Zibby Mag

The Webby Award-winning literary lifestyle destination.

How Lindsay Lynch Found Time to Write Her Debut Novel

Friday, August 18, 2023

Book jacket biographies don’t tell us nearly enough about the authors we love. That’s why Zibby Mag launched the Author Snapshot, giving readers an inside look at the lives and work of our favorite writers.

This week we are featuring Lindsay Lynch, whose novel Do Tell debuted this summer!

How does it feel to be publishing your first book, and can you share a bit about what went into writing it?

As someone who’s worked as a bookseller for most of my adult life, it feels very surreal to be on this side of things! A lot of Do Tell was written, rewritten, and revised in the early hours before my shifts at the bookstore. Almost every major milestone of the publication process has happened while I’ve been in the store: from getting that first call from a literary agent, to talking with different potential editors, to learning that the book sold to Doubleday at auction. It’s been incredible to share the publication process with the booksellers at Parnassus Books, especially because I did so much of the legwork on this novel over the course of 2020—writing can often be an isolating experience, but even more so during the pandemic. Working on this book became a life raft for me when I was alone during that time, and I’m so glad that I now get to celebrate with this amazing community of readers and writers in Nashville.

Was there a particular event that inspired you to craft your story around Hollywood?

In every iteration of Do Tell, I wanted to start with a big house party where we’d meet this cast of actors, actresses, and all the people tasked with handling them. After a lot of failed attempts at writing it, the shape of the novel really fell into place when I came across the stories of Peggy Satterlee and Betty Hansen, who went to trial in 1943 after accusing the actor Errol Flynn of sexual assault. Flynn was best known for his portrayal of Robin Hood and was consistently ranked as one of America’s favorite on-screen heroes in the fan magazines of the time—it was surprising to me that he would be publicly accused, and even more surprising that the case actually went to trial. In researching and writing Do Tell, I wanted to find if there was a point where a star’s profitability couldn’t outweigh their difficult behavior.

Though this is set in Hollywood’s golden age, a lot of the issues that arise are still plaguing the entertainment industry today. How do you feel about publishing this story in the current climate?

Growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, I was always fascinated with tabloid culture, gossip, and scandals, so it was a logical next step to write a book narrated by a gossip columnist. Historically, gossip sheets are such an interesting barometer for any given society’s moral standards—who do we ridicule or criticize, what kind of behavior do we praise or condemn, and why. It’s a question that becomes even more interesting under the studio system of 1940s Hollywood because the studios had so much narrative control when it came to the private lives and misdeeds of the stars. In the case of an actor like Errol Flynn, the public actually doubled down on their support of him—in part because they really only knew him as the heroic characters he played on screen, or through studio-approved puff pieces in fan magazines. It was definitely unsettling to go through edits on this book while the Johnny Depp trial was underway, especially seeing how people started quoting lines from Captain Jack Sparrow in defense of him. I really didn’t want to impose my twenty-first century viewpoints on the past, but the past keeps echoing the present.

As a bookseller and book buyer, you have a firsthand look into what readers are interested in. Did this perspective impact your writing process?

I’ve been a bookseller on and off since 2014, both at Politics and Prose in DC and Parnassus Books in Nashville, where I now work as a book buyer. I’ve watched a lot of trends come and go in publishing, but what I appreciate about booksellers and the readers who come into indie bookstores is that we have a really long memory for the books and authors we love. At Parnassus, we started this video series where every Friday we post a “New to You” book recommendation—usually an overlooked classic or a backlist gem—and the response has been so incredible. As a writer, being in a bookstore has been a great reminder of the larger scope of the work we do, the kinds of stories and characters that stand the test of time, and how you can find your readers at any point in your career.

What do you hope readers take away from this story?

I read a lot of stories—especially in historical fiction—about people who set out to change the world (which, to be clear, is important!), but I really wanted to write a story about someone who is instead changed by the world. Edie, the narrator of Do Tell, is recounting these events from the early 1980s, making her around seventy years old. Edie’s not necessarily a self-improvement kind of gal—in the novel, she knowingly does a lot of bad things and is complicit with a lot of even worse things—but I thought about how living through decades of societal change, whether that’s the civil rights movement of the 60s, the feminist movement of the 70s, or the start of the gay liberation in the 80s, would fundamentally alter her viewpoints. Do Tell is very much a story of Edie in conversation with her past self, and the necessary but difficult work of recognizing and owning up to our wrongs.

Are there other upcoming releases you’re excited to read?