Lindsay Lynch chats researching Hollywood for Do Tell

We had the honour of chatting with Lindsay Lynch about researching for her gripping debut, Do Tell


Actress Edie O’Dare has long supplemented her income moonlighting for Hollywood’s reigning gossip columnist. When an up-and-coming starlet hands her a letter alleging an assault from an A-list actor at a party, Edie helps get the story into print. And given Edie’s contract with FWM Studios is ending, perhaps she can also publish the secrets of her former colleagues. But not without repercussion… We had the honour of chatting with Lindsay Lynch about researching for her gripping debut, Do Tell:

First of all, congratulations on your debut! What was the writing process like?

I started researching golden age Hollywood and drafting Do Tell when I was in my MFA program at University of Wyoming in 2018. The book has had a few lives since then! I finished a first draft the summer after I completed my MFA, and I continued revising it while working full time as a bookseller. In 2020, I ended up rewriting most of the book because I received a lot of feedback from early readers who wanted more background on my narrator, Edie O’Dare—I can’t say I really recommend rewriting a book during a pandemic. It worked out though, the second version of Do Tell sold to Doubleday Books in the US and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK in early 2022.

And being a bookseller, I’m sure this has been extra special for you. What has the response been like?

Almost every major milestone of this process has happened while I’ve been at work in the bookstore—from getting an offer from a literary agent, to getting the call that my book sold at auction in the US—and it’s meant the world to me to share those experiences with the booksellers. I trust booksellers so much because we’re a very loyal bunch: when we care about a book or an author, we’ll talk about it for years. The response has been surreal and incredible; I’m really excited to visit bookstores this summer and talk to booksellers around the US.

The writing style is great, and the flashbacks are added perfectly. Was it difficult to plan the flow of the book?

I’m a nerd who likes to do things like diagram chapters, draw out plots, and cover my floor with notecards corresponding to different chapters and themes, so I weirdly enjoyed planning the flow of the book! I’d only written short stories prior to taking on Do Tell—it was a really satisfying experience to work in larger story arcs and have the space to build tension over longer chapters as opposed to a few pages or paragraphs.

Why did you decide to set the story in the golden age? Was it inspired by any particular incident(s) that happened in Hollywood?

I’ve always been interested in film history—I grew up watching old movies with my parents and I always frequent indie movie theaters that show classics on the big screen. I did lot of the research for Do Tell while the #metoo movement was gaining traction in the US, and I started seeing so many parallels between what was happening in the 1940s and today. When I discovered that the actor Errol Flynn actually went to trial in 1943 for assaulting two underaged girls, I knew that would become the backbone for the story I wanted to tell.

Any favourite movies from that period?

I’m a huge fan of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, I think they have some of the greatest on-screen chemistry in Hollywood history. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story. I also love the Westerns from that era because I think they’re so campy—all those very serious men comparing their guns! I’m obsessed with Montgomery Clift in Red River (the subtext in this scene always makes me laugh!).

I’m sure everyone would enjoy reading about the Hollywood you painted in Do Tell, especially since you treated us with amazing details. What was the research process like?

I often joke about being a fake historian, so I really loved the research process. I was very fortunate to do a lot of the heavy lifting while I was in grad school and not working full time—it was a very immersive experience where I was only watching films made in Hollywood between 1935 and 1945, reading nonfiction about the time period, along with fan magazines and news articles from the era. When I went back to working full time, I was able to keep researching while I drafted but having that time to lose myself in the era made a huge difference.

What did you like researching the most for Do Tell? And anything you learned about Hollywood in the golden age that you didn’t put in the book but can share with us?

I had so much fun researching the gossip columnists! My narrator Edie has two historical counterparts, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, who were the reigning gossip queens of golden age Hollywood and beyond. I wanted Edie to be her own organic person, so early on in the process, I held back from learning too much about either Hedda or Louella, but they were both fascinating characters. For example, Hedda changed her name from Elda mid-career after she married a man whose ex-wives were Ella, Ida, Edna and Nella—he kept mixing up her name because it sounded too similar to his exes, so that’s how she became Hedda Hopper!

Many of us read gossip columnists every now and then but we never think about the power they yield. You captured the dynamics wonderfully but this is not something one can simply Google. What was your secret?

My research on the studio system of 1930s and 40s Hollywood definitely shaped how I wrote about gossip and the power dynamics of that world. Going into researching, I hadn’t realized just how much control the studios held over the press—a gossip columnist couldn’t have the same viciousness that we’ve come to expect from more contemporary tabloid journalism because they really didn’t want to cross the studios. Until the studio system was dismantled in the late 1940s, a gossip columnist couldn’t publish something like an actress getting pregnant out of wedlock without serious repercussions from the studios, who had the power to blacklist writers or even reprimand the papers they wrote for. There was a very fine line between appeasing the studios and still getting a juicy scoop—it was fascinating to incorporate that into the structure of Do Tell.

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