.
No, but it was an interesting dimension how that, you know, she starts off as a Ziegfeld Follies girl and then ends up with all these wealthy people sort of swanning about.
It was very interesting. And I was intrigued by how long it took them to get there.
It's not that far. If you drive now from New York City, it's, you know, I think like a couple of hours, but then it was very difficult to get to. And that's what, for the wealthy elite, that's what made it so appealing to them because it's like the harder it was to get to, the more prestigious it was. And so they used to have trains that would go up there and the guy who she is interested in or there's a love story with, has a private train car that it can be hooked onto the back of another train. And you can hook it on and hook it off depending on where you're going. And you can get to places more directly by going, traveling, with your own private train car.
One of my goals with the Art In Fiction podcast is inspiring other authors. And so I'd like to ask you some writer-focused questions. Let's talk, first off, about research. Do you have some advice for authors on research methods?
I would say whenever possible when you're writing about a particular place, try to go to that place. Or for me, I love to write about places where I've either spent a lot of time or I live because I can really delve into the local history. And so for Hotel Laguna, like as I mentioned, it was during Covid that I started writing this book. And so I was emailing back and forth with the librarian at the Laguna Beach Library, and she was being very helpful and she was answering questions as she could and sending me articles here and there. But it wasn't until I was able to set foot in that library that I was sort of salivating because that's when I found the best nuggets of research. She actually came out, when I finally got to go to the Laguna Beach Library, she came out with this box and she was like, there might be some things of interest to you here.
And she had the original program of the Pageant of the Masters from 1946. And I was, like, amazing. Because it had articles on how they put the show on, and pictures and articles about the behind-the- scenes of how they did it all. They had the entire list of the paintings that they recreated that year, and they also had advertisements for local businesses of hotels, restaurants, shops. And that all gives it that flavor that you want you those little details.
So you can see what people might have for dinner when they go to a restaurant in Laguna Beach at that time. So that was really amazing. I guess I would say that my advice is to go to the local library because they always have more information and they have things in the archives that they might not have at other libraries that are not local to your story.
And then also, most towns have a historical society. And that was really helpful to me also for Hotel Laguna. But, I guess I would say the best piece of advice is research as much as you can, get as much knowledge as you have about your topic. But at some point when you want to start writing, put all those books and those notes away because, or at least that's what I like to do. I like to take a lot of notes and soak it all up and then just at some point put it away. Because I never wanted to read like a textbook. I never want you to feel the research when you're reading the story. And I think that can happen if you're sort of constantly referring to research. And I think that the really good parts that you want to include, if they stick in your mind long after you've read about it and you've taken your notes, if they're still in your mind and wanting to be part of the story, it'll make its way in. So that's my advice.
That's very, very true. Going and seeing the actual archives and being able to handle things. I remember going to the Victoria and Albert archives and actually got to hold programs and things for my novel that was set in 1809. It's like, oh wow. I've seen digitized versions, but to actually hold them and look at them, there's nothing like it.
It's different, right? I don't know what it is, but you feel more connected to it. It's different from looking at it on a screen.
Very much so. I know right now, my current novel is set in cotton mills in the 1880s and 1890s in Yorkshire. And I'm frustrated because I actually don't have time to go over there right now because there are actual museums and that's another great place to go where you can hear what it sounded like to be in a cotton mill in the 1880s and 1890s. It was very loud. But I want to be able to do that and I can't right now. That's one of the problems when you set your work farther away from where you live.
Pros and cons. Right. Because then you have excuses to visit.
Exactly. So can you tell us something about your writing routines?
So I have two young kids, well, youngish, I have a four-and-a-half year old and a 13-year old. And so I write when they're at school. So I basically have until three o'clock to get my writing done and other publishing related things, emails and all of those things. And I actually think that having that cutoff of three o'clock sort of forces you to get your act together and get your butt in the chair. And there's no time to wait around for the muse or wait for inspiration. Like, you just have to get your writing done. So I think that routine of their school schedule helps me with my routine with my writing schedule. Also, I'm in a writing workshop. When I lived in New York, we would meet in person on a Thursday evening and we would share seven pages of the work that we're doing that week.
And it would be rough and raw and, you know, you're not quite ready to share it. But this group of friends that I have, this group of writers, we've been meeting for so long that it doesn't matter. We can trust each other. Now we meet on Zoom because I'm in California and they're still in New York, so I meet on Zoom with them, but just having that weekly deadline of knowing that I'm going to share seven pages of my work, no matter how good it or bad it is, sort of it holds me accountable. And it keeps me on track. We will give each other our gut reactions about what we think about the work, and it doesn't let me really go down a rabbit hole or too far in the wrong direction. They kind of help me reel it in. So just having that is really helpful for me.
Also, you know, it's a very solitary job. You're sitting with your laptop or your typewriter, whatever your choice is, and you're working by yourself and I think it's nice to have a bit of human interaction and contact with the manuscript that you're working on.
Oh, I totally get that. I used to be in a writing group and I'm not anymore, unfortunately. I mean, the pandemic kind of disrupted so much, but that is such great advice. I really believe in those. I think it's so great when you can just share your work, as you say, and that idea about having an actual routine, I mean, it is a job, and if you're just sort of waiting for inspiration, you're not going to get very far.
Yeah. And I think that's the difference between making, you know, writing as a hobby versus as a job. You know, when you are publishing books, you're going to have deadlines and you're going to have people who are waiting for you to turn something in. And so all of that helps me. I mean, it's like I have a love-hate relationship with deadlines. Of course, you don't like the pressure, but also knowing that there's a certain amount of time that you have to work on this project, it helps you just sort of get it done.
Yes. I think you always get more done when you have a deadline. I know I do.
Are you able to share what you're working on now?
I can, but it might change a little because I'm not done.
Oh, that's okay. But if you want to, yeah. What is it that you're working on now?
So I seem to be working my way through the decades. My first book Montauk was in the thirties. The Show Girl we talked about was set in the 1920s. Hotel Laguna was in the forties. So you can guess what I'm writing now. It's in the fifties. And this one is also set in Southern California, and it's on a place called Balboa Island, which is a little island just off Newport Beach in Southern California. And it's the story of three women who form an unlikely friendship at the beginning of the book. They don't know each other. One of them is beloved, well-known by everyone on the little island, sort of a bit of a socialite. Another one is a mother of two young children who's in a bit of a struggling marriage. And the third woman is a former disgraced tennis champion who's living as a recluse on the island trying to sort of hide out from the public eye. And their lives unexpectedly get intertwined, and so they form an unlikely friendship. So that's pretty much as much as I can say right now because I'm only about halfway through.
Is there any arts tie-in that novel?
Not too much. There's some tennis tie-in.
Oh, that's okay. I was just interested. Not every novel has to have an arts tie-in, for sure.
Not yet. It might.
Is there anything else you'd like to add, Nicola?
I've loved talking to you about Hotel Laguna and The Show Girl, and I love this podcast. I think you're doing such a wonderful thing talking about books that incorporate the arts. So thank you. This has been great.
Thanks Nicola. This has been a real pleasure.
I've been speaking with Nicola Harrison, author of Hotel Laguna, listed in the Visual Arts category, and The Show Girl listed in the Theater category on Art In Fiction at www.artinfiction.com. Be sure to check the show notes for a link to Nicola's website at www.nicolaharrison.com. You'll also find a link to a 20% discount on a subscription to Pro Writing Aid, a fantastic editing tool for writers. If you are enjoying the Art In Fiction Podcast, please help us keep the lights on by donating a coffee on the Ko-Fi website. The link is in the show notes.
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