WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES is my debut historical fiction novel, which takes place in Chicago in 1925 and 2015. Written as a dual storyline, I enjoyed weaving two timelines to deliver an emotional journey for the reader that included suspense, mystery, and surprises (possibly all three simultaneously:). I also sought to reveal some of the differences and similarities between Chicago’s Black community in 1925 versus 2015.
As part of my research, it was exciting to reveal the ways my main characters shared the past and the present and how history changed some of the Black community’s priorities. First, however, let me explain a few things.
I was a history minor in college, so I am not a historian. I am a fan of research and a history geek. From my early days working on my master’s in journalism (which I came very close to earning, but not quite:) to writing press releases as a public relations professional, I learned the importance of digging for a story’s truth. Writing historical fiction allows me to feed my craving of writing stories and learning as much as possible about topics that fuel my curiosity (and creativity).
So, placing my story in Chicago, the City of Big Shoulders, seemed natural for me. I went to college in Lake Forest, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, and then moved into the city, where I lived for nearly twenty years.
The people, the city, the politics, and the educational system intrigued me. And when WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES became more than a casual idea for a book, I dug deep into the history of 1920s Chicago, mainly, and one of the historical factoids I found that made its way into my novel is about a social club.
African Americans formed the Old Settlers Social Club in Chicago in 1904. Membership required proof that you and your family had been in the city for at least 30 years. The club’s formation was due to the increase in the city’s population through Black migration from the South. Although only around 3,500 Negroes qualified, the “Old Settlers” thought to distinguish themselves from the growing population of southern Negroes. The organization existed until the middle of the 20th century.
Despite its small size and exclusivity, The Old Settlers Social Club was active across the black community until the middle of the 20th century. It was recognized as a leading social and civic organization in the city. A 1943 article in the Herald American acknowledged the club’s dedication to promoting high standards for the black community stating the Old Settlers “set the pattern of progress for years to come.”
This difference in status within the Race is a factor in my story and one I felt strongly about portraying.
Hopefully, those who read my novel will appreciate how I incorporated the significant events of the decade and the social mores that contributed to defining Chicago’s black community at the turn of the 20th century into the 1920s and beyond.
An award-winning author, Denny S. Bryce won the RWA Golden Heart® and was a three-time GH finalist, including twice for WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES, her debut novel. She also writes book reviews for NPR Books and entertainment articles for FROLIC Media. Additionally, the former professional dancer and public relations professional is a self-proclaimed history geek. She credits this obsession to her maternal grandmother, Ella Elizabeth Joseph, who immigrated from Montego Bay, Jamaica, to New York City in 1923. Recently, Denny relocated from Northern Virginia to Savannah, Georgia. She is represented by Nalini Akolekar, Spencerhill Associates.