After a hard day working in public relations and marketing, Denny Bryce would settle into writing fan fiction based on her favorite television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Eventually, she branched out into Being Human (the BBC version) and Leverage.
“When I started writing fan fiction, I felt it was something people ‘hid.’ Like oh, my, you shouldn’t write these stories about characters you didn’t originate,” said Bryce. “And frankly, back in the day, it was punishable. Some creators prosecuted fan fiction authors for exploiting their characters. But we didn’t sell or earn money writing fanfiction—not then.”
When another fan fiction writer, who was also a Regency romance author, suggested Bryce join her at a Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference she did and discovered a world of classes and fellowship that led her to write historical fiction.
“Romancelandia was central to providing me with access to craft experts and I’m a craft junkie. Over the years, some of the instructors I enjoyed that pop into my mind include Donald Maass, David Corbett, Margie Lawson, Lisa Cron, Farrah Rochon, Christian Higgins, Michael Hauge, to name a few, “ said Bryce.
As Bryce delved into historical fiction she followed a trail of personal interest to the story she sought. She credits her maternal grandmother, who came to the United States from in 1923 from Montego Bay, Jamaica, with her interest in historical fiction.
“When I was a kid, and she was much older, she had all these photos on the walls of her as a young woman wearing fancy clothes, standing in front of old-fashioned cars. Being a curious child, I asked her questions constantly about those photos. And she told me the stories. So that’s where my fascination with the 1920s likely took hold. Years later, when I was a professional dancer, my love of music and exposure to the different types of music included a tremendous amount of jazz. And I lived in Chicago where there were and are great jazz clubs, several of which I waited on tables at—this experience also contributed to Wild Women and the Blues,” said Bryce.
The novel alternates between Honoree Dalcour is a sharecropper’s daughter turned chorus girl and Sawyer Hayes, a film student. Hayes arrives at the bedside of 110-year-old Honoree Dalcour, still reeling from a devastating loss that has taken him right to the brink and begins to learn her story.
Bryce matched story turning points to draw readers in. “So, in the A storyline, the turning points are mirrored in the B storyline. In a novel, we strive for rising action (story momentum, pacing) and the things that cause POV characters (or your POV character) to react, rethink, surrender, confess – or whatever the story genre requires,” said Bryce.
Wild Women and the Blues takes place in 2015 and 1925 Chicago in Bronzeville, also known in the 1920s as the Black Belt. Her depiction of 1925 Chicago is rich with period detail about the jazz club scene, famous figures like Louis Armstrong and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux and the bootleg whiskey, gambling, and gangster scene.
”I visited archivists at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago and toured the city. Although I’d lived there for several years, I saw my toddlin’ town from a storyteller’s perspective. In addition, I examined hundreds of original photos and other documents from the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection. She was the first African American librarian in the Chicago Public Library system. She started working (and gathering artifacts) in the 1920s, and her collection is one of the largest African American history and literature collections in the Midwest,” said Bryce.
“I also spent hours and hours at the Library of Congress, where I perused thousands of articles from the Chicago Defender, one of the oldest Black newspapers in America.
She warns writers: the Research Rabbit Hole is real. “Historical fiction is not meant to be a non-fiction history lesson. Furthermore, some of the most wonderful nuggets found aren’t always right for the story you are telling. So, I put these findings in a folder or ten on my computer for future use.”
Revision is also central to her process. “The best advance I can share about the revision process – is to learn to love revisions. For me, that’s where I can bring the story to life. After a few drafts to get the story down on ‘paper’ (computer document), that’s where I can connect threads, strengthen characterization, hone POV voice, etc. So, that’s it for me – I love revising. For new writers, take an editing course. Buy a few books on how to edit your manuscript. This will give you a leg up on what editors will be looking for when they read your work,” said Bryce.
Wild Women and the Blues launched in the midst of Covid restrictions, but Bryce remained undaunted praising the industry’s resourcefulness. “From publishers to independent booksellers, book influencers, debut authors, and more, there was a joining together, abound, teamwork, whereby there we supported each other or created value-add support systems. From my 2020 Debut and 2021 Debut Facebook groups to A Mighty Blaze to the many independent bookstores that embraced virtual events, I was able to get the word out about my debut and am thrilled with the results.”
She has a lot to look forward having signed two new contracts before my debut’s release. She is currently in the process of revising/finishing/handing in the second book of her first book deal, In the Face of the Sun set at the height of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Future projects include THE OTHER PRINCESS, based on the life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, the African Egbado Princess, rescued as a child from West African Slave traders and presented to Queen Victoria as a “gift,” and A BEAUTIFUL LOVE AFFAIR, the retelling the story of Alice Jones Rhinelander, the real-life central figure in the Rhinelander vs. Rhinelander court case of 1925 in which a real estate heir accused his wife of being “colored.”
Denny S. Bryce is an award-winning author and three-time RWA Golden Heart® finalist, including twice for Wild Women and the Blues. The former professional dancer and public relations executive is a book critic for NPR Books and also has written for Frolic Media, USA Today, and Harper’s Bazaar. A member of the Historical Novel Society (HNS), Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA), Novelists, INC., and The Tall Poppies, the former Chicagoan currently resides in Savannah, GA. Visit her online at DennySBryce.com.Get your manuscript in front of interested agents and publishers. List your pitch on Authorlink® Rights for Sale/Publishers Market.