“Morris’s first novel since 2004 puts her many gifts to use in a story of creativity, music, resilience, and love in Prohibition-era Chicago.”
Publishers Weekly review of The Jazz Palace by Mary Morris
The Jazz Palace is garnering rave reviews — and no wonder! I’m immersed in it now and it’s an ambitious, artfully crafted novel with a strong emotional undertow and a pulsing narrative drive: Time pours through its pages like a syncopated beat. Just released by Doubleday, it ripened over twenty years, spinning itself out and changing like a jazz solo. The author of fourteen books, Mary Morris spoke about bringing her new novel to fruition at a recent Center for Fiction event. Her perseverance and experience can inspire us all as we shape our own work:
Follow your story: When she began writing her novel, Mary envisioned her it as a sprawling intergenerational saga focusing on the relationship between a father and daughter. Over time, The Jazz Palace evolved into a very different story: The daughter disappeared from its pages and Benny, a young, jazz-obsessed musician, became the focal point of the novel. As Mary followed the thread of his fictional journey, it led her in a surprising direction far from her original concept. By taking the time to let her ideas simmer, she found the story within the story — the one she needed and wanted to tell.
Write while unplugged: “I feel that the hand is the extension of the brain neurologically,” Mary noted, “so I try to write by hand.” Her preference is shared by many accomplished authors who believe that when a writer puts pen or pencil to paper, a connection is made that can’t be duplicated by tapping computer keys. When she teaches, Mary advises her students to consider unplugging and turning to paper. She signs books with a fountain pen — as a writer-by-hand and a huge fan of my cherished Mont Blanc, I love this touch!
Use emotional prompts: While writing The Jazz Palace, Mary filled her home with jazz and its rhythms seeped into her writing. As she put it, “… jazz entered the structure of the novel — it has riffs, solos, ensemble themes. It affected the rhythm of my words…it made me freer.” Jazz was a natural choice for Mary — and she even includes her playlist on her website. But whatever rhythms stir your soul, you may find that listening to music as you write releases emotional energy and spurs your creativity.
When you read a book that’s traveled a long, demanding journey to completion, you can feel the author’s heartbeat on the page. And when I think of Mary returning to her novel-in-progress year after year over two decades, I feel heartened and inspired. For more on The Jazz Palace, check out Amazon or your indie bookstore and visit http://www.marymorris.net. Bravo, Mary — write on!