|Shift Change at Ford (1910s). Library of Congress|
My grandpa used to tell me stories when I was growing up, and some of them were very shocking to me because I was a very naïve little innocent Catholic school girl. They were so shocking to me at the time that I remember a lot of them. I’ve also always had a love for history, and being a gerontology nurse, during my downtime, I went to my patients’ rooms and asked them to share their stories with me. I was extremely fortunate to have sat at the bedsides of such a great generation and to be lucky enough to hear the stories that made up their lives.
I decided that this was a story I really wanted to write because a lot of people of my generation, much less my kids’ generation, don’t realize the amazing history of Detroit and the surrounding area. I felt that there weren’t many historical fiction novels about Detroit, especially that era or period, and I wanted to record it for future generations.
Have you always been interested in writing, and have you ever written anything before?
I always was interested in writing but I have not written before. I sat down and tried to write a novel a couple times, but it wasn’t the right time and definitely was not the right story. Once I found this was my story to tell, I hoped I would be worthy of the story. Once I did sit down to write it, it was very easy.
While I was writing the story, I went down to Mount Olivet and found my grandparents’ grave markers. I had already written the part about Joe and his little brother Frank, and I am sitting there on a beautiful sunny fall day looking at their gravestones, and I see there’s Frank. I had never known that my grandfather had a brother named Frank because he had passed away before I was born. I looked up at the sky and said, “Who is writing this story?”
Why did you choose to have Joe’s story revolve around the Sugar House Gang?
Because of my grandfather. When I knew him fifty years after this story took place, he wasn’t a gangster. He was a Polish grandpa. We had our Polish traditions, and he worked at McLouth Steel his whole life. I wanted to show how things were so different back then and that it didn’t necessarily make you a bad guy to be on the wrong side of the law. The story works for this day and age when people try to find themselves, and might not make the right decisions. But they try to come back to where they want to be, their families, their faith.