I met Amy Sue Nathan through the WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers Association) and decided to read her latest book, The Last Bathing Beauty. I’m glad I did. It’s set at a Jewish summer resort on the shores of Lake Michigan, MI, and goes back and forth in time between 1951 and today. It’s a wonderful coming-of-age story that reflects some of the major ways in which our thinking has changed over the decades and the ways in which it hasn’t. In this novel, the influence of family means that the protagonist has to abandon her dreams and deal with the reckoning decades later.
It’s a perfect book club book, with plenty to discuss, but what stuck with me was the well-delineated characters and the seamlessly structured weaving of the stories. By the way, the Kindle version of The Last Bathing Beauty is available throughout December for $1.99, so you can download a copy now. Having enjoyed it so much, I asked Amy about it.
GC: I’d never heard of a summer resort like the Stern Resort, other than in the Catskills, and wondered how you came across the idea of setting your novel in Michigan.
ASN: I was introduced to the SW Michigan shore about 9 years ago and knew right away I wanted to set a novel there. After I’d begun thinking about this story, I discovered South Haven by a happy accident when I was doing some online research. When I visited South Haven, I met someone who grew up there in the fifties and she had many stories and lots of background material that helped me finish the book. So, I no longer believe in accidents. Some things are meant to be.
GC: How long have you been writing? Is this your first historical novel?
ASN: I’ve always been a writer, and have been blogging about writing women’s fiction for several years at http://womensfictionwriters.com/. I started writing fiction in 2006. The Last Bathing Beauty is my first work of historical fiction and I’m hooked! My books tend to be about families and the ways they impact our lives, so one can write them in any period.
GC: Your story spans 1951 to today. What issues did you have in painting the picture of these two different social environments and the character attitudes over that time?
ASN: I took the treacherous route and wrote each timeline separately and then wove them together. As well as visiting South Haven, I did oral history and book research to get it right. The local historical association and the South Haven library had a wealth of background information.
GC: Novels with different timelines are notoriously difficult, so are you a plotter or pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants)?
ASN: I’m a 100% panster but I know my story in my head before I begin. If I know the ending, all I have to do is get there.
GC: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
ASN: Definitely weaving the timelines!
GC: And finally, what are you working on now?
ASN: I just finished writing Well Behaved Wives due out in November 2021. It’s set in 1962 Philadelphia.