This week’s featured author, Jean Scheffler grew up “South of Detroit” and as a child she would sit on her Grandfathers lap at his summer cottage and intently listen to stories of his childhood adventures in early industrial Detroit. As he rocked her in front of the roaring fire, her love for Detroit’s history and its exciting past took root.
The Sugar House, Jean’s literary debut is a step back in time. Join us as we get to know more about Jean and her new historical fiction.
Where are you from?
I am from Trenton, MI ( Just 20 Miles south of Detroit)
Tell us your latest news?
I published my first novel “The Sugar House” in February.
When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing three years ago following months (actually years) of research of the history of Detroit.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was going through a transition in my life and I looked around and noticed my children were getting older and knew there were many things that I wanted to accomplish that I had not begun. The first was to write a novel. I had had the idea for “The Sugar House” for a year or so and had been developing it in my thoughts. I decided that it was the time to set aside other things and pursue my dream as an author.
I always wanted to become a writer but life had always seemed to get in the way. Or perhaps I did not make it enough of a priority. Or perhaps I did not have the confidence. Perhaps I just needed the right story. I had tried once before but the story fell apart as I tried to put it down. When I decided to really sit down and write “The Sugar House’ I knew I had a great story and an important one. Actually, sometimes I say the story wrote itself. I loved the story so much I was truly worried that I was not worthy enough of writing it. In that I mean that I was a first time writer and I wanted to give value and grace to such an important part of history.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m not quite sure of the categories of writing styles. I write from research and stories and imagination. I like to piece together articles, pieces of stories, historical facts and things that I have experienced or watched my children experience to make a relatable story.
How did you come up with the title?
The name “The Sugar House” initially came from the gangster portion of the story. The Purple Gang was originally called the Oakland Sugar House gang. But as the novel developed I saw that it represented many other aspects of the character, Joe’s life.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The main message I want the reader to grasp from my novel is that a person can be stay true to themselves and their faith even faced with great adversity. While no person is perfect and my break the rules or laws at times they can find their way to a happy, content life in the end if they remember what is important.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The book is historical fiction. That is a broad title that encompasses many types of work. “The Sugar House” is a historical fiction in the strictest sense of the word. Dates and events that are historically documented are almost all true down to the day. Many names of the Purple Gang leaders are their actual names. Many events that involved the Purple Gang are documented as factual. The story in fact is based on things my grandfather told me occurred in his life. Not all the events that occur in The Sugar House are factual but many are. I tried to create a story that the reader would be able to learn from and at the same time enjoy as a fictional novel.
What books have most influenced your life most?
The Little House on the Prairie books were the first influential books of my childhood. I read them over and over again- fascinated by the hardships the Ingalls family dealt with but how their adventurous spirit helped drive them ahead. Gone with the Wind was my go to book as a teen. Also Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Looking back I guess I have always had a love for great characters who live in a different time and face different adversities but reach within themselves to find a higher ground.
What book are you reading now?
I am currently reading several novels by new authors. I am trying my hand in reviewing books to further my abilities as a writer and give back to the writing community.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My current novel is based on my maternal grandfather who was a railroad conductor before the Depression.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I have several very good girlfriends who supported my throughout the project. They were always encouraging and are very much the cheerleaders that every first time author should have. I am blessed to have them in my life.
Do you see writing as a career?
I would love to make writing a career. I want to be able to tell stories that people will enjoy and learn from at the same time. Perhaps change their perspectives or lives a little.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
If I had to do it all over again I would not change anything about my novel (Except my not procrastinate as long as I did)
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
As “The Sugar House” is based in Detroit I only had to travel to the city for my research. (I did go to Windsor once for a Prohibition Whisky Tour) My next novel takes place from Michigan to Kansas so I anticipate more travel with that one.
Who designed the covers?
I hired a wonderful woman named Karrie Ross from California to design the cover and do the interior design of the novel. The photograph is actually a close up of the suit my grandfather is wearing in the picture on the back cover.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I think the hardest part of writing is two fold. One- finding the inspiration and the time at the same time can be very difficult in a hectic life with children. Two- once the story is written- having others read your inner thoughts and ideas and judge them.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a lot from writing my book. I learned so much Detroit history. I learned a lot about the people who made this city Great. I learned a lot about myself, about where I come from and who I am. I know it sounds a little deep but after taking years to research my ancestors, the country they came from, their daily habits, their rituals etc., I think I would only be remiss if I had not learned a whole lot about what it means to be me.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I can not give advice to established writers and this is my first novel however I think that may qualify my to give advice to new and want to be writers. Once you find the story you want to tell- be confident and tell it. Don’t worry about what others will say. The ones who judge harshly are the ones who will never leave their mark as you will.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope my readers enjoy “The Sugar House” and learn something about the great city of Detroit. I hope it motivates them to look into the past and see what their own ancestors did to make it in America. And I hope it inspires them to save the historical parts of Detroit for themselves and to continue to improve Detroit for future generations.
“The Sugar House”
Amazon link: http://goo.gl/9GNYvy