AMERICAN HISTORICAL NOVELS discussion

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Sugarland - Author Welcome

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message 1: by Martha (last edited May 01, 2018 07:31AM) (new)

Martha Conway | 255 comments Mod
Hi all you readers of American historical fiction!

I'm Martha Conway, and I'll be hosting our new Goodreads Group, AMERICAN HISTORICAL FICTION BOOK CLUB for the first two weeks of May. I'm the author of four books, three of which are historical novels that take place in America. In honor of the group launch, I'll be giving away free ebooks of Sugarland on Amazon to every group member next week, from May 5th to 9th! I will also give away one paperback edition to a member picked at random.

Sugarland takes place in Chicago in 1921, when Al Capone is on the rise and a new music called jazz fills the streets. When talented young musician Eve Riser witnesses the accidental killing of a bootlegger, she must go to Chicago to deliver money to the bootlegger's boss. That night she is caught in a drive-by shooting, the money is stolen, and her sister Chickie goes missing. To find the money and her sister, Eve joins forces with the nurse who saved her. Together these two women navigate the back alleys and jazz clubs of the Roaring Twenties, encountering charismatic managers, handsome musicians, and a mysterious gangster called the Walnut who seems to be the key to it all.

This week and next I will post pieces about why I wrote Sugarland and what it means to me. I'll also post a copy of an interview I gave when the novel first came out, and an unpublished chapter that did not make it into the final book. Throughout the week I'll be on hand to answer any questions you may have about my books and my process.

Welcome to the group!

-Martha Conway


message 2: by Alice (new)

Alice | 11 comments Thanks, Martha! I loved this book, and I'd like you to tell us a bit about how you, as a writer, managed to make the jazz music (especially the piano music) so incredibly vivid that I felt like I was hearing the music while I was reading the words. Looking forward to your posts over the next two weeks.


message 3: by Anne (new)

Anne McMillan (goodreadscomannemc) | 2 comments Thanks Martha! I'm putting Sugarland on my reading list right now.


message 4: by Martha (last edited Apr 30, 2018 07:56AM) (new)

Martha Conway | 255 comments Mod
Alice wrote: "Thanks, Martha! I loved this book, and I'd like you to tell us a bit about how you, as a writer, managed to make the jazz music (especially the piano music) so incredibly vivid that I felt like I w..."
Thanks for the question!
Although I definitely wrote my own emotional response into the story—what I was feeling as I listened to the music—I also got a lot of help from books like "What to Listen for in Jazz" (which came with a music CD!), and also interviews with early musicians—what the music meant to them. I tried to put in a few, a very few, technical terms to give some legitimacy, but mostly I just wanted to give the feeling of being in the audience in one of these speakeasies, listening to the show.


message 5: by Martha (new)

Martha Conway | 255 comments Mod
Anne wrote: "Thanks Martha! I'm putting Sugarland on my reading list right now."

Wonderful! I hope you enjoy it.


message 6: by Alice (last edited Apr 30, 2018 04:25PM) (new)

Alice | 11 comments Martha wrote: "Alice wrote: "Thanks, Martha! I loved this book, and I'd like you to tell us a bit about how you, as a writer, managed to make the jazz music (especially the piano music) so incredibly vivid that I..."

Thanks, Martha. Did you visit Chicago while you were researching the book? (I know you've visited other places that you've written about.) Are there still clubs there that helped you capture the ambience and the dynamic between performers and audience?


message 7: by Martha (new)

Martha Conway | 255 comments Mod
I've been to Chicago many times, but I didn't go specifically to research this story. Since it has changed so much since the 1920s, I didn't think I could get a realistic vision of what it might be like back then. What I did instead was go to JazzFest in New Orleans—a yearly jazz festival that is actually taking place as I type this!—where I went from tent to tent listening to bands. They have all sorts of music going, but I went mostly to the performances of early jazz and ragtime, to hear the kind of music my characters would have heard. It was wonderful.

And the beignets were fantastic, too. :)


message 8: by Alice (new)

Alice | 11 comments Sounds great! I could use a beignet and some of that chicory-mixed coffee right now. By the way, I loved your post about the two very different women who have to work together to solve the mystery. That's a very powerful dynamic for fiction (and life). . . I also found it interesting that you switched protagonists as the story developed. Both posts illustrate that a good book has a bedrock of reality (facts/research) but characters are "human" and you have to be flexible and responsive to them to capture their story in the best way. Which you do!!


message 9: by Mary (new)

Mary | 33 comments Thank you Martha!


message 10: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 24 comments Sugarland sounds so good! I am originally from the Chicagoland area so this will be one I want to read! Adding it to my goodreads tbr list now!


message 11: by Martha (new)

Martha Conway | 255 comments Mod
Alice wrote: "Sounds great! I could use a beignet and some of that chicory-mixed coffee right now. By the way, I loved your post about the two very different women who have to work together to solve the mystery...."
Changing the protagonist was an excruciating decision, but it felt right for the book (although more work for me!) ... and I kind of just fell in love with Eve Riser—her struggles, her commitment to her art, her dedication to her stepsister Chickie through thick and thin.


message 12: by Martha (new)

Martha Conway | 255 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "Sugarland sounds so good! I am originally from the Chicagoland area so this will be one I want to read! Adding it to my goodreads tbr list now!"
Thank you!


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