Q&A with Martha Conway, the author of SUGARLAND

Sugarland (Medium)

Major excitement around here, folks, as I am sharing with you today about a great new book AND I have an author Q&A to share with you, too!

SUGARLAND is billed as a “Jazz Age Mystery”and I am so excited to dive into this novel (it is at the top of my TBR pile – thank you for my review copy).

Here’s some background on the book:


A New Mystery by Edgar-Nominated Author Martha Conway

In 1921, young jazz pianist Eve Riser witnesses the accidental killing of a bootlegger. To cover up the crime, she agrees to deliver money and a letter to a man named Rudy Hardy in Chicago. But when Eve gets to Chicago she discovers that her stepsister Chickie, a popular nightclub singer, is pregnant by a man she won’t name. That night Rudy Hardy is killed before Eve’s eyes in a brutal drive-by shooting, and Chickie disappears.

Eve needs to find Chickie, but she can’t do it alone. Lena Hardy, Rudy’s sister, wants to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder, but she needs Eve’s connections. Together they navigate the back alleys and speakeasies of 1920s Chicago, encountering petty thugs, charismatic bandleaders, and a mysterious nightclub owner called the Walnut who seems to be the key to it all. As they fight racial barriers trying to discover the truth, Eve and Lena unravel a twisted tale of secret shipments and gangster rivalry.

SUGARLAND mixes the excitement of a new kind of music—jazz—with the darker side of Prohibition in a gripping story with “real suspense for anyone who likes a good mystery.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Find SUGARLAND on Amazon and Goodreads!

And here’s some info on Ms. Conway:

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Martha Conway is the author of Sugarland: A Jazz Age Mystery [Noontime Books], available via Amazon as of May 12, 2016. Conway’s first novel was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her second novel, Thieving Forest, won the 2014 North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has been published in The Iowa Review, The Carolina Quarterly Review, The Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Folio, and other journals. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program and UC Berkeley Extension, and is a recipient of a California Arts Council Fellowship for Creative Writing. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She currently lives in San Francisco.

Connect with Martha on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and her website: www.marthaconway.com


Ms. Conway graciously agreed to answer some of the questions I had about her writing of SUGARLAND:

  1. How did you come up with this idea for the novel?

The kernel of the story came from a jazz song entitled “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” (“If You See My Mother”) with Sidney Bechet on saxophone. As I listened to it one day, I realized that I was imagining a story in the back of my mind: a woman walking along winter road looking for something or someone. The story that became Sugarland spun itself out from there.

BBNB: This is such an interesting answer — the novel writing process is so rooted in creativity and imagination. This answer just captures that sentiment!

  1. Have you always been interested in jazz? Chicago?

I’m from the Cleveland, and Chicago feels like a sister city to me. I have many friends and relatives who live there. I loved the fact that jazz migrated to Chicago early on from New Orleans, and then morphed (as jazz does) into a new sound. I’ve always loved jazz, especially the very earliest form of the genre. You can hear the excitement of a brand new form.

      3. What made you choose this time period for your story?

In 1921, the Great War was still just recently over, and men were coming home changed or damaged. This combined with a new form of music and the beginning of Prohibition just seemed too good a mix to ignore. It’s a perfect setting for drama, and for conflicting desires. Plus the 1920’s had this feeling of a world changing, of modernizing in an exciting way, which I find similar to the technical revolution we’ve been having lately.

  1. What was the most interesting fact you found while researching this novel?

In the earliest decades of jazz, there were many more female musicians—and not just singers, but pianists and horn players—who played professionally. Later, when jazz as a music genre was absorbed into the mainstream of American entertainment, women became less acceptable on stage, unless they were singers. Also there were quite a few female composers, who write and published songs under pseudonyms.

BBNB: Wow, that is something I did not know. I know there were many great female jazz singers but composers? Love this answer!

  1. What is your next novel going to be about (if you can say!)?

My next novel takes place on the Ohio River in antebellum America: A socially awkward costume designer takes a job on a riverboat theatre, and finds herself caught up in the Underground Railroad. The title, as of now, is The Floating Theatre.

BBNB: HF? Antebellum? Theater AND the Underground Railroad? Sign me up!

  1. What about your previous novels? Do you prefer writing historical fiction to other genres? What were they about?

My first novel was a mystery, and it took place in present-day San Francisco. After that I began writing historical fiction. I’m not sure why I didn’t start writing historical fiction right away, considering I was a Victorian Studies major in college! I love doing research about day-to-day life. What people ate, how they did their chores, what they were afraid of, and what their comforts were. Most of all, I love reversing stereotypes. My previous book, Thieving Forest, takes place in Ohio when Ohio was considered The West (early 1800’s). My friend describes it as “Gone Girl meets Little Women.”

BBNB: Readers, please know that I did not divulge my complete obsession with LMA and Little Women, nor did I interview while wearing my snood and hoop skirt! 

  1. Anything else you’d like to add – please know I’m open! 

Thank you for these excellent questions, Beth! I’m so happy you are showcasing Sugarland on your site. Writing it was a labor of love.

BBNB: Thank YOU for sharing your time, your info, and most of all your talent with us!

Readers, stay tuned for my review of SUGARLAND in the upcoming weeks.

Look for it an an indie, your library, or online!


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