Q&A With Denny S Bryce

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Q&A With Denny S. Bryce


On Friday, July 28, I contacted the award-winning author of historical fiction, Denny S. Bryce. She responded and, to my happiness, agreed to be interviewed! Denny is the author of Wild Women And The Blues, In The Face Of The Sun, and The Other Princess: A Novel Of Queen Victoria’s Goddaughter, coming from William Morrow on October 3. Next year, Denny has two releases: Can’t We Be Friends: A Novel Of Ella Fitzgerald & Marilyn Monroe, co-written with USA Today Bestselling Author of historical fiction, Eliza Knight, and The Trial Of Mrs. Rhinelander


Q: Denny, you’ve had a busy year with one release in October and two in 2024. Would you like to tell the readers of the blog and me a little about each of those books?


A: First, I am thrilled to participate in the author Q&A on your blog. I love discussing my novels, so I am such a fan of talking to book clubs, bloggers, reporters, and Instagrammers. I enjoy seizing every opportunity to do just that. However, the challenge now is for me to keep these descriptions short, but let’s give it a go.


THE OTHER PRINCESS (October 3, 2023) — A portrait of an African princess raised in Queen Victoria’s court, adapting to life in Victorian England—based on the real-life story of historical figure Princess Aina, known as Sarah Forbes Bonetta. From West Africa to Windsor Castle to Sierra Leone, to St. James’s Palace, and the Lagos Colony, Sarah juggles the power and pitfalls of a royal upbringing as she battles racism and systematic oppression on her way to living a life worthy of a Yoruba princess.


CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS: A Novel of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, co-authored with Eliza Knight, Starring Adele Astaire and The Mayfair Bookshop (March 5, 2024) — One woman was recognized as the premiere singer of her era with perfect pitch and tireless ambition. One woman was the most glamorous star in Hollywood, a sex symbol who took the world by storm. And their friendship was fast and firm…1952: Ella Fitzgerald is a renowned jazz singer whose only roadblock to longevity is society’s attitude toward women and race. Despite ongoing battles with movie studio bigwigs and boyfriends, Marilyn Monroe’s star is rising. When she needs help singing, she wants only the best—the best is the brilliant Ella Fitzgerald. But Ella isn’t a singing teacher and declines—then the two women meet, and to everyone’s surprise but their own, they become fast friends. But as with any friendship, things can go awry.


THE TRIAL OF MRS. RHINELANDER (Spring/Summer 2024) — This novel is inspired by a real-life scandal that was a nationwide shocker even for the tumultuous Roaring Twenties. It tells the story of Alice Beatrice Jones Rhinelander and the impact of her choices on her family, friends, and acquaintances after Jones’s marriage to Leonard “Kip” Rhinelander, a member of one of New York’s most prominent families, turns into a sensational court case that ignites an explosive battle over race and class. 


Q: What made you choose to write in the historical fiction genre? 


A: I credit my passion for historical fiction to my maternal grandmother. She came to this country in 1923 from Jamaica. Her stories, photos, and some of the furniture she never let go of, including the beautiful old dresses and purses and fur coats she kept in mothballs, were all a part of the stories she’d tell me about her youth—and I loved her stories. Another contributor to my love of diving into the past was my twelfth-grade history teacher. I wish I could remember his name, but after high school, I ended up a history minor in college. 


Q: What is the research process like after choosing a topic for your historical fiction books? 


A: My research typically begins with a Google search. After that, I have a general idea of the main events and some information about age and marriages, but of course, that’s only the beginning. My marketing and journalism background makes it automatic for me to find at minimum two sources for information, facts, or whatever I find. 


I love digging through the archives of old newspapers and magazines, many of which can be found online for a small fee. Then it’s a series of trips to the library after making appointments with archivists. The map room at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, is a treasure. But I also adore the Harold Washington Library in Chicago and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. I also use JSTOR Digital Library for articles and dissertations on whatever subject matter I am researching. Let’s not forget biographies, memoirs, and non-fiction historical books. There is a saying that I often quote “If you want to travel through time, just listen to the music.” I am a big believer in that statement. I recently spent many months researching Ella Fitzgerald for CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS. The most joyful part of the research was listening to her many LPs, especially the live recordings.


Q: How long does it take you to write a book typically?


A: My first novel, WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES, took six years to write—my second novel was around 18 months. My third novel is two years, and that includes research. When you’re under contract, finishing novels within the framework of your due dates is a contractual obligation—unless you request an extension:).


Q: What was co-writing Can’t We Be Friends like with Eliza Knight? Did you write a chapter, and then Eliza wrote a chapter?


A: Eliza and I started our coauthor journey with the research, giving us the framework for the story. We then created a detailed multi-layered outline where we established the flow of the book and the key messages that we wanted to add to our story, so by the time we started writing, we just dove in and followed our plan. So there wasn’t much chapter sharing for the first draft—just a lot of telephone calls and Zoom meetings.


Q: What advice do you give those who want to co-write a book with a friend or a family member? 


A: You need to do it before your friend or family member is an author in the same place as you in their writing journey.


Q: Where is your favorite spot to research, plot, write and edit your work?


A: My favorite spot to research is the Library Of Congress in Washington DC, but I must acknowledge that any library, especially one with a patient librarian or archivist (I ask endless questions:), is the right place for research. Another locale is a hotel, especially one with a beach, and a long weekend spent focusing on my manuscript. A change of scenery always helps me focus.


Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your work? The entertainment industry needs original content again. 


A: Hollywood has been interested in all of my books, but Hollywood moves slowly, and interest is a long way from buying or producing. Hopefully, there will be some interest in future projects coming down the pipeline, but with the writer’s strike, nobody’s looking for anything until that is resolved.


Q: Since we know your 2024 releases, is it too early to ask what you have planned for 2025 and beyond?


A: I do have another book slated for 2025. It would be my fourth book with Kensington Publishing. The title: Where the False Gods Dwell, is the most I can say about it. Oh, it takes place in 1935 in Chicago, New York City, New York, and Kingston, Jamaica.