On Turning History Into New Life
Thank you so much for having me over. My new novel, The Long Season, from Bold Strokes Books released 6/14/16. It is an historical fiction story about the struggles of finding love in the Roaring Twenties of Chicago on a pro hockey team. To bring the story to life, I had to spend a tremendous amount of time researching a variety of historical aspects if I wanted to do any of it any justice. So how does an author balance authenticity, the sanctity of the past, and allow wiggle room for creativity? Let’s explore some of the choices I made and see.
Let’s start with how much I love history, hockey, Chicago, the Jazz Age, and coming out stories. Most of those things are well known enough that you might try to wing it. The amazing thing is that once I started writing, I ran headlong into details I didn’t know, and practices, game rules, street names, buildings, makes of cars, slang used, that I had no idea about. Side note: Now I can say drunk in many cool ways like spifflicated, zozzled, ossified, and owled.
If I had stuck with the basics, I would have described cars in a way that was modern, and my hockey players would have worn thick padding and goalie masks and they would have been slamming each into the glass, none of which would have been accurate. In 1926, goalies didn’t wear masks, and there wasn’t much padding to be had, and the glass above the boards used to be chain link! Imagine getting smacked into that. My goalie, Jean-Paul, has bruises to prove that I wrote the hockey as accurate as I could. I did change many things, like having them change lines, switching players, as often as current day, and I had Jean-Paul flop on the ice to stop pucks, which was illegal then.
In my book, main character Brett comes from a farm town in Wisconsin named Delavan. I’ve been there a lot, and there is an amazing history tied to the circus. PT Barnum started there, and many outfits wintered there until it became a hub for circus people. This fact had t go in the book. The problem: it all ended at the turn of the century, about twenty years before Brett’s childhood. So I lied. I mean, I moved it so the two dates overlapped.
I decided immediately that I was going to use all real people from history except my main characters. The most difficult thing was wrestling with my conscience about how much personality to instill in them. For the hockey people I tried to stick with stereotypical sports guys from my own history on teams, and from listening to interviews with Blackhawks’ Coach Q, and other players. There’s such fire and dedication, that I found it easy to play up. As far as making one religious, or difficult to be around, I extrapolated from pictures and from whatever there was to be found in hockey chronicles. Cecil ‘Babe’ Dye had to be cocky. He nicknamed himself The Babe in Babe Ruth’s time. That’s like a basketball star naming themselves ‘Air’ something.
I used the Marshall Field name by making up a fictitious child who could be the female protagonist Margret who became a fiery flapper. Robert Allerton, rich tycoon, adopted his alleged lover JW Gregg in real life in order to pass on wealth, and they both make appearances where I made the allegations reality. I also used real names for the Pansy Parlors, what they called those speakeasies where LGBT people could go. One place, the Dil Pickle, had so much conflicting information that the spelling of its name changed in every article. How they actually looked and ran needed to be created due to poor historical details.
How did I choose to alter history? I had to come to terms with the fact—like my play on words?—that I would never get it totally right in every category and person, so I gave myself permission to remember it was fiction. I was not writing about the first year of the Black Hawks. I wrote the first year of my version of the team, where instead of not making it passed the first round of the playoffs, losing to Boston, they went all the way to be in the finals. Do they win the Cup? Well, you’ll just have to download or pick up a copy at Bold Strokes Books’ web site to read.
Thanks for having me!
Michael Vance Gurley
About the Book
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Release Date: 1 June 2016
Length: 312 Pages
Category: Historical Romance
Purchase Links: Bold Strokes Books || Amazon || Barnes & Noble || All Romance eBooks || Kobo || Smashwords
Blurb: In Roaring Twenties Chicago, eighteen-year-old farm boy and hockey hopeful Brett Bennet is drafted to the big leagues of the city’s first major team. His deepest secret catches fire when he meets the dashing but reclusive goalie, Jean-Paul Moreau. As they circle each other, finding out who they truly are, their lives are changed in ways neither can control.
Brett will need the help of freewheeling flapper Margret to find a way to break through Jean-Paul’s ice, and to navigate the high stakes world of professional sports from the opening game through to the championship. Only together do they have a hope of facing the deadly threat of a man who can bring it all down with one word.
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About the Author
Michael was born in a Chicago hospital that was quickly condemned and torn down. He grew up and worked in the shadow of Capone’s house in a union hall, where he first discovered a love of gangsters and the Roaring Twenties. Being an avid hockey fan led him to kissing the Stanley Cup, and as an ardent traveler, he kissed the Blarney Stone, both of which are unsanitary and from which he’s lucky to only have received the gift of gab. Michael has many literary interests and aspirations. He self-published One Angry Koala, a well received comic book. His poetry has been printed in the Southern Illinois University newspaper, which was a real big deal back then.
Michael has worked with special needs children for nearly twenty years. His work with young adults led to a love of YA books, but he was raised with classic horror, beat poetry, and comics. As winner of a “Pitchapalooza” author event, Michael received some helpful guidance for his first novel, The Long Season, by literary agent/authors Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, and editor Jerry Wheeler. Michael still lives in the Chicagoland area, and despite it being cliché, gets asked about gangsters whenever traveling abroad.