Q: What attracted you to the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald in Los Angeles?
We’ll always be fascinated with Scott and Zelda’s fall from grace from the pinnacle of celebrity and fame. That attracts a lot of writers and readers. But I want to talk about that later story when he gets up off that mat and becomes himself again. I want Scott’s point of view, and you can only do that though fiction.
Q: What is happening to Fitzgerald when the book begins?
It’s 1937. His wife Zelda is in a private asylum in North Carolina, and he realizes that she is not getting better. His daughter is in Connecticut, and he’s deeply in debt to his agent. He has no other prospects, and he has no choice but to try screenwriting for the third time.
Read the review and listen to the podcasts of West of Sunset on Rick Kleffel’s The Agony Column!
Stewart is on the last leg of his tour — Asheville and Savannah this week:
ABA Winter Institute
The Man in Room 441: A Conversation About F. Scott Fitzgerald, With Maureen Corrigan, Stewart O’Nan, and Erik Larson
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 – 10:20am to 11:45am
Savannah Book Festival, 2/14/2015 4:10-5:10PM
Allison Hope Weiner of TheLip.tv interviewed Stewart on Media Mayhem! Check out the great interview.
Q&A: Stewart O’Nan on Fictionalizing F. Scott Fitzgerald
For all that has been written, said, extrapolated from, and culturally metabolized about F. Scott Fitzgerald, the last few years of his life are often dismissed as a steady downward slide from writing The Crack Up, published February 1936 in Esquire, to his premature death of a heart attack in December 1940 at just 44 years old.
But it was during that time that Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood, reinvented himself, repaid his debts and fell in love for the final time. Of course, he also failed to finish a new novel, felt the impact of his worsening health, and struggled to maintain a relationship with his beloved but committed wife, Zelda. It’s not the expat parties in Paris of the 1920s so often associated with the author. But it was an interesting time in the life of one of the most celebrated literary figures of the 20th century. In his newest novel, West of Sunset, Stewart O’Nan presents a fictionalized account of these final years, bringing to life scenes of Fitzgerald in Hollywood. We talked to O’Nan about fictionalizing such a famous figure and what he learned about Fitzgerald in the process.
Stewart is in Seattle today for two events!
The Pub @ Third Place Books, 1/30/2015
Elliott Bay Books, 1/30/2015
There are really three stories here woven into one compelling narrative: Fitzgerald’s attempt at professional reinvention, his romantic quest to re-create with Graham the once-electric love he shared with Zelda in the 1920s and his guilt-driven obligation to support his scattered family by paying for Zelda’s hospitalization and his daughter’s education at prep school and later Vassar.
Any one of these stories by itself would be interesting. Skillfully woven together, they comprise the best Golden Age Hollywood novel to come down Sunset Boulevard in years.
“West of Sunset” is deeply researched, but the book wears it lightly — true events and real-life people are seamlessly woven into O’Nan’s imagined world. And the author’s prose, as always, is simple but eloquent — somehow, magically, he makes it look easy. Figures like Bogart and Fitzgerald’s friend/foe Ernest Hemingway are fully realized, not just characters used for perfunctory name-dropping.
Best of all, though, is O’Nan’s main character. “West of Sunset” is a big-hearted and fascinating look at this complex man — a troubled genius who was half inside a celebrity’s glamorous life and, poignantly, half outside it.