Dave Hoing and Roger Hileman will be the featured readers at the Final Thursday Reading Series on Sept. 30 where they will read from their novel about the jazz scene in a fictionalized 1940s Waterloo, In the Blood. They will also be performing music with some guest musicians.
The creative writing open mic starts at 7:00 p.m. at the Hearst Center for the Arts. Hoing and Hileman take the stage at 7:30. The 7:30 featured reading will also be live Zoomcast. Click HERE to register for the live Zoomcast.
As with their co-written novels, Hoing and Hileman's responses here are written collaboratively.
This interview was conducted by Alexus Williams.
What was the process like for creating the characters and their struggles?
Starting off, how would you describe this novel and what led you to write it?
Dave Hoing and Roger Hileman: First of all, here’s a variation of the blurb on the back, which explains what In the Blood is about:
Nineteen-year-old K.C. Brown dreams of playing jazz with the best, and where she’s from, the best is a band called the Bluenotes. A prodigy on sax and piano, K.C. defies the wishes of her family by pursuing a career in music. If their disapproval isn’t enough, the year is 1948, the band is comprised of middle-aged black men, and K.C. is a white girl living in a racially divided city in Iowa. To succeed, she and the band must overcome resistance from both sides of the color barrier, and accept that ambition often comes with loss.
We are both hugely influenced by music. All of our novels have had music in them, but we hadn’t yet written one specifically about music. That was the motivation for In the Blood. We especially liked one of the secondary characters from our first novel Hammon Falls, a man called Lewis Ross. Our original plan was to write an entire novel about him before and after the events of Hammon Falls. That evolved over time, and the story became more about his son Freddie, although some of Lewis’s backstory still made it into In the Blood. Hammon Falls depicted a nightclub called the New Orleans (AKA Narlins), which was a venue for black performers. That gave us a ready-made setting.
DH & RH: One of the joys of writing is the chance to create characters who are not like us. Both of us are middle-aged (some would say old) white men. Our two main characters are Freddie Ross, a middle-aged black man, and K.C. Brown, a young white woman. The difference in their age, gender, and race gave us great dynamics to work with.
Did you set the novel in a fictionalized version of Waterloo to make the story feel more “real” to readers or was there something about Waterloo that made it an appropriate setting?
DH & RH: Part of the setting, of course, goes back to Hammon Falls, which was based on a screenplay Roger wrote about his ancestors who lived in Waterloo. We changed Waterloo to Waterton so we wouldn’t be constrained by Waterloo’s actual history where it differed from the needs of our story. Waterloo did have a flourishing jazz scene in the early and middle parts of the 20th century, so that fit in nicely. Plus, it occurred to us that when one looks into the history of any place, it becomes fascinating. We know that an Iowa setting may seem mundane to local readers, but to the larger world, Iowa might as well be the far side of the moon. To many it’s an interesting place, unknown but for its farms. (And well, there is a little bit about a farm in the novel, but not much… 😊)
DH & RH: If so, what were you hoping the story would do for them? The novel uses strong language, including the hated N-word, so our aim was for an adult audience, but other than that, we just wanted to write a story about a growing friendship between very different people. Of course, we also explored themes of racism, sexism, and economic disparities, while paying tribute to the power of music to transcend all that. In the Blood is a book about people, not politics. It tries not to slant too much to either the left or the right, although of course we are aware of our own biases. That said, we’re sure there’ll be plenty of stuff to offend everybody. 😉
Is there something readers don’t know about this story that they should keep in mind when reading it?
DH & RH: On the surface it may appear that In the Blood is offering a solution to racism, which (if possible) was even more pronounced in 1948 than it is today. It isn’t, at least on a macro scale. We are more interested in individuals than in groups. The friendship between Freddie and K.C. won’t change the world, but it does change them. As the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...
Lastly, what is one question that you would have liked to answer that was not asked in this interview?
DH & RH: “How does collaboration between two authors work?” Don’t worry, we’ll be asked that at the reading, so we’ll explain it then!