Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Q&A with Noelle Salazar



Noelle Salazar is the author of the new novel The Roaring Days of Zora Lily. Her other novels include The Flight Girls. She lives in Bothell, Washington.


Q: What inspired you to write The Roaring Days of Zora Lily


A: To be honest, it started with a name. Zora Lily was the name of my maternal great-great grandmother - a fact I didn't know until a few years ago.


I couldn't understand how a name that fantastic wasn't passed down in some way, shape, or form - and I decided then and there that Zora needed a book. Finding the tale to tell is a whole other story.


Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you? 


A: Once I decided the era (1920s) and the location (Seattle) I started going down very deep rabbit holes online regarding both things.


I bought books, nonfiction and fiction. I scoured details of the buildings that were built around that time, the music, the musicians, the bootlegging industry, the names of the speakeasies... It was some of the most fun I've ever had researching a book.


I think the most surprising thing I learned was regarding Roy Olmstead and his wife, Elise. He was a police officer, and she was a Londoner who had worked for British Intelligence during WWI.


Roy was one of the most successful bootleggers in Seattle. Elise was rumored to have an evening radio show where she read children's stories over the air, hiding important details for bootleggers in her words.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way? 


A: I never start a novel unless I know how it ends. I like knowing where I'm going, even if I'm not quite sure how I'm going to get there. There aren't usually many changes once I see it in my mind.


That being said, the present-day parts of the story weren't added in until after the first draft was done. I love the opportunity it gave to tell Zora's story fully. 


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you? 


A: Title choice is always a tricky business. For months there was a placeholder for the story: The Jazz Girl. But that didn't really describe Zora accurately. She was about so much more than just the fabulous music surrounding her in those clubs.


My team and I threw phrases and words back and forth for weeks, taking pieces of something and trying to match it with something else until we finally had a title we all loved. 


Q: What are you working on now? 


A: My next book is about a flight nurse during WWII. Nurses hold a special place in my heart, as there are several in my family.


I didn't realize flight nurses didn't even exist until WWII - and when I read about them - my mind was blown. What an amazing group of women. I'm so excited to tell this story!


Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: I hope to keep evolving as a historical fiction writer. There are so many intriguing eras, with incredible women filling them...women who fought to be heard, or just put their heads down and quietly accomplished feats we are still just learning about. It makes me excited.


I want to know about women in the 1930s - after the extravagance of the ‘20s. I want to know their pain and how, after leading more modern lives, they seemed to go backwards. I want to know about the women after WWII. The ones who joined the working force and then had to give up their jobs once the men came home.


I have dreams of writing books for each decade of the 1900s. Partially to push myself, partially so I have an excuse to wear clothes from each era, but mostly to tell the stories of the women that came before me.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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