Step into the world of Radio City’s Rockettes with author, Fiona Davis. Read excerpts from her interview on The Spectacular and discover the Fiona Davis books.
Join us as Fiona Davis, the acclaimed author of seven historical fiction novels, delves into her latest historical fiction book, “The Spectacular,” which immerses readers into the world of the legendary Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in the 1950s.
From surprising dance routines to the hidden life of the Rockettes, discover the secrets of this iconic dance troupe and how Fiona masterfully captures the essence of movement and history on the page.
Plus, learn the inside scoop on Fiona’s new book she is writing and what iconic New York City landmark she has selected for her next book destination.
The Fiona Davis Interview You Need to Hear
Listen to the Book Gang Podcast:
Listen below or listen on your favorite podcast listening platform! For today’s show, we have also transcribed excerpts from today’s interview for readers.
Patreon Fiona Davis Bonus Episode:
Patreon Pals can access our bonus SPOILER episode that will delve deep into The Spectacular ending.
Fiona masterfully crafted an emotional punch that caught me off guard.
In this bonus episode, I had the privilege of asking Fiona why she chose this ending.
We also discuss why creatives must process things on paper and what she wants readers to learn from this protagonist’s journey.
Excerpts From Today’s Interview and Show Notes:
What did you uncover about the Rockettes when researching them, and was there anything surprising about the routines?
What was different about Radio City in the fifties versus now is that now it’s a concert hall showcasing comedians, award shows, and bands, but it was a movie palace back then.
They showed four movies a day, and if you bought a ticket to a movie, you also got to see the stage show.
And that included the Ballet Corps, a choral ensemble, and, of course, the Rockettes. And sometimes, they throw in a juggler!
The show was based on the theme of whatever movie it was.
So if it was a John Wayne movie, they’d wear cowboy outfits and have holsters, guns, and hats. Those days the Rockettes worked year-round.
Now it’s seasonal if you’re a Rockette, but back then, you worked year-round, did four shows a day, and would do that for three or four weeks straight, and then you’d get a week off.
There were 46 girls total and 36 working at any one time.
They did 600 kicks per day because every number had a kick line.
It was really incredible. And because of that, I was surprised to learn that Radio City was a city for them because they were there so much.
There was a dormitory with a nurse on staff; they’d go up on the roof and play wiffle or shuffle balls. They delighted the workers in the buildings and the skyscrapers around them.
They could watch the premieres in a cafeteria and a little movie room. And so they lived there in many ways.
The other thing that surprised me about it was just the sisterhood of the Rockettes.
I asked if there was any back-fighting or anything like that, and they said no.
They were all just so pleased to be there, especially in the fifties when a woman was either a secretary or a nurse.
They were so happy to be independent and do what they loved on this iconic stage.
Marion doesn’t blend in. Did you hear from any of the other dancers struggled with this?
The character of Marion is based on a real-life film star named Vera-Ellen.
She was one of the youngest Rockettes ever, and she was just bigger than everyone else.
Russell Marker founded the Rockettes and was the director and choreographer until 1971; if he said he wanted it a kick shoulder high, hers would be eye height, or her arms would be more extended than anyone else’s.
He gave her a couple of weeks to get it right, and she finally quit before she was fired. And then she went on to this really successful film, film career. She was in White Christmas.
That was very interesting because here, you have this precision dance troupe, and the whole thing is to blend.
And it made me start thinking, what is the cost of suppressing your creativity or individuality for the good of the greater whole?
And that’s whether it’s a dance troupe, in a corporation, or a community. When do you need to speak up and stand out, and when do you need to work and cooperate?
When it comes to dance and movement, how do you capture that on the page?
It was watching them in action, and then, at one point, I watched a class where a woman named Rhonda Malkin, who was a Rockette, now teaches this class where you go if you want to try to audition.
Fifty-nine of her students have gone on to become Rockettes, so she’s doing something right!
And so I watched her class then transcribed the steps to make it as real as possible, using her notes to the dancers. And that helped to get it right.
It’s really about doing the research as well as you can and becoming an instant expert in whatever that thing is, which I often had to do as a journalist.
And so that helped to transfer over.
Is it hard to refine your research for a reader? How do you not overwhelm the reader?
It’s so tempting!
For example, you can sit and describe a room in Radio City like the Roxy Apartment, which is this cool art deco space, and write about that space for five pages.
But for me, the plot and the character come first.
And so because of that, I know and, having written many books by now, I know to look for the gem, for that one thing.
For example, the fact that the Roxy apartment has a 20-foot high gold-plated ceiling is enough to set the reader in that space in many ways.
It’s tough because there’s so much to share and fascinating information, and I just have to go with whatever surprises me because I know that’ll surprise the reader.
And by including that, it’s enough to anchor the reader in the period without overwhelming them with describing furniture.
Have you selected your new book’s next New York City landmark?
Since January, I’ve been researching and writing a book set at the Met Museum.
In fact, we even took a trip to Egypt to do some research.
It’s set at the Egyptian wing of the Met Museum from the point of view of an associate curator.
It’s also from the point of view of an assistant at the Met Gala, at the party of the year even in the seventies!
And so these two very different people have to team up to figure out who stole an artifact.
It’s a mix of glamor and mummies, so we’ll see how it goes.
New to Fiona Davis? Here are some answers to your most frequently asked questions!
What are the best Fiona Davis books?
My favorite book by Fiona Davis is The Spectacular. I also highly recommend The Lions of Fifth Avenue and The Masterpiece as beautiful escapes.
Her highest-rated novel on GoodReads is her latest book, The Spectacular.
What Fiona Davis Movies Are Coming Out?
At this time, there are no movie or tv adaptations planned.
We will update this when it happens because we know it will.
Is it necessary to read Fiona Davis’s books in a specific order?
No, each book is a standalone story.
What are the Fiona Davis books in the order published?
Books in order:
- The Dollhouse (2016)
- The Address (2017)
- The Masterpiece (2018)
- The Chelsea Girls (2019)
- The Lions of Fifth Avenue (2020)
- The Magnolia Palace (2022)
- The Spectacular (2023)
- Stories from Suffragette City (2020)- Historical Fiction Anthology Series
- A Wild Rose- Amazon Original Stories (2022)