A thank you & Some of that Sweet Jazz… an interview with author Ursula Renee
Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to all why participated and helped me with honoring my Nana by sharing yesterday on the #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag on twitter. I was so thrilled with how it took off and can only hope that the powers that be in the industry were listening. Whenever the mood strikes please keep it going. I know I sure will as long as it takes and as long as still #WeNeedDiverseRomance. You can check out lots of the tweets here on Storify. It was my 1st time on Storify so I hope they were all collected. And as for the header? Not sure how Sorify picked that.
Now, speaking of diverse romance I love it when I can bring a new writer to ye old blog and today I’m super excited to have my friend and RWA NYC chapter mate Ursula Renee here on Ye Old Blog to discuss her fantastic historical debut novel Sweet Jazz. Thanks so much for being here today Ursula.
First off can you tell us a bit about your current work?
Sweet Jazz is an interracial romance that takes place in Harlem, New York in 1938.
The Big House’s “Coloreds Only” policy makes the club popular with Harlem residents. The same policy makes it harder for the owners to find and retain musicians. After four weeks of listening to saxophonists with bigger dreams than talent, the owners are ready to hire the first person who walks in and plays “one good note.” Their words come back to haunt them when Randy Jones auditions.
Many of the employees are not thrilled when Randy breaks the color barrier. He does find an ally in Cass, the club’s sassy singer, who goes out of her way to welcome him. Offstage, Cass Porter looks like a teenager, but when she sings she’s all woman. Inside, she’s been hurt badly and has determined never to love again.
As their relationship develops, life at the club for Randy becomes complicated when he has to fight both Cass’s fear of opening her heart and those who want to keep them apart.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I discovered the joys of writing after I wrote my first story when I was eight. Though I continued writing short stories, poems, and fan fiction, I did not considering pursung a career as an author until I started working on Sweet Jazz.
What characteristics are essential in a hero for you? And how about a heroine?
I like my heroes to be handsome, strong and confident. However, they also have to be willing to work with others and not insist on charging in to save the day alone.
A heroine should be strong, independent and smart. She should think before rushing into a situation that could potentially cause harm to her or others.
Tell us a bit about your writing schedule. Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?
I write during my hour long commute in the mornings and evenings. I also try to schedule one weekend a month in which I focus entirely on my manuscript.
I think of myself as both a pantser and plotter. As soon as an idea pops into my mind, I have to get it down on paper. Once I have completed the first draft, I create an outline. I used this during the editing process to ensure that each plot point moves the story forward and the characters appear and act as I originally envisioned.
What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
Do not give up.
There may be times when you feel as if everyone is against you – family and friends may laugh at you; editors tell you the manuscript does not work; or the words will not come to you. In either case, stop, take a deep breath and remember that success does not come to those who quit.
That is perfect advice. Thanks so much! What can readers expect next from you?
I am working on an interracial romance set in 1957, between a first generation Italian-American and a Filipino/African-American.
Fantastic! And now friends an excerpt from Sweet Jazz:
Cass rolled her eyes as she slid a sheet of paper across the table. He glanced down at the sketch of an older woman standing next to a piano. She wore an evening gown, and her hair was pulled back in a bun, with a feather ornament holding the style in place.
“The Big House is proud to feature Cass, with music by The Big House Band,” Randy read. He
glanced from the paper to her, then back at the paper. He recognized the similarities in the facial features, but it couldn’t be possible. “You can’t be the same Cass.”
“No other Cass here.”
“Your momma lets you work here?” Randy asked as he handed back the flyer.
He knew some parents did not care what their children did as long as they were out of the way.
However, allowing a young girl to work in a club was beyond neglectful.
“My momma doesn’t have much say in the matter, seeing as how she’s down south,” Cass said, placing the paper on the table.
“That’s where she lives.”
“What about your relatives?”
“They’re down there, too.”
Randy lowered his foot to the floor and straddled the chair. He needed to sit down. There was no way she was up there by herself.
“Don’t you have someone lookin’ after you?”
“I’ve been looking after myself for six years.”
“Six years? Girl, you jokin’? You can’t be no older than…what…sixteen? seventeen?”
Twenty-two? It explained why she got away with arguing with Junior, but, still… Randy slowly glanced from the ankle socks and canvas shoes on her feet to her two braids. She looked as if she should be playing with dolls or jumping rope, not singing in a club.
Thanks so much for being here today. It’s been a real pleasure.
Ursula can be found on the web at:
And you can buy Sweet Jazz here:
All the best,
P.S. Sidebar: I’ll be appearing at Between The Covers in Riverdale NY on Monday 11/17 from 7-9 reading an excerpt from BOUNCE (I’ll try and find a spicy scene) And I’ll have some copies to sign! So if you are in upper Manhattan come on out! Details are here.
A great interview ladies! Thank you so much!
Thank you, Piper.
Sounds like a fascinating story! Best of luck, Ursula.
Thank you, Barbara.
Very nice interview & excerpt. I’m at jury duty in the pool and it helped break up the day. Thank you Ursula & Kwana.
Thank you, Jeanine.
Are biased cousin-sisters allowed to comment? Oh heck: it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
BRAVO!!!!! *standing ovation* I’m proud of you!!!!
No need to ask for forgiveness, Wanda Lotus. Thank you.
Love the interracial aspect of your book, the time period and the setting. And your cover is to die for! I like to write interracial couples, too, with Latino heroes, usually. I think it adds a lot of cultural diversity and depth to the story.
Good Luck with Sweet Jazz!!!
Hebby, I love books with diverse characters. Though I write fiction, I like to have some of the real world in my stories.