Jenny Flynn defies the odds and conventions in her pursuit of the sky. She attracts the attention of Laura Bailey, a brash reporter crashing through her own glass ceiling at a New York City newspaper. Laura chases the pilot’s story–and the truth about her own mysterious father–on a barnstorming escapade from Manhattan to the Midwest.
Flying Jenny offers a vivid portrait of an earlier time when airplanes drew swarming crowds entranced by the pioneers–male and female–of flight.
We sat down with FLYING JENNY author, Theasa Tuohy, to discuss flying, writing, and everything in between!
So, tell me more about FLYING JENNY.
Jenny Flynn defies the odds and convention. “You can’t fly in a skirt,” she snaps in response to a question from Laura, an equally brash young woman who is crashing through her own glass-ceiling reporting for a tabloid newspaper. The two continually clash as Laura chases the story cross-country following Jenny’s barnstorming escapades.
A vivid and exciting portrait of an earlier time when airplanes were such a thing of wonder that crowds of spectators swarmed onto runways for a dangerous view of the exploits of the men − and women − pioneers of flight.
How long had you been working on this book?
I started writing it about six years ago. In my head, about twenty years.
What parts of your experience did you draw on and how this affected your work?
I grew up on crazy flying stories: My mother was an early-day pilot. My father’s childhood friend was Paul Braniff, who started Braniff Airways.
I come from a long line of independent women and always a bit impatient with claims about oppression. I wanted to explore the lives of two women doing so-called men’s jobs, but coming from very different backgrounds. One had to struggle, the other didn’t. Flying was and is an expensive hobby. The early-day women had either husbands or rich fathers. Being an early-day female journalist took grit, not money.
What challenges did you encounter while writing this book and how did you overcome them?
Nothing that instantly leaps to mind except my reportorial obsession with getting the facts straight, which involved driving a long way to Pawhuska, Okla., to double check the one thing I couldn’t quite be sure of from my Internet research: That there was enough space behind its Courthouse to land a plane. Otherwise, I could work out all sorts of things sitting at my desk like how much fuel a JN4 would need to fly from Atchison, Kansas, to Ponca City, Okla.
Can you tell us about your writing process?
Need to hit the computer as soon as I roll out of bed, otherwise the day gets frittered away.
What surprised you about this book?
How much fun it is. And how Jenny completely took over the writing during the scene when she confronts Laura’s mother about who Laura’s father is.
Writers say this sort of thing all the time, about a character taking over, and certainly it happens quite often for me because I’m one of those very peculiar people who never works from an outline. Truly, I rarely know from one day to the next what’s going to happen to my people. For me that’s the fun. That’s why readers read, to find out what’s going to happen. And that’s exactly why I write. I spent a long career having to stick to the facts, and while I’m still compulsive about accuracy of details of time and place and smell and color, I adore that I can now make things up. So I do some research about a setting or event, then I let the characters out to run around in the scene that me, the reporter, is describing as it unfolds. This may all sound swell after the fact. But I had an awful time grasping the difference between writing a bunch of lively chapters and writing a novel. When I finally sorted it out, thanks to Kaylie Jones, I decided that journalism is linear and fiction is circular: Things and feelings and even weird throwaway characters need to come back, keep circling through a novel.
What are you most excited for readers to discover in this book?
The incredible details and stunts of early day flying. And the reign of terror on the Osage.
What are you working on now?
Just finishing up the 2nd book in a quirky mystery series set in Paris featuring several American ex-pats: A flighty actress, her 4 1/12 year old niece who fancies herself a detective, the kid’s mother, who is a journalist, and their friends.
Pre-order your copy here: http://bit.ly/FlyingJenny