The SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS column on Mondays and Wednesdays is a place at Shannon Muir’s author website open to interviews and guest posts from other authors. One thing Shannon firmly believes in for readers not only to learn about new books available, but about those who craft the tales behind them. As its name implies, SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column features writers from all genres of fiction who want their potential audience to get to know them, and their works, better – and occasionally may offer features from Shannon herself that support readers to discover words.
Today, find out more about FLYING JENNY.
About the Book
Kaylie Jones Books
Paperback: 288 pages
May 1, 2018, $15.99
Also available for Kindle and Nook
People are doing all sorts of screwy things in 1929. It is a time of hope, boundless optimism, and prosperity. “Blue Skies” is the song on everyone’s lips. The tabloids are full of flagpole sitters, flappers, and marathon dancers. Ever since Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic solo, the entire world has gone nuts over flying. But everyone agrees that the stunt pilots take the cake.
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.
“The heroes and heroines and the characters Tuohy brings to life in the book were derived from tales told to her by her mother, the daring, petite fire-cracker female pilot (named Theasa as well), who was a contemporary of Will Rogers and friend of Wiley Post, the first pilot to fly solo around the world.”
—Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine
“It is August 1929, and this romp through the early days of women’s aviation history arrives with all the immediacy of a late-night edition. Theasa Tuohy memorably limns the adventures of not one but two pioneering women. Debutante pilot Jenny Flynn and cub reporter Laura Bailey carry the spunk of Thelma & Louise to new heights as they fight for space in the cockpit and the city room.”
—Janet Groth, author of The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker
Interview with the Author
What initially got you interested in writing this book?
The idea for “Flying Jenny” was long-simmering, but I avoided starting it until I’d finally gotten my first novel right. “The Five O’Clock Follies” took quite a while since I was still working full time. Meanwhile, the emergence of the women’s movement intrigued and mystified me a bit. I was working as a daily journalist, not a common job for a woman at the time, yet it didn’t seem out of the ordinary to me. My mother had a pilot’s license in the 1930s . She and I both had set out to do what we wanted to do and done it. I wanted to explore why some women had long been doing jobs that were so many years later still considered “men’s occupations.” At some point along the line, I read the autobiography of Laura Hobson, who’d written “Gentlemen’s Agreement.” In her early career she’d been a New York tabloid reporter. She couldn’t have been more different from my mom, in background, ambition, in every way you could name. So I had two contrasting characters − a pilot and a journalist. One had it tough, one had it relatively easy. But they both had set out to do what they wanted in the early 1930s. How did they differ and how were they ultimately the same? And why, if they managed to do what they wanted, were other women still stymied many years later?
How did your family history play a role in the creation of this book?
I grew up on crazy flying stories of the barnstorming days − forced landings on farmers’ corn crops, jumping from low-flying planes without a chute. My father, who wasn’t a pilot himself but encouraged my mother, had many friends who were pilots . His best friend beginning in grammar school was Paul Braniff, who started Braniff Airways. I also come from a long line of independent women. Mom, a pilot, one grandmother who was a business woman but was said to drive a team of horses better than any woman in the Oklahoma Territory. The other grandmother was finally sent off to finishing school because she steadfastly refused to ride sidesaddle as a proper young woman in Texas was expected to do.
What skills from your work as a journalist did you find helpful in writing this book?
I pride myself in the historical accuracy of my novels− I spent many years having to get my facts straight. And no folderol about being blocked. You just put your seat on the chair and write. Also, many of those years I was editing other reporters. So constant rewriting, editing, playing with words to make things read better, is an instinct.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I love now being able to make things up. The characters are fiction, but the history and details are painstakingly researched.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
It took me a while to grasp the rhythm of fiction. I’ve come to think of it as circular while news writing is linear. In fiction, things −people, places, details − need to circle through so the reader keeps seeing something familiar, feels part of the story.
What advice would you give to people that want to enter the field?
Sit down and write. Don’t worry that you don’t know what to say. Write anything. See where it takes you. You’ve got a delete key. Doesn’t matter how much you edit yourself or redo. Just explore.
Is there anything else about you that you think readers might find interesting?
I’m really having fun doing this. I feel lucky to have the leisure to proceed at my own pace. And as I relax into doing this, each book deals with a less serious subject, if you will, than the one before. First a female war correspondent, then a happy stunt pilot, and lately a scatty ex-pat actress/detective in Paris.
About the Author
Theasa Tuohy is a long-time journalist who has happily turned her life experiences and reporting skills to fiction featuring female reporters. She is the daughter and namesake of a pioneering pilot who flew an old-World War I “Jenny” with an OX-5 engine. Theasa worked for five daily newspapers and the Associated Press. Her “first woman” stints included assistant city editor at The Detroit News and the copy desk at The (Newark) Star Ledger.
Her first novel, “The Five O’Clock Follies,” was published in 2012. She is currently working on a mystery series set in Paris and is co-author of the book for “Lawrence,” an award-winning musical about the life of D. H. Lawrence.
She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and lives in Manhattan.