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The following is an interview with USA Today bestselling author Eliza Knight regarding the upcoming release of the historical fiction novel, Starring Adele Astaire, through William Morrow. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Knight about her creative process in bringing the story and characters to life, what she hopes that readers may take away from the story, and more!

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Starring Adele Astaire!  For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?

Eliza Knight: Thank you so much! Starring Adele Astaire is a novel sharing the story of a spirited rising stage star – Adele Astaire, sister to Fred Astaire – and a determined young dancer in London, named Violet. In the novel I sought to shine the light on Adele, Fred’s lesser-known, but incredibly famous during her time, dancing partner. In fact, during the 1920s, she was considered the better dancer. Juxtaposed with Adele’s incredible story is Violet’s rags-to-riches story about a young British dancer which highlights many of the struggles dancers met with during the era, and also the friendship between Violet and Adele pieces together a more intimate portrait of Adele’s life.

Several years ago, when I was doing the research for The Mayfair Bookshop, I discovered a letter from Nancy Mitford to one of her sisters, chatting about how she’d had lunch with a delightful woman named Delly. I thought I knew all of Nancy’s friends, but Delly wasn’t familiar to me. So, I did a research dive—and guess who it was, none other than Adele Astaire, sister to Fred Astaire. At the time, she was the more famous of the two, having made her start in the US Vaudeville circuit and then Broadway in NYC, she was lured to the stage in the West End of London where she promptly became fast friends with socialites, royalty, literary phenoms, and more. As often times happens, her name and fame faded into obscurity. I enjoyed so much digging into her life and weaving a story that I hope you will all delight in as much as I did!

BD: The novel deftly combines the glitz and glam of the roaring ‘20s juxtaposed against the hardships of wartime London.  What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?

EK: A large part of my creative process involves researching characters and time periods. I am a huge history nerd, and so I tend to fall down the rabbit hole a lot. Once I’m lost in the research, ideas start to form, and questions appear. With Adele, I really wanted to know how a celebrity fell away from the limelight. How her brother is basically a household name, but she is lost to time. For as famous as they were as dancing partners before Fred’s Hollywood breakout, there aren’t any video recordings of their performances, as if time itself wanted to keep Adele close to the vest. Because I started the book when Adele and her brother were breaking out as stars and making their first transatlantic journey to perform in London, I didn’t get as much a chance to expose what it’s like to fight to get there other than in flashback form. That was where I came up with the idea of creating a fictional character—Violet—to show that struggle. Violet is really a medium to expose the hardships of a performer’s life during the time, some of which still mirrors today’s performer struggles.

As for the research, there are a number of layers of research that goes into writing a book. First, you want to learn everything there is to learn about the person you’re writing about. But you also want to learn everything you can about their friends, their family, the era that they lived in, the places they lived, and what sort of current events were going on at the time. You want to know everything about what they did for fun, what they did for work. What did they eat and drink? What clothes did they wear? What sort of lingo did they use? For Adele, I read biographies about her and her brother. I read Fred’s memoir. I read a book written by Fred Astaire’s son-in-law. I read about jazz music, theater, and the people they called friends. But what was the most fun for me, was the two days I was able to spend at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University’s library. They hold the Adele Astaire Collection, which is filled with letters, receipts, scrapbooks, diaries, newspaper articles and reviews, a costume from the Vaudeville days, and so much more. I was lucky to get the two days with them, given it was in the midst of COVID and they hadn’t been open for nearly the whole year I was writing the book. My research there shifted a lot of scenes in the book, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to go there.

Violet was a character inspired by Daisy Violet Rose Wood, a music hall singer from Hoxton—which is a neighborhood on the East Side of London. Though she was born about two decades before my fictional Violet Wood, in 1877, and she was famous on stage about a decade before my story takes place. She was one of nine children. (In my original draft, Violet was one of six.) Six of Daisy Wood’s siblings were also performers like her. Due to family circumstances and marriage, she retired from theater, but only for a short time until their financial circumstances urged her back on stage. She was offered a position as a performer in NYC with some of her sisters, which was received well. And they continued to perform on and off together through the 1930s and 1940s. While my Violet’s life doesn’t exactly mirror Daisy’s, there were some similar elements.

After getting all of the research done, is when I get to really have fun. Writing biographical fiction is a lot like putting together a puzzle. Obviously, I can’t talk to the people I’m writing about, and because I’m not them, I have to make up their thoughts, feelings, dialogue with other people, goals, etc… And this is where the fun part of being a writer comes in. I can piece together the facts of their lives, the details of their era, with the fictional narrative that takes the reader on a compelling and hopefully emotionally satisfying journey.

BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums.  How do you feel that Violet and Adele’s story will connect with and impact readers?

EK: No matter the generation, I think we are drawn to stories about women who persevered—it’s a tale we can connect with, reaching for our dreams and the reason for my dedication in the novel which reads: For every artist who dared to dream, and every woman who dared to buck the status quo. You are our past, our present, and our future.

Adele was a perfect example of not only persevering and thriving, but of surviving. She started from nothing, and had plenty of setbacks, but continued to push and push. Most of the time, she was ready to show the world her funny side, which wasn’t just a character, it was the very essence of her. She was vibrant, clever, silly, and insanely talented. But she also loved fiercely, whether it was her brother, mother, husband, friends, or dance itself, she was a force that couldn’t be ignored.

When I think of Adele, I am full of admiration for how much she accomplished in her life, and that is one of the things I wanted to share with the world, this wildly exciting person who is an excellent example of finding, and living, your truth, your passion. Someone who faced fear, put on a brave face and marched forward.

Additionally, and on a not so bright side, is the darker side of the performing world. Much has changed, but much has not. In Adele’s time, women were not always respected for their artistic talents, but seen as playthings. They were beholden to a male authority figure within their particular showbiz field who might expect certain favors, even demand it, because they think it’s their right to take advantage of a woman, or to barter sex for roles. That is still unfortunately something we’re hearing about today. It is an ugly relevance, but one that needs to be addressed.  

BD: What makes William Morrow the perfect home for Starring Adele Astaire?

EK: At the heart of every book and idea is passion and heart. And I’ve been super lucky to have an agent who connects with my writing, and to have found a home for my stories with my wonderful publisher. My editor at William Morrow, Lucia Macro, is so incredible and supportive—and I love that she “gets” my books. She loves stories about people from the past as much as I do, so connecting with her and finding a home for my books with William Morrow has been such a delightful and rewarding journey. The entire team at Morrow from the art department, editing department, marketing, etc… has been a joy to work with and I feel incredibly blessed to have their support in sharing my stories with the world.

BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?

EK: I would love to share! I’ve just completed the edits on two forthcoming novels. In February 2024, I have a book releasing with my writing partner, Denny S. Bryce, titled Lady Ella and Norma Jean which shares the little known story of the friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. And in the summer of 2024, my book The Queen’s Faithful Companion explores the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and her beloved Corgi Susan (the matriarch of Windsor Corgis)—and fun to note, Susan does get her own point-of-view chapters!

BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Starring Adele Astaire and your other work?

EK: The best way to keep in touch with me about my work and to find out more information is to check out my website – – and sign up for my newsletter (link is on the site). I send out my newsletter about every other week or so with book snippets, news, fun historical facts, and more! I am also on social media. @ElizaKnight on Twitter and @ElizaKnightFiction on both Facebook and Instagram.

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