This Friday Feature is near and dear to me; it’s such fun to shine the spotlight on my fellow writers’ new books. It is especially rewarding to shine the spotlight on a longtime friend like Natasha Wing. We were introduced by my writing partner, Mary Nethery, lo these many years ago while I was participating in the Humboldt County Author Festival. Natasha has a great smile and wicked sense of humor as well as being a hard-working writer who truly follows her passion. Her newest book, When Jackie Saved Grand Central, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), could not be more timely as it reminds us that one person can indeed change the world.
Interesting things happen when you travel that can spark or energize an idea for a book.
Many years ago I traveled to Paris. There I went to see the art at Musée d’Orsay. The museum was once a train station built for the 1900 world’s fair. It was slated to be torn down but the Minister for Cultural Affairs ruled against it.
Later I was telling my agent about my trip. She said, “You know, Jackie Kennedy helped save Grand Central. It almost got torn down.”
I’d been to Grand Central Terminal various times in my life and I always remember the blue ceiling, those marble stairs and the clock. Why would anyone want to tear down such a grand, historic place?
Curious, I started to research more and sure enough, developers had been pushing to put a skyscraper on top of the terminal. Jackie, who loved both New York City and Paris, felt compelled to get involved and stop the destruction of the beloved train station knowing full well that the imported marbles, statues and architectural details had no place in the new building’s modern design.
I wrote the story of how Jackie stepped in to help city leaders save Grand Central and brought the plight of a New York City landmark onto the national stage. My agent liked my treatment. Now to sell it.
As luck would have it, my agent was walking with an editor to Grand Central. As they entered the terminal, she told the editor about Jackie’s connection to the building. She also said that she had a manuscript about that very thing and the editor said, send it!
It took seven years for the project to become a book. The first editor who was working on edits left the company. A popular illustrator who was approached turned it down. The illustrator who signed on (Alexander Boiger) was busy and had to find time in her schedule. More rounds of edits with the editor who inherited my project. More research. In the meantime, the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Terminal came and went. I wondered if the book would ever be published.
When Jackie Saved Grand Central will be released March 7 and the timing is serendipitous. When the country is talking about First Ladies and activism, Jackie is the perfect example of both, of standing up for what one believes. The wait was worth it!
Another thing about travel, especially when writing nonfiction, is visiting the location of your subject. While I was working on the manuscript, I took a trip to New York City and re-experienced Grand Central with a writer’s eye. I took in the sounds of people busily passing on their way to the trains. Looked up at the ceiling with new interest. Dined at the Oyster Bar where I met with a consultant on the book. Found the dedication plaque to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. And took photos for the illustrator.
If I had never visited the museum in Paris, I doubt I would have ever entertained the idea of writing a book about Grand Central. When you travel, stay open to experiences and trust that something may percolate later that you can use in a book.
Natasha Wing is the best-selling author of the Night Before series. When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Fight for an American Icon (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) received star reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. To contact her or to find out more about her books go to: www.natashawing.com.