Bestselling Author


The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison

My guest for this Historical Happy Hour is Nicola Harrison to discuss her new novel, The Show Girl. The Show Girl gives a glimpse of the glamorous world of the Ziegfeld Follies through the eyes of a young midwestern woman who comes to New York City to find her destiny as a Ziegfeld Follies star.

Nicola Harrison

Nicola Harrison is the author of three historical fiction novels,  Montauk, The Show Girl, and  Hotel Laguna. Born and raised in England, she moved with her family to Southern California when she was 14. She is a graduate of UCLA and received her MFA from Stony Brook University. Prior to writing novels she 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.

In this episode of Historical Happy Hour, bestselling author Jane Healey hosts Nicola Harrison, celebrating her new release, “The Showgirl.” Harrison shares the roaring 20s’ tale of Olive McCormick, a Midwesterner determined to become a Broadway star, navigating New York’s glittering but harsh theater scene. Through vibrant discussions, they explore the inspiration behind Olive’s character, Harrison’s research journey, and the novel’s exploration of independence, ambition, and the inevitable clash between dreams and reality. This episode not only delves into the creative process behind historical fiction but also highlights the balance between historical accuracy and narrative invention, providing listeners with a deep dive into the roaring twenties and the perseverance of a woman ahead of her time.

Here’s what we covered:

  • [00:00:00] Introduction of Nicola Harrison and her new book, “The Showgirl”
  • [00:01:22] Premise and inspiration behind “The Showgirl”
  • [00:03:03] Research process and setting in the 1920s
  • [00:06:12] Development of Olive’s character and her independence
  • [00:07:57] Discussion on love interest Archie and potential film casting
  • [00:10:10] Nicola’s writing process and approach to storytelling
  • [00:12:28] Importance of historical accuracy and fictional flexibility
  • [00:16:33] Advice for aspiring writers looking to break into publishing
  • [00:22:49] Details on Nicola’s book tour and reader interactions
  • [00:26:33] Sneak peek into Nicola’s next project set in the 1940s


[00:00:00] Jane: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for coming to my latest historical happy hour. I’m so happy to have Nicola Harrison here. Her new book, The Showgirl just came out in August and it’s amazing and I can’t wait. to talk to her about it. Thank you, Nicole. And I have my champagne. I just posted about it.

So cheers.

[00:00:27] Nicola: I’ll cheers you with my tea.

[00:00:29] Jane: I know you’re in California. What time is it there? Four o’clock. It’s a little early. A little early for happy hour. Yeah. So I’m going to start with an intro. Originally from Hampshire, England, Nicola Harrison moved to California when she was 14. She studied literature at UCLA and received an MFA in writing at Stony Brook University.

She’s a member of the Writers Room and has short stories published in the Southampton Review and Glimmer Train as well as articles in Los Angeles Magazine or Orange Coast Magazine. She was in the fashion and style, she was the fashion and style staff writer for Forbes and had a weekly column at Lucky Magazine.

She lives in California with her husband and two sons. This is your second novel, your first one was Montauk. Correct. Yes. Yes. Awesome. So why don’t we just jump in and tell us about the premise of the show girl and what inspired you to write the story.

[00:01:22] Nicola: Sure. So the show girl. First of all, I I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you first what it’s about.

Yes, oh yeah. It follows the story of Olive McCormick, who’s a young woman from the Midwest. And she’s very talented as a singer and dancer, and she’s determined to make it onto the stage as a Broadway star. And so she basically shows up in New York City unannounced and knocks on Florenz Ziegfeld’s door.

And Florenz Ziegfeld is the big Broadway producer. And she basically demands a role in his show. So we go on this fun, wild ride with her and her ups and downs and her triumphs and her hardships along the way. And we go from New York City’s theater district down to the West Village, which is where all the Bohemians were and her friends, her artists friends and poetry friends, poet friends and then we also go up to the Adirondacks.

which is in upstate New York, where they take the show on the road. So it’s a lot of fun and it all takes place in the roaring 20s, but of course there’s a love story involved. She falls for this man Archie Carmichael, who’s the first man who whisks, the first man who really appreciates her passion for success and her determination.

And she’s, she’s very independent, modern women. And this is the first guy who really appreciates that in her. And so he whisks her off her feet and everything looks like it’s going to, be a happy ever after. But she has a secret looming in her past that threatens to derail all of that.

I’m not going to tell you what it is right now. That’s spoilers, yep. But she has to decide in the end if she’s willing to give up the life that she loves for the man she loves.

[00:03:03] Jane: Yes. Yeah. Excellent. I love the story. And I loved, I hadn’t read a Roaring 20, 1920s book in a while. So that was so fun. I loved all your deep little details, like the slang and the food and the drinks.

And tell me about your research for the life in that late 1920s. This was like right before the depression hit.

[00:03:25] Nicola: Yeah. First of all, When I started writing this book, I wasn’t planning to write a book in the 1920s. I wasn’t planning to write about a showgirl or a Ziegfeld Folly. I had been up to, or I had written about this the Adirondacks, this place in the Adirondacks called the Pines, and it’s a luxury resort that you can go and stay at now.

It’s 2, 000 a night. It’s like really fancy. And it used to be owned by, it was owned by the Rockefellers and built as William Avery Rockefeller II’s family compound. And they would go up there for the summers. And, it was this big compound where they’re going to stay. Now it’s a hotel that they try to recreate the feeling that it was then, they have these cocktail parties at night, even though you’re in the woods going hiking and everything, you have these cocktail parties at night that are where you get all dressed up, just like they used to back in the day.

And so I wrote about this for a little short article for a travel magazine, and I learned that there were more of these places called the Great Camps that were all built by these wealthy industrialists at the turn of the century. And there are several of them, and a lot of them have fallen into disrepair, and some of them are now like hotels, and I thought, that’s a cool place to set a story, so I’m gonna do that, but I’d never been to one, and I’d never even heard of them before, so I went up to the Adirondacks with my husband, and We stayed at another one called White Pine Camp, which is much more modest, not 2, 000 a night.

And we went and stayed there, and it’s got 13 different cottages, and a tennis court, and a bowling alley, and it’s right on the lake, and it’s very picturesque, and I was trying to think, okay, what could the story be, and we took a tour, as you do. Yeah, I’m thinking, and we took a tour with this local historian, and he said, It’s showing us all around and telling us all about it.

And then he mentioned that the original owner of this place, White Pines Camp, his wife was a Ziegfeld Folly girl. Oh, wow. Yeah. And I was like, Ooh. And I like look over at my husband and he’s tell me more. And he’s the historian said, Oh, she was a real party girl. And she used to invite all of her theater friends up from the city and throw these elaborate parties in the middle of the woods.

And she used to insist that no one should go more than 500 feet without a drink in their hand. So she’d set bar charts along the hiking trails. And I was like, she sounds like fun. So that was where it all started. And then it went off in a totally different direction, all about the Ziegfeld Follies and the 20s and everything.

[00:05:48] Jane: Oh, so fun. And so talk to me about Olive, the main character, because She’s feisty, she’s talented, and sometimes foolish as people in their late teens, early twenties are. And I’m always interested in stories about women who are forging their own paths at a time that we’re, that was not.

Where most women didn’t. So tell me about how you like came up with her as a character.

[00:06:12] Nicola: Yeah, so she’s definitely feisty and ambitious, just like you said. Very determined and yeah, she’s definitely a flawed character. As I was writing it, I was thinking, no, don’t do it. Don’t do what you’re going to do.

Don’t say that. It’s going to have a bad result, but it was fun to write a flawed character. But yeah, she, so women had just got the right to vote in 1920. She was embodied that whole independent woman of the 1920s, a true flapper, She was determined she was going to live life on her own terms and she was going to go after this career.

And yes, it was scandalous. And yes they dressed, very scantily clad and just feathers and

[00:06:51] Jane: Yeah, like really scantily clad. I’m surprised.

[00:06:55] Nicola: And so for her, parents who were like, from the Victorian era. It was horrifying to them, but she was actually a very talented and singer and dancer.

So she, she’s going after this dream to live this life and to perform and to be a success. And it was fun to write someone who’s so determined, but who’s going to ruffle a lot of feathers along the way, literally.

[00:07:17] Jane: Yeah. I mean, and that was actually my next question, like her relationship with her family.

Was fraught with especially with her father and I think that added like a really like a lot of conflict and interesting drama and dimension to the story.

[00:07:33] Nicola: Yeah. And conflict with her father and conflict with her mother and you know her mother is like stands by her father and so it’s like she has to choose am I gonna just go with what my family wants me to do, which is, find a nice man settle down be a good housewife have some kids.

Or am I going to really pursue this? Yes. She has to really choose between family and, or, what she wants to do with her life.

[00:07:57] Jane: So I thought Archie was such a great love interest. I thought he was dreamy. So if there was a movie version of the show girl, who do you think would play Olive and who would play Archie?

[00:08:09] Nicola: Oh, I think about this all the time.

[00:08:13] Jane: I know, it’s fun to think about.

[00:08:14] Nicola: So yeah, I was thinking Emma Stone, you said Lily. Lily James. Yes, and then the other one I thought of was the one in the Queen’s Gambit. Oh, I

[00:08:25] Jane: always forget her name too.

[00:08:26] Nicola: Joy Taylor Joy, someone. I think she would be good too. And for Archie I don’t know, Hugh Jackman maybe?

[00:08:34] Jane: Yeah, oh yeah, because he’s


[00:08:36] Nicola: He’s older. Yeah, that would be a good one. There’s a British actor who was in Downton Abbey, who I thought would be good too, and I don’t know, I forget his name too. Tell me about your writing process, because I love hearing about other people’s processes, and I find that interesting.

People are listening do too. In the writing world, there’s plotters versus pantsers writing by the seat of your pants or plotting and outlining. Are you somewhere in the middle? Are you one of the other?

With both books, Mom Talk and The Showgirl I’ve known pretty much the beginning, the middle and the end.

But I, but then I’m a pantser the rest of the way. It’s okay, this is where I’m going and then I don’t plot it out. Like I just write scene by scene. And I feel like for me that allows me to be the most creative. And it totally goes in different directions. Like directions that I wasn’t expecting it to go in.

Like characters will come in like with, with my book, Montauk had a character, Dolly, who was just going to come in and play like a walk on role, and then she just ended up being like the best friend who sticks around the whole time, and it’s so funny how that happens, they just. When you’re writing them and it’s you like them and it’s


I love that. Oh, very cool. So you’re in the middle then you’re like, it’s a, yeah. You’re a hybrid.

Oh, I’d like to be a plotter. I’m playing with plotting and thinking, it might be, maybe it’d be more efficient if I, if I. Flooded it out the chapter by chapter.

So I’m playing around with it. But I think I’m a panther at heart. Yeah. I

[00:10:10] Jane: think there’s no wrong way. It’s so funny how everyone has their own, style of, their whole method and they it’s just whatever works for you, whatever gets you to the end, we’ll get

to the end.

[00:10:19] Nicola: I think it’s having the kids in school.

Oh, totally. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. My oldest

is. in middle school and my youngest is now in a little twos program for preschool. So I’m like, I have I just, that’s my writing time. I just cherish time. Yeah. It’s there’s some sort of guilt associated with When they’re not occupied, or if you have to put them with a sitter or something, and it’s and then if you don’t have a productive writing day, there’s some guilt that I feel.

There’s some guilt that I’m like, I didn’t get, I had the baby with a babysitter all day and I didn’t. Get good writing done. It makes me feel good. So I like them to be in

school. And mine are older too, but it’s like just that kind of house is quiet. They’re occupied. I just, yeah, you totally need it.

And it’s been hard the past 18 months. So yeah, I hear you. What do you what’s the part of the writing process that you love and what’s the part that you, what’s your least favorite part?

I love the research. I love just all the possibilities and just starting with a totally clean slate and like a glimmer of an idea and then just going down the rabbit hole and just, I do so much research.

Half of it doesn’t even make it into the book. And then I totally put all of that research away when I start writing because I never want it to feel text-booky or clunky, you just want it to. Feel like you’re in the twenties and you’re in the theater and all that kind of stuff. I love that part.

And I love the part when you’re going, it’s like you’ve got this down and you just wake up in the morning. You can’t wait. Oh, wow. That’s the best part. So fun. I think the hardest part is the beginning. Yes. The very beginning is fun. You write the first scene and you’re like, Oh, this is fun.

But then thinking about how it’s going to pan out, I can sometimes get myself a little worked up and a little anxious. Oh, I don’t know if this is going to work. And there’s a bit of anxiety in that early, very early stage. But then once you get past that and you’re flying, then it’s really fun.

[00:12:28] Jane: Yes, I totally agree.

[00:12:31] Nicola: Yeah, but the research for this particular book was really was, a lot of it was very varied because I started researching the Ziegfeld Follies, obviously, because that’s a huge part of it. And I, one of the books I really referred to a lot was this book by a woman called Doris Eaton Travis.

And she was the youngest woman to ever be cast in the Ziegfeld Follies. And she wrote this memoir called the days of not so called the days we danced my theatrical life. So she was 14 when she was cast to be in the Follies. And she went on to live to be 106 years old. Wow. Yeah. And so for her hundredth birthday, she went back to the new Amsterdam theater where the, where they performed the Ziegfeld Follies and she performed on stage and she was singing and dancing and she led a line of conga, a conga line of 24 year old girls.

And you can actually find it online. If you look up Doris Eaton Travis, a hundredth birthday, you can see some video clips of her. And she looks amazing. Whatever she’s doing, I want to do.

[00:13:29] Jane: That’s amazing. I also should mention too, like I loved your historical notes at the end. And I loved how you listed some of your books that you use for research.

Cause I’m like, I need to do that. Cause people are like, people are interested sometimes you read the book and then you want to do a deeper dive into. The history behind the story and I think that was smart.

[00:13:48] Nicola: Yeah, and there’s different parts of it because you might somebody might be interested in that and the performance and the Broadway and then other people might be interested in a totally different aspect like the Adirondacks, which is a whole other research part like I found out that White Pines Camp where I based one of the camps where they stay at for the summer that place was actually President Coolidge’s summer White House in 1926.

Wow, okay. He went up there with his staff and his security and he stayed there, and I dug up these letters from the from the house, housekeeper that of that time. And so she’s sending all these, she, I found all these letters that she sent back and forth to her family back home, talking about what she was making for dinner.

You know what kind of food they were eating so cool

guys from and what the rooms were like. And I was like, it was a treasure trove.

[00:14:40] Jane: That’s a treasure when you hit that like it’s like hitting the lottery as a researcher. I love that.

[00:14:44] Nicola: Yeah so good. So I love all that research. Very cool.

[00:14:49] Jane: On that note, like how I always am interested in this question with other historical fiction writers how do you find the balance between historical fact.

and the fictional story you’re writing and you know what historical facts are sacred and where do you feel like you have more flexibility like what how do you balance that I feel like I’m constantly trying to balance that and I’m just always curious how other authors do

[00:15:13] Nicola: yeah I think The actual facts that happen, like for example, the stock market crash, that you can, you can’t change the date on that.

That’s a big picture stuff.

[00:15:25] Jane: Yeah.

[00:15:26] Nicola: That has that’s firm. And, and that is how I. Decide on the timing of the novel like, okay, this is going to take place in 1927 and go through to 1929. And if you look at the facts and that’s how I situate it. And then other things like, for example, those camps in the Adirondacks, I wanted to change some of those details.

I wanted to, make that work for the story and so I changed the name of the camp and fictionalized it but a lot of the details and that’s why I put the historical note in the back to say this is what this is the place that inspired it but it’s the rest of it’s fictionalized. And then the people themselves, that’s all fictionalized.

But obviously, like I was saying, Olive was sparked by a real person and I did go researching saying, okay, what else can I find about her? But there wasn’t very much to go on. So it was really just the idea of her and that first glimmer of a real person.

[00:16:18] Jane: Yeah, we got a little frozen again, but I think you’re coming back.

You’re coming back. Okay, good. So another question. What do you what advice do you have for writers trying to break into publishing?

[00:16:33] Nicola: I did you ask how I got into publishing?

[00:16:35] Jane: No, what advice do you have for writers who are trying to break in? Because I think we have some writers on that.

Yeah. And there, I think that’s people appreciate that question, too. Yeah.

[00:16:43] Nicola: Definitely. One of the things that’s been most helpful to me with my writing, not necessarily with the publishing, but with my writing is I’m a member of a writing workshop and we used to meet and when I lived in New York, we would meet every Thursday night in person and we would share pages.

With what we were working on and it was just it’s and so now it’s on zoom and now I moved to California So it’s still on zoom. So it’s great Yeah, having that that group and that’s like that sort of like deadline for myself as well I’m, like, okay. I’ve got to get my pages done because I’m going to share them on Thursday night.

It just keeps the momentum going We read our stuff out loud, we don’t send it around to each other to read in advance because who has time for that, but we just read it out loud, and then, and I think that just really helps me hearing myself read it out loud and moving the story along so I would say, find either a writing group or a couple friends who are writing and just share pages.

I think that really helps with the writing. And then as far as Getting, publishing and getting published, I, as far as finding an agent for me, I thought to myself, okay, who’s, which books have I read that I liked, and who, and which agents represent those authors, because if I like them and they like them, maybe they’ll like my writing.

So that’s how I found my agent. So that might be a long way.

[00:17:58] Jane: Yeah, no, and I agree about the writers group, and also reading work out loud one of my editors once was like, you should just read the entire book out loud because you’ll be surprised at what Like you pick up that you don’t pick up when you’re reading on the page, you know that you’re like, oh, that doesn’t work at all.

So I, so I try to do that every time.

[00:18:18] Nicola: Yes. And actually I’m listening to I listen, I’m listening to the show girl on being narrated on it’s on audible. And I’m trying to listen to it all the way through. It’s hard to listen to your own. I can’t do it. Yeah. I’m forcing myself to do it because I want to hear it all the way through and actually I wish I had read it out loud because I probably would have, edited a few little things here and there.

[00:18:41] Jane: I know. I can’t get through the first chapter. I just cringed. Even if the narrator is great, but I just yeah I have a hard time.

[00:18:48] Nicola: The other thing I would say for people wanting to get into publishing I would say Start going to when they’re happening more, start going to book events, book signings, book stores, because, first of all, you get to hear the writers talk about their process and then usually the person interviewing them is someone who’s like a book influencer or another author, or, and I think, and also just go up and introduce, buy the book, and introduce yourself at the end.

Creates good feeling and then, follow them on Instagram. It just start to build your book community on Instagram wherever you’re on social media.

[00:19:23] Jane: Yeah, that’s really good advice to I completely agree. And so I have one more question, or it’s actually two questions in one, and then I was going to take some questions so if you if anyone has questions.

You can put them in the chat, you can put them in the q amp a I’ll keep an eye on both, but do you zoom with book clubs. Absolutely. Okay. Awesome. So Nicola zooms with book clubs so she can talk about her book. And then what, how can readers best stay in touch with you?

[00:19:53] Nicola: So I’m on Instagram and I’m on Facebook and on both of those, it’s just at Nicola Harrison author.

So that’s probably the best. Also I love hearing from readers. So if you read my book, you can reach out to me through my website and let me know. What do you think? Lovely.

[00:20:10] Jane: Awesome. Christine. Hello, Christine. She’s comes all the time. She’s awesome. Do you have any input on your book cover? It’s gorgeous.

[00:20:18] Nicola: It’s totally gorgeous. Oh, thank you. I love the book cover too. I was so happy with it. Yeah. Yes. So I, I had some input on this. They showed me a few different options, and this was the one I loved the most, and so they went with it, so I was happy about that. Yeah. And then Montauk, which is, hold on, this one.

[00:20:40] Jane: Oh, I love that one too.

[00:20:42] Nicola: Yeah, so this one they actually changed the cover. They sent out the ARCs, the Advanced Reader’s Copy, and then one of the

And so they asked them to change it. And so because they’re a big bookstore, the publisher was like, okay, we’ll listen to you. And so they changed it. And then they just had a few different options and there was a red dress and there was her hair didn’t look right. And so I, they probably were like, Oh my God, please stop giving us your feedback.

But I kept giving feedback and we eventually got to it.

[00:21:15] Jane: I love it. I love the blue too. I think it works really well. Autumn Shaw asked, speaking of research, how do you organize your research?

[00:21:26] Nicola: Oh gosh, I probably don’t do it the right way. I probably don’t either. I read and I take notes in the notebook and it’s not very well organized.

But I don’t want it to be, there’s probably a better way to do this, but I don’t want it to be, I just want some of it to stay in my mind. And then I can go back and refer to the notebook, but I try to just absorb as much of it as I can so that when I’m writing it just, You just get that overall feeling, and of course there are facts and details you have to go back to, and I will write in my notebook, this cool, I’ll write something that jumped out at me, I’ll write down the details, and I’ll write which book it was in.

Yeah. But I end up buying a bunch of books. I go to the library and I find a bunch of books that I like, but I end up buying them because I want to have them to be able to refer to, like for the whole year. Yeah,

[00:22:14] Jane: I try to get them used, but I want to be able to put sticky notes in them and yeah, that’s so it’s much better.

[00:22:20] Nicola: Become part of that book. Like I don’t really want to let them go because I feel like that was such a part of me for that whole year. I was referring to those books and his article.

[00:22:30] Jane: Oh, that’s so funny. You said that. Cause my husband, the other day is we have so many research books. Do you, I’m like, we’re can’t get rid of any of them.

I need them.

[00:22:37] Nicola: Storage unit at some point when we’ve written like lots and lots of books.

[00:22:41] Jane: Exactly. It’s driving them crazy. I’m like, Nope, they’re staying. Oh Ramsey Doran. Hi, Ramsey. Are you doing a book tour?

[00:22:49] Nicola: Yes. So I’ve been doing a book tour. Started in Southern California at my local bookstore pages, which is in Manhattan beach.

And then I was down in Newport beach. And then we went to Florida and Charleston. And I have a few other events lined up. It’s all listed on my website. It’s ongoing. I feel like these times are weird times. We never know if we should get on a plane or not get on a plane. So it’s like things, as they evolve.

I’ll keep it posted, I’ll keep it posted on my website.

[00:23:21] Jane: Excellent. Oh, this is a good question. Carolyn Sylvester asks, did you go to a show on Broadway to experience the feel

[00:23:28] Nicola: of

I used to live in New York, so I always used to go to Broadway shows, but the one of the shows I went to most recently as I was wrapping up writing The Showgirl, and I was, I think I was starting to go into editing mode, I went to see Moulin Rouge.

Which came out on Broadway, which I’ve always loved. Yes, perfect. Oh, it’s so good. If you get a chance to go see it. I’ve always loved that movie with Nicole Kidman. Yeah. But I couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been made into a Broadway show yet. So that was really cool. And it was definitely In the same vibe.

[00:24:02] Jane: Yeah, totally. Oh, Tori Woodgrass without giving any spoilers. Can you share some insight for revisions that your editor advice like did the book change very much with revisions?

[00:24:16] Nicola: Not too much. It was small like I remember, like the character Olive has some brothers. And my editor was like, you haven’t really developed much with the brothers, I just mentioned them.

I developed that a little bit more. They’re not like a main part of the book, but they’re in there, so it’s so I just developed that a little bit more. That was, it was that type of thing. It wasn’t nothing major.

[00:24:38] Jane: Yeah, that’s good.

[00:24:39] Nicola: I was just going to say, going back to the question about Broadway, to get into the mood, I told you about Moulin Rouge.

I also in New York, there’s all kinds of different events and parties and underground clubs. New York is so much. But I went with a friend to A, a 1920s speakeasy party. Oh, cool. And we got all decked. It was like anything in the name of research. We got all decked out in our twenties year and our, we did our hair and makeup all twenties, and we went out and drank, prohibition, cocktails, and went dancing.

It was really fun. And , I was like, this is the fun part of, this is the really fun part of the research.

[00:25:13] Jane: That’s really fun. Yeah, I would love that. . Oh, Christina, did your title change, was it always the showgirl or did you have some, another title in mind?

[00:25:21] Nicola: Oh, that’s a good question. So I told you that at the beginning, I thought that this I was going to write a book about the Adirondacks that took place at one of the camps.

So my file name was always the Adirondacks book. So the whole way through I’m writing this book about the Ziegfeld Follies and the showgirls and it’s it’s not the Adirondacks, but they just go there for a portion of time. And at the very end, because I had called it that the whole way through, I didn’t have an I didn’t have a title.

My editor actually came up with that title, The Showgirl. Yeah,

[00:25:51] Jane: it’s perfect. It’s simple, tells the story, gives a glimpse. Yep.

[00:25:56] Nicola: It’s funny how attached you get to things. Yes, totally. Also with the names of the characters, Olive and Archie I mentioned that they were inspired by these real Life people who owned the camp up in the Adirondacks.

And their first names were Olive and Archibald. And so as I was doing my research, I was just writing, Okay, Olive and Archie, but I’ll change it later. I’ll change their names later. And then, once I had written some of these chapters, I’m like, I’m so attached to them. I can’t change their names now.

[00:26:24] Jane: I know, they are who they are, right? In your head. Yeah. That’s hard. Yeah. A few people have asked what are you working on now?

[00:26:33] Nicola: Yeah. So I’m working on a book that takes place in the 1940s. So I’ve done the 20s with the show girl and the 30s with Montauk and so now the 40s. I’m just going to work my way through the decades.

[00:26:44] Jane: I know. Oh what you’re working on. Oh, yes. Okay.

[00:26:48] Nicola: So I found out that my husband’s grandmother used to be a Rosie the Riveter. Oh, yeah. And I’m like, that’s, it’s in the family. So so she worked at an airplane factory in Los Angeles so I am starting this story there, but what’s, what I found interesting about that, about these women who came and took these roles in the factories during the war, is that they, they took these jobs that were traditionally men’s jobs.

And they did them, and they did them well. And then the men came back from war, and everyone was like, Alright ladies, thanks very much. Go back to being a housewife,

[00:27:19] Jane: I know, that was unbelievable to me, yeah.

[00:27:22] Nicola: I know I’m picking up right there, when the war is over. I have a character who’s been working in the factory, and she’s told, thank you, goodbye, and she has to figure out what she’s going to do with her life.

So she ends up down in Laguna Beach, in Southern California, which is an artist community. And she starts working for a very eccentric, famous artist and gets, very involved in the art world down there. And so that’s what I’m working on now. It’s fun.

[00:27:47] Jane: Oh, very cool. And do you have a pub date for that yet or not yet?

[00:27:51] Nicola: It’s going to be 2023.

[00:27:53] Jane: Yeah. Just around the corner. Yeah. And, I was just thinking, tell tell people about Montauk a little bit for readers who aren’t familiar with the book.

[00:28:04] Nicola: Oh yeah, sure. So Montauk, this one takes place in the summer of 1938. And it’s the story of Beatrice Bordeaux, and she’s spending the summer in Montauk she has an unstable marriage, not going too well her husband wants her to stay out in Montauk for the summer with, at the Montauk Manor, which is where all the wives stay, and the husbands go back and forth to the city, and he wants her to get in with all these wives, because it will be good for business but instead she finds herself getting in with, feeling more comfortable with the locals, and you So that causes some problems.

But yeah it’s fun. It all takes place in that one summer of 1938. And yeah, I used to have a house out in Montauk and I used to see, I loved it. It was a very quaint fishing village. And the more time I spent out there, I started seeing some of the mom and pop shops selling out and new places coming in, and I felt a change happening.

And it was like a cool place to be as opposed to this, little remote fishing village that it used to be. And so it made me nostalgic for how it used to be. And so I wanted to write about Montauk when people first started going out there.

[00:29:14] Jane: Oh, very cool. Yeah I wanted to read a couple of comments too, before we go, I, I’ll, Ramsey Dorn said, I have the audible version of this and it will accompany me on a bike ride from Pittsburgh to D.

C. and it’s an all woman bike ride, so it’s very appropriate.

[00:29:31] Nicola: Thank you for telling me that.

[00:29:33] Jane: So nice, and Christine Mott said she loved Montauk, the novel. Thank you. Yeah, so nice And, oh, there was another question. Oh, Jerry Macaranda asks, How did you go from London to the MFA program in Stony Brook?

And did getting the degree help your writing, help you make contacts, or both?

[00:29:55] Nicola: Okay, so yeah, I know it’s funny sometimes you think of having an English girl start writing about historical fiction about in the States. So I moved to England when I was four, I moved from England to California when I was 14 with my family and then, went to college at UCLA and then I wanted to write right away and I studied English and creative writing but I had a like a mentor in college, her name was Carolyn C.

She’s actually Lisa C. Oh, yes. Yeah. Yeah. And she was so great. She was such a great mentor. And one of the things she said, don’t try starting to write your novel right out of college. You’ve had, you have nothing to say yet. You’re going to live a little, get a job, move somewhere, have some relationships, break up.

That’s good advice. Yes, but I really wanted to write, but so I, I moved to New York to get into magazine publishing. I figured I’d write like that for a while. Yep. And then I ended up living in New York for 17 years until just very recently and moved back to California. I was working in magazines doing fashion journalism, and I would, but I was always taking a creative writing class on the side.

Always a night class or a weekend seminar or something. And then finally I was, and then they had a summer conference with Stony Brook, which is out in South Hampton. And it was like a 10 day writer’s conference. And I went to that. And then when I was there I learned about the MFA program, which you could do part-time in the city.

Oh, nice. So I was like, I’m taking all these writing classes anyway. I should just get my MFA .

[00:31:22] Jane: Yeah. Make it into something.

[00:31:23] Nicola: Oh, that, so I did and it was really great. I think what helped me the most, what I got the most out of was just getting into a consistent writing schedule, writing on a regular basis.

Yes. learning to, workshop your work, get feedback from other people, give feedback and receive feedback. And, that whole process is all part of the writing game. And also just, the people who were teaching us were authors, real life authors out in the world doing their thing.

And they became like real people to me. And it made me think, all right, these are, it’s not like some. Mystical figure out there person and they’re really nice and helpful and maybe I could be an author one day. .

[00:32:02] Jane: Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I, one thing that I loved about like getting on the other side of publishing and getting published five years ago is like people are, authors are really supportive of one another and to writers coming up and that’s, I love that.

That’s amazing. I’ve been blown away by people’s kindness in this industry.

[00:32:18] Nicola: Me too. I dunno if every industry is lucky enough to have that, but people, yeah, writers really support each other and boost each other and post about their, and talk about their friends books.

[00:32:29] Jane: And yeah, yeah, it’s really nice.

I think because part of it is because it’s such a hard, it’s a hard, it’s crazy. Publishing is crazy. So I think like we all know it and try to boost each other up and, further out, which is good.

[00:32:41] Nicola: And it’s also like a mutual admiration. Like we read, we all read each other’s books

[00:32:46] Jane: too.

Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, absolutely. So to wrap up why don’t you tell people again your Instagram and Facebook contact info and reminder that you you do book clubs on zoom.

[00:32:59] Nicola: Yeah, absolutely. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook. It’s just my name, Nicola Harrison, author. And you can also reach me through my website, which is just And I’d love to hear from you guys.

[00:33:14] Jane: Thank you so much. This was so great. It was lovely to meet you O over Zoom and maybe someday in New York we’ll meet in person.

[00:33:20] Nicola: That would be, yes. Thank you so much. This was so fun. Thanks everyone for all of your questions.

[00:33:25] Jane: Thank you.


Hosted by Jane Healey, Historical Happy Hour is a live interview and podcast featuring premiere historical fiction authors and their latest novels.

Jane Healey

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