See below for a chance to win a copy of The God of Jazz: Fugue, Concord
I had the extreme pleasure of reading your upcoming book, The God of Jazz: Fugue, Concord and I was curious to know what prompted you to write it. I remember you were working on something else entirely and you switched tack and were suddenly halfway through writing this book. What triggered that?
Hey Bey, thanks for having me over! Hi, Bey’s readers! Waves hola.
Well, I’ve been working on the sequel to Trasmundo for about a year, and to be honest, it’s the most difficult book I’ve ever written. I keep thinking it’s done, or almost done, but I know deep down it’s not quite right yet. The Trasmundo series is also a deeply dark, painful story, in some ways—it’s a really beautiful love story, but it also deals with civil war, ethnic cleansing, and exile—and being immersed in that world non-stop, month after month was taking a pretty heavy emotional toll on me (more so that I even realized, while I was in the thick of it).
Then back in May I was visiting my best friend for a week. This woman and I have been best buds since we were ten years old, and luckily she moved to Europe just a couple months after I did, so we still get together all the time. And inevitably, when I go stay with her, I get mentally roused and kind of fired up creatively because she’s an incredibly clever, stimulating person, and also we just have our bestie dynamic—you know, joking around together, playing off each other’s weird sense of humor and slightly warped brains. And out of that euphoric reprieve from my writing slump, I decided I wanted to write a FUN story. Sexy and sweet and playful. And I wanted to set it in Barcelona, since I’ve been living here for a couple years now and I’m madly in love with the city.
One of your two main protagonists goes through a period of adjustment when he first arrives in Barcelona. Were his observations inspired by your own experiences?
Absolutely. Certain things are so striking about European cities, if you’re used to living on the west coast in the U.S. where I spent my whole life before moving abroad. Centuries of history are on display in the architecture. Once you get off the main boulevards and highways, you get into these mazes of incredibly narrow streets that were laid out when the biggest vehicle was a horse-drawn cart laden with commercial goods (I seriously don’t know how truck drivers do it, here!).
And then there are the cultural differences, like how much more generationally-diverse public life is. In the U.S., it seemed like almost everything is so segregated by age. Here, extended families are much more integrated, and older people aren’t so hidden away. Life is also lived much more publicly—in the plazas, in the back streets among the apartment buildings. It can get a bit boisterous at times, but it also feels more like a community. And then, of course, there’s the casual disregard for swimming apparel at the local beaches. I’d heard all about women running around topless, but I wasn’t expecting the full monty when I went for my first dip in the sea. But you won’t hear me complain.
Jazz music features prominently in the story, and I remember feeling like I was right there in the club. Is jazz popular in Barcelona? and, is the setting inspired by a real place?
Yeah, jazz is pretty popular. There are quite a few dedicated jazz clubs, and then there are performances going on all the time in different bars and cafés, as well as plenty of little pop-up events in the plazas, at the beach, etcetera in the warmer months. All the venues I mention in the novel are real places that I frequent.
What was the most satisfying part about writing The God of Jazz?
It’s funny, like I was saying, I set out to write something fun, almost fluffy. I was more focused on escaping the mental and emotional labor of my other work-in-progress than a story or idea that needed to be told. But as soon as I started, really from the very first page, the story felt so real and true to me. It surprised me how quickly and deeply I got invested in Godard, in the professional frustration he goes through, and then the heartbreak that leaves him wounded and adrift at the start of the novel. Pretty quickly I realized that instead of a fluffy little romp, The God of Jazz had turned into something deeply meaningful to me, personally. And not just for the love story. Actually, the parts that hit me the hardest were the ones dealing with Godard connecting with a new family of friends—finding the people who come together to take care of each other in moments of crisis, and who gather together to celebrate each other’s joys and successes.
And finally… what five words would you use to describe the book?
Eesh, that’s a tough one! Ummm…
Playful. Sexy. Sunny. Wet. Sultry.
Thanks so much for the chat, Bey and friends. Good luck to everyone on the giveaway!
Yes, those are definitely five good words to describe this book. Thanks Varian, always a pleasure.
Folks, I loved this book and I want you all to read it… and Varian’s offering an ebook to one lucky person! All you have to do is comment below with either your favourite jazz song OR your favourite beach destination. :)
I’ll pick a random winner at 10am EDT Monday, Sept. 26th – Good luck!