Some time ago, I had an idea.
I wanted to write a book about a typewriter.
At the time, I had grand ambitions of one day curating and restoring a collection of late 19th and early 20th century typewriters, but quickly realized that neither my budget, my storage space, nor my mechanical skills would allow it. Still, I loved the aesthetic and the sound. I grew up making “magazines” on my parents’ typewriter. In researching the eras my beloved machines came from, I came across a series of images that inspired me.
The pictures percolated in my head, eventually mixing with some books I’d read, history I’d learned about, and movies I’d seen. Eventually, they all came together, and after several long years of work, I ended up with the bare bones of what would eventually become Magic in the Headlines.
For me, there’s just something about the era between 1860 and 1960. There were so many changes. Tragedies and triumphs, advances in science and medicine, some of which that went horribly wrong. The changes in fashion, world politics, and women’s rights. It was a century of incredible change, and I wanted to capture a piece of it.
Do you remember when Netflix was first a thing? They had a lot of older movies. I started watching silent films, like Metropolis and It (no clowns involved. It’s a Clara Bow movie). I also watched His Girl Friday, which I absolutely loved. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s set in the 1940s at a newspaper, where a couple who has been working together for years is about to get a divorce, but are forced to work together for a story. It’s still one of my favorite movies from the black and white era.
Enter Leatherheads, a sports drama featuring a feisty blonde reporter in the early days of professional football. With broad selection of fashionable hats and witty repartee.
Put all of these in a blender, and you end up with the first few chapters of Headlines, especially the banter between AJ and Oliver, and her relationship with Jasper.
In reviewing my inspiration shots to send to my cover artist, I also found my original casting image for AJ. If I could pick anyone to play her, it would be Mary Pickford.
I’ll probably be writing up a profile on Mary at some point, since she had a more interesting life than I first thought. In an example AJ could probably relate to, she could not get paid to play an adult. So, at 33, she wrote, produced, and stared in Annie Rooney, which grossed over one million dollars–a huge sum in 1925.
Coincidentally, that is the same year Headlines is set.
So, if you’re enjoying all this feisty energy, stick around because there will be more on AJ and Headlines coming soon.
This is 100% AJ Marshall energy right here. The two center photos are from her movie Little Annie Rooney, which I found on Youtube.*
*Annie Rooney is now my favorite silent film. If you like heartwarming stories about people coming together to help each other, then you’ll love it. Set in an immigrant community, it is remarkably respectful of the various cultures depicted, with (as far as I, a white person) could identify, only one questionable clip. It’s also heavily inferred Annie’s brother Tim and his “best friend” are either gay or bisexual. Honestly, I wish I’d seen this movie before I started writing Headlines since that sense of community and coming together are what I wanted for the book from the get go.
Like what you see? Check out By the Grace