My very special guest today is J. Y. Flynn and we’re chatting about her historical romantic fiction, Lily Anne of San Francisco.
J. Y. Flynn worked as a business administrator for twenty years and wrote articles and quarterly papers for women’s associations while raising her three children. After retiring, she began to write fiction and participated in numerous writing workshops. Her short stories have been published in The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Mateo Times, Sun Senior News, and several small magazines including Grit, Reminisce, Writer’s Open Forum, The Sand Publication, and the national magazine RAW (Real Authentic Women).
Encouraged by fellow authors and family members, she embarked on a thirty-year quest to tell the story of Lily Anne of San Francisco. Loosely based on the true-life adventures of two of the most colorful, outrageous, and memorable characters she had ever met, J. Y. Flynn crafted her tale of historical and romantic fiction set in the vibrant city of San Francisco.
At 92 years old, the author is thrilled to have her first novel published and hopes her next book will take less time to complete.
Welcome. J. Y. Please tell us about your current release.
Lily Anne of San Francisco tells the story of Lily Anne O’Brien who arrives in San Francisco in 1904, a city teeming with promise, not unlike the twelve-year-old herself. Captivated by the curiosities of North Beach, Chinatown, and the wicked Barbary Coast, she reciprocates by beguiling San Francisco society with her angelic singing voice and seductive beauty.
The Great Earthquake of 1906 destroys her home. To remain in San Francisco, she scandalously marries Kevin Riley, a twenty-seven-year-old gambler. At age 15, she gives birth to a daughter, Charlotte, who is destined to live in the shadow of her mother’s beauty, talent, and limitless self-regard.
Lily Anne’s story tells how she transforms from reckless teenager, to divorced single-parent, to successful entrepreneur, and ultimately becomes an eccentric relic of a by-gone era.
Lightly based on actual people and events known to the author, Lily Anne of San Francisco ($14.95 Homefires Press, February 2016) provides an insider’s look into San Francisco high society in the first four decades of the 20th century. Living through tumultuous times – the 1906 earthquake, World War I, and the Great Depression – Lily Anne was a trend-setter through it all, rubbing elbows with Enrico Caruso, Lillian Gish, and Randolph Hearst. As one Amazon.com reviewer put it, “Readers, like the many characters in this book, will experience a love-hate relationship with Lily Anne; she is truly charismatic and utterly exasperating.”
What inspired you to write this book?
I came to San Francisco in 1945 from Portland, Oregon and was most surprised that despite San
Francisco’s big reputation, it was a small city. At that time, people who lived in San Francisco could usually meet someone they knew each time they walked down Market Street. I was intrigued by the diversity of the people and cultural neighborhoods in San Francisco. Friends of ours, a mother and daughter who loved San Francisco, had lived in The City from the early nineteen hundreds. They experienced the trauma and pleasure the city had to offer as they laughed their way through life. Their stories inspired me to write this book.
Excerpt from Lily Anne of San Francisco:
Excerpt from Chapter 29, The Wedding
The previous evening’s discussion was not mentioned the next morning. Victoria and Maggie took the buckboard into town to shop, and the girls did a bit of ironing.
“Oh, Peggy,” Lily Anne crowed, “I’m having such fun! Moses, the piano player from New Orleans, has been teaching me to sing songs that are popular in the South. I’m learning the words to lots of other country songs, too.”
“You’d rather entertain at the tavern than be an opera star?”
“I never wanted to be an opera star; that’s Mama’s dream. My dream is to live in San Francisco forever.”
“My father says you can’t live with us anymore. Are you going to marry Kevin?”
“If I want to live in San Francisco, I guess I’ll have to.”
Peggy persisted. “Do you love Kevin?”
Lily Anne smiled wickedly. “I love San Francisco.”
What exciting story are you working on next?
I am working on a book tilted, Surprises. A man and women contemplate marriage without talking about their former lives. He does not know she is the mother of three children.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always loved to read. The year I was twelve, I read every murder mystery in the downtown public library in Portland, Oregon. I enjoyed writing in school and believe anyone who loves to read is a potential writer. I was 92 years old by the time I considered myself an author. Lily Anne of San Francisco was published in 2016 and received five out of five stars by the San Francisco Book Review. It suggested the story was a classic with silver screen potential.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Yes. I devote three to six hours a day to my current project. That was not always possible. It took thirty years to finish Lily Ann of San Francisco. I was the mother of three children, active in school and social activities, and I managed the office of my husband’s plumbing business. We traveled extensively, too.
It’s not too hard to find time to write at my age of 92. I love Jack Benny’s quote. “Age is mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Writing mental vignettes about strangers in restaurants, airports, planes, and anywhere I have five minutes to spare.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a movie star. In high school, a counselor suggested I could become a teacher based on my test scores. But then, World War II came along and I got married.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Choose to be happy. Smile, laugh out loud. Follow your passion.
Thanks for being here, today, J. Y.! Happy writing!!