Behind The Book With Denny S. Bryce & Eliza Knight
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Behind The Book With Denny S. Bryce & Eliza Knight
Today’s Behind The Book Q&A is with two lovely ladies with whom I did regular Q&As in the past. They are Award Winning Author Denny S Bryce & USA Today Bestselling Author Eliza Knight. I recently read their upcoming novel Can’t We Be Friends: A Novel of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, about the friendship between Ella and Marilyn, which is what this edition of Behind The Book will be about.
Q: The book alternates between Ella & Marilyn’s point of view. What made you choose to have Ella tell her part of the events in the first person and Marilyn in the third person?
A: When we decided we wanted to write the story of Ella and Marilyn’s friendship, we knew from the start that we wanted it to be Ella’s story, and in her story, she’s sharing her memories of Marilyn. We opened the story with the 1972 Ms. magazine interview of Ella being asked about their friendship, and the story takes off from there, with Ella narrating her part. Then Marilyn’s story is told from what we pictured as Ella sharing the story of her friend.
Q: Eliza & Denny, in the acknowledgments section, you two wrote about how the idea came about when we read an article about Ella & Marilyn’s friendship back in 2019. Since the book is coming out on March 5, how long did it take to research & write Can’t We Be Friends? On top of doing research for this book you two also had your own solo projects coming.
A: Yes! We started to research the idea in 2019. And for about two years, we were reading and digging into their story while we worked on our solo projects. Then, in 2021, we decided it was time to buckle down. Over the next year, we worked on plots, outlines, and spreadsheets. We’d meet up on Zoom to discuss how we wanted to go about writing the project. We wrote some sample chapters, and in early 2022, our agents presented the idea to editors. We were contracted in early 2022, and it took off from there! We were so excited to get to share this story with our readers.
Q: Denny, I remember in our Q&A back in the summer of 2023, you mentioned that you & Eliza did the research part together, & then when writing the first draft of the book, you two did a lot of telephone calls & zoom meetings. Was that how you two ladies did the writing with the final draft?
A: Our approach was to each write a chapter, exchange the chapter, provide each other with comments, edit questions, give the chapter back, and start all over again. What was most effective was that we were in collaboration from the very beginning of the project. We had numerous discussions on what we wanted to communicate through our characters and what we wanted to avoid as well. Those early discussions and then the outline process, along with agreeing upon the key themes of the story, I believe, enabled us to write a very cohesive tale.
Q: Other than exploring a friendship that not many people know about, what lessons do you hope readers take away after reading Why Can’t We Be Friends?
A: In the opening pages of the book, we put a quote from Michelle Obama that reads: “Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are built of a thousand small kindnesses . . . swapped back and forth and over again.”
Women’s friendships are so important and vital to our existence. One of the key themes of this book is the exploration of those tight bonds that get us through every moment of our lives.
This is a novel about two women, two races, two challenging worlds—music and film. Both women have similar backgrounds and carve out a friendship based on admiration, respect, and love despite their differences. In the sexist and racist America of the 1950s, each faces obstacles with courage, humor, fear, and, once too often, despair. We’ve been friends for over a decade, and we wanted to team up together to write a riveting emotional journey that tells the story of two famous celebrities and their surprising bond—in hopes it would resonate with other women.
Q: Were there new facts you both learned while researching & writing this book? I know I learned a lot of information that I didn’t know while I read Can’t We Be Friends.
A: So much! Even more than we could write here. But specifically, we found it fascinating that Ella and Marilyn grew up with very similar backgrounds and childhoods. Beyond being women in male-dominated industries, these two bonded because they had a lot in common beyond the celebrity scene. It was so exciting and satisfying when we were developing the timeline and doing research to see how often they were in the same towns at the same time and imagining the two of them hanging out together.
Q: After writing Can’t We Be Friends, would you two ladies write another book together again in the future? Are you two currently writing another book together? 😉
A: Currently, we are both working on solo projects we already had contracted, but we have a lot of ideas up our sleeves ☺.