THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough

When I first saw this book as an ARC, I was immediately intrigued. Not only was the overall design of the book exquisite, but the writing was gorgeous, and the premise is one that grabs and doesn’t let go. The game that Love and Death play is indeed a cruel one, especially when set during The Great Depression:

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now… Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

According to your website bio, you are a faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. What do you enjoy most about teaching others about writing?

I’ve taught writers of all ages, and in general, what I most like about teaching is being there for people in those moments of struggle and understanding. It’s deeply satisfying work, and it also requires that I think hard about what I’m teaching to make sure I understand it in many ways, so that I can teach people at all points in their learning.

I’m sure many people have benefited from your expertise! In THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, you explore young love in the Depression era. What about this book was the most fun to write, and what do you want readers to take away when they’re finished?

I love the music of the era. The clothes. The courage people displayed when enduring all of the hardships of the time. My grandparents lived through the Depression and told me about it—about the fact that my grandmother would have lost her job if she didn’t hide their engagement, about the way my grandfather drew lines on a plywood floor to make it look like hardwood planks, the way they were careful with every penny that came in. I’ve always associated it with a time where small things and gestures mattered, and this is what fiction can beautifully reveal. I listened to music of the era, looked at old clothing, listened to ads, and also paid attention to the literature and music that Black people were creating during the time.

As far as what I want readers to take away, there is no one thing, really. I want them to have a meaningful emotional experience as they read the book. I want it to feel real on a deep and human level.

It already does, and I haven’t even finished it yet! You also wrote a nonfiction book, ALEXANDER HAMILTON: REVOLUTIONARY. What did you find most fascinating about Hamilton’s life, and what do you enjoy most about writing nonfiction?

There are lots of kinds of nonfiction, and this is a narrative biography—it’s meant to read as fiction, and Hamilton’s life lent itself so well to this approach. He dodged death so many times. He was brilliant. Romantic. Profoundly gifted. Deeply flawed. I loved the research of this … sifting through bits and artifacts until I felt as though I knew the man, and writing with all of this truth in mind was a thrill.

I’ll bet. What are some of your current projects?

This year I have three books coming out: the Hamilton biography (September 5), a picture book called BACK TO SCHOOL WITH BIGFOOT (June), and another picture book called LOVE, SANTA, which is based on a series of letters my daughter and I wrote to each other. I’m also at work on another novel that combines music and fantasy and other elements I can’t stay away from in my fiction.

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