Today is Day 4 of the Give in the Feeling Blog Tour and I’m pleased to have with us today, Sarah Zama, who is the author of Give in to the Feeling.
You can check out the entire schedule on Sarah’s website The Old Shelter.
I first met Sarah, I believe, on either Goodreads or 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.org. In either case, I’ve gotten to know her and her wonderful world of Roaring Twenties Chicago. So without further ado, let’s talk with Sarah!
CW: Your story is set in 1926 Chicago. Why pick that year and city?
SZ: Blood’s and Michael’s stories were originally thought to happen in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, but as I researched the time period, I increasingly became fascinated with the 1920s. It was a time of great change in the life of people, but also in their hears and minds. And since the story of my trilogy deals with change and coping with it, I finally decided for a shift in the time period.
As for the city, although every place has an interesting story to tell, as I researched the Prohibition I quickly realized Chicago and New York City were the cities that offered the most in terms of setting. So many things where happening and the two cities (the two biggest in the US) were in the forefront in the changing habits of America.
I finally decided for Chicago because I was fascinated with the ‘city of neighbourhoods’.
CW: You note on your blog you try to make your story as historically accurate as possible but it is also fantasy. What is your definition of fantasy?
SZ: I said ‘fantasy’, but I could have more accurately said ‘speculation’. Fantasy, for me, is anything that isn’t, but could be. Speculative stories go a bit further than mimic stories may go. They go that extra step that subverts reality in some way or another.
All stories exist to expand on our experience, to let us experience things we are unlikely to ever experience in our life. That’s the whole point of every story. Speculative stories come down harder on us. They subvert reality in a way that exposes what is normally hidden or taken for granted, and with the use of symbols lay meanings in front of us in a way that is more challenging.
Not all readers are comfortable with this kind of manipulation, though. Readers may not understand the symbols, or the subversion, and see only the surface, see a story that has no connection with reality.
In the end, it’s all up to the individual sensibility.
CW: How much of your story is history and how much fantasy?
SZ: With regard to my 1920s stories, most of them are history. Setting, historical events, and societies, I tried to present as close to history as possible. But in these stories, the spirit world exists and mixes with the world we know freely.
CW: As writers of alternative history, we are asking “What if such-and-such did or didn’t happen?” And then we try to answer that question. As readers of alternative history, each of us has a threshold beyond which we can no longer suspend disbelief. Are there any elements in your story where you are pushing the boundaries of fantasy in a historical setting?
Well, my stories can’t be considered alternative history. As I said, I tried to be as faithful to history as possible. But as a reader of alternative history there are lines I have a very hard time crossing.
I think that history always makes sense. We might not like what happened, we might not accept what happened, we might condemned what happened, but there is always a reason why certain things happened. I ask alternative history writers to keep in line with this. Their alternative history has to make sense. There has to be a reason why something, at a certain point, didn’t happen the way it did. And the consequences, the way the alternate history evolves, also have to make sense.
The moment I start questioning the alternate history, I’m out of the story.
CW: What is it about speculative fiction and Dieselpunk in particular that attracts you over say romance or mysteries?
SZ: As I said above, I think this is largely a question of personal liking and affinity. I actually love mysteries… though I would never be able to write them. Romances? Not so much. And there isn’t an intellectual reason for that, I don’t think one genre is better than another, inherently. I do think some genres are better than others for me, because some genres resonate with me while others don’t.
The reason why I love speculative stories is that I think their subversive elements can be used in a very powerful way to question reality as we know it, and so it has huge potentialities for philosophical thinking. Fantasy, SF, Horror stories push elements of our reality to such huge extremes that they naturally cause questioning… if the reader isn’t scared away.
I mean, think of a story like Animal Farm. On the surface, you could say there is nothing realistic about it. But that story was actually depicting a very specific historical moment and contains a universal message of freedom and equality that still speaks to us more than half a century later.
I’ve been a fan of fantasy since I can remember. I’ve been into mythology and legends since I was very little. And I’ve always loved history since I studied it at school. When I was very little, I would watched 1930s and 1940s mystery films on TV with my granny. I suppose all of this fell together when I finally met Dieselpunk. It happen by chance, I just stumbled upon the concept, and I was instantly fascinated. Serendipity, I suppose.
CW: Give in to the Feeling deals with the spirit world. What is it about ghosts that interests you?
SZ: I’m not sure I can answer this. I’ve always been fascinated with the fact that the world we see and touch isn’t all there is. That if we can – and are willing – to go that extra step, we can touch and see a different world.
Maybe this is just a way of symbolizing our connection with our deepest self. I don’t know. What I know is that in my stories, when the spirit world and the real world come together, good things normally happen… although not always in an easy way.
CW: Is your book a “classic” ghost story? Or are ghosts just lurking on the fringe?
SZ: Give in to the Feeling isn’t a ghost story at all. There are spirits in it, but no ghost.
Ghost Trilogy is of course a ghost story. There is only one ghost, but it’s a very important character, central to the story. It is also the catalyst of all the changes, especially inside the characters. Dealing with this ghost forces nearly all characters to look inside themselves and deal with what they find there.
CW: Why did you choose the cover you did for your book? As I recall, you had an Art Deco look as a possibility.
SZ: I commissioned a graphic artist to do the cover. We talked about what I was looking for and what she could actually do for me. The result is a compromise between the two.
CW: What makes the main characters in Give it to the Feeling tick?
SZ: I think it’s the aspiration for something more and better. They are all willing to go that extra step, because they know it will bring good things to them. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always cooperate.
CW: Blood is a rather unusual name for a character. How did he get it?
SZ: A lot of people seem to like Blood’s name, it is very popular among those who have read parts of the story.
It is part of his Lakota name, which is Wewacipi, meaning Blood Dance. There is a story of how Blood received his name, but since this is part of Ghost Trilogy, I’d prefer not to reveal it now.
CW: What is your next writing project?
SZ: I’m still working at Ghost Trilogy. It is completely drafted and the first novel is nearly ready to go. I’ve actually already submitted to agents, which is why I know it is not ready yet… Books Two and Three are still at the second draft stage.
I’m also playing with the idea of a series of stories again set in the 1920s but in Europe. The main character is Ombretta Vivaldi, an Italian folklorist. I created her for a challenge and I became fascinated with her, but her story is still an embryo. So much to plan still.
CW: I remember Ombretta from several snippets you shared on 8 Sentence Sunday. She impressed me as a fascinating character. I hope we get to see her soon.
What does the future hold for you?
SZ: Success for my stories, of course!
CW: And here’s wishing you lots and lots of success!
You may connect with Sarah at the following:
Contact Info and Links
A bookseller in Verona (Italy), Sarah Zama has always lived surrounded by books. Always a fantasy reader and writer, she’s recently found her home in the dieselpunk community. Her first book, Give in to the Feeling, comes out in 2016.Share This!