In many ways, Wild Women and the Blues is my homage to my youth as a professional dancer in Chicago and New York City. Honoree Dalcour, the main protagonist in my book, is a chorus girl in 1920s Chicago. She is striving to reach stardom by first working in one of the seedier speakeasies in town, but she has bigger dreams. She wants to work at the Dreamland Cafe, one of the most popular, better-paying, ritziest nightspots in Bronzeville, a business and cultural hub on the South Side of Chicago.
During my days as a professional dancer, the biggest challenge was securing my next engagement. I started my career as a ballet dancer in Cleveland, Ohio, during a summer break from school. Dennis Nahat, a choreographer who also danced with American Ballet Theatre, was an artistic director with the then-newfound Cleveland Ballet. But the ballet world did not quite fit my spirit at the time, and my family prioritized education. So, I went back to school and graduated. By that time, I was ready to begin my career as a contemporary modern dancer.
One of the interesting things about being a dancer is that there are so many forms of dance. If you love the art form, it’s difficult not to find one, two, or more disciplines to dive into. From a waltz to foxtrot to cha-cha to tap dancing, the range of styles and techniques is as varied as the imagination.
So, I decided to become immersed in the world of the chorus girl in my debut novel. In the 1920s, the dance craze was everywhere. Dance halls cropped up in all parts of the country and around the world. In small towns, big cities, and farmlands in the South and in the North, East, and West, the joy of dance was celebrated by many—and condemned by some, just as jazz music was as notorious in some communities as it was glorious in others.
My main character, Honoree Dalcour, in the 1925 storyline is a young, confident talent who knows she is at her best in front of an audience, showing off her skills. She loves being in the spotlight—almost as much as she loves looking her best. There are more than a few moments in the book where her confidence abandons her, leaving her high and dry at some of the most inconvenient times. However, I don’t believe she is vain. She is unwilling to accept less than what she wants. But there are always obstacles to achieving dreams.
I have not forgotten the joy of being onstage in front of people who wanted to watch the performance of a dancer, singer, or actor. As the saying goes, once the stage bug bites, it takes a long time for the sting to wear off. Sometimes you never lose that drive—the need to do what you love and to share that love with others. That’s what dance meant to me.
And now, I guess you can say the same thing about me and writing books. Indeed, I know you can. It’s a joy to do what you love—no matter what—and no matter whether there’s an audience or not.
About the Author
Denny S. Bryce is an award-winning author and three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, including twice for Wild Women and the Blues. In addition to writing for NPR Books and FROLIC Media, the former professional dancer is a public relations professional who has spent more than two decades running her own marketing and event-management firm. A member of the Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Novelists, Inc., she is a frequent speaker at author events and lives in Georgia. Visit her online at DennySBryce.com.
Jazz-age Chicago comes to vibrant life in Denny S. Bryce’s evocative novel that links the stories of an ambitious chorus girl and a modern-day film student, both coming to grips with loss, forgiveness, and the limitations—and surprises—of love.
“Why would I talk to you about my life? I don’t know you, and even if I did, I don’t tell my story to just any boy … . You wanna hear about me. You gotta tell me something about you. To make this worth my while.”
1925: Chicago is the jazz capital of the world, and the Dreamland Café is the ritziest black-and-tan club in town. Honoree Dalcour is a sharecropper’s daughter, willing to work hard and dance every night on her way to the top. Dreamland offers a path to the good life, socializing with celebrities like Louis Armstrong and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. But Chicago is also awash in bootleg whiskey, gambling, and gangsters. And a young woman driven by ambition might risk more than she can stand to lose.
2015: Film student Sawyer Hayes arrives at the bedside of 110-year-old Honoree Dalcour, still reeling from a devastating loss that has taken him right to the brink. Sawyer has rested all his hope on this frail but formidable woman, the only living link to the legendary Oscar Micheaux. If he’s right—if she can fill in the blanks in his research, perhaps he can complete his thesis and begin a new chapter in his life. But the links Honoree makes are not ones he’s expecting.
Piece by piece, Honoree reveals her past and her secrets, while Sawyer fights tooth and nail to keep his. It’s a story of courage and ambition, hot jazz, and passion. And as past meets present, for Honoree, it’s a final chance to be truly heard and seen before it’s too late. No matter the cost.