Hi. I’m Sarah Zama, I’m Italian, and I write in English historical fantasy stories set in the 1920s.
I’ve always lived surround by books, so it may be a sort of karma that I ended up being a bookseller and an indie author. A fantasy reader since a kid, a Tolkien nerd almost as long, I’ve always being fascinated with history and old black-and-white mystery films, which may or may not have had a way in my involvement in the dieselpunk community.
The 1920s are my time. All my stories are set during the American Roaring 1920s or the European Inter War years.
Dieselpunk 1920s Noir
It’s life as it is, but not quite. And in that ‘not quite’ bracket there is an entire universe of meanings, discoveries, clarity of vision, new understanding. Because we are forced to see reality form a different angle, we see things that are hidden to our normal perspective.
There are readers who enjoy a fantasy story. Places where they can meet people they will never meet in their everyday life. Places that don’t look like anywhere they have ever gone. Timelines and strings of events that aren’t in their past and will never be in their future.
And still these readers also like to see what they know in this fantastically different stories. They like to recognise events they’re familiar with in the fantasy event they read. They like to recognise a familiar geography in the maps that go with these fantasy stories.
These readers like to recognise these familiar elements and they like to hunt them down in the real world, and so discover new historical events, new historical personalities, true life experiences. In this distorted mirror which is the fantasy story, they like to search for the true image hidden there.
This is how they enjoy the creativeness of the author, but also his/her commitment to the truth.
I know, I’m one such reader.
Since I started choosing my own readings, I’ve always preferred fantasy, but I’ve always been into history too. It was my favourite subject at school – it goes that far back. I’ve always been fascinated by the fantastical, by things that never were, but I’ve always prefer when those creations connected with reality: fantasy stories inspired by history, by real life mythology, by real life cultures. Walking that fine line between fantasy and history thrills me.
I started writing stories – high fantasy stories – when I was a kid, but as I grew up, my fascination with history hunt me down. At a certain point, I even wrote a series of fantasy stories set in a city which geography and history echoed the geography and history of Verona, my own city. Then, when I started working in the bookshop and had the opportunity to come in contact with books I had never thought I could be interested in (anthropology was my great discovery), my interested moved from my own city and the Medieval time I was so familiar with, to completely new geographies and times.
My fascination with the inter-war years also goes back to my childhood, when I would watch black and white Hollywood mysteries on tv with my grandma. The black and white, shadowy atmospheres. The smooth, morally questionable characters. The beautiful, dangerous women. The damaged, doubtful men. I discovered them back then and they stayed with me, even if I barely realised it. Then I discovered dieselpunk and everything clicked.
At that point I wouldn’t be happy with just a generic 1920s/1950s setting with speculative elements. My love for history pushed me to try and discover those times more fully, on my terms. To go to the source, so to be able to create my own version of it.
I started working at my 1920s dieselpunk stories in 2010. That’s when I started researching the 1920s too. A fascinating time, more than I expected when I originally started researching it, and a time that echoes our own in a very unsettling way.
When I started this blog in 2014 I wondered what I would ever write on it. Then I thought, what about readers like me? What about the ones who enjoy fantasy, but who likes history too? True, I’m no expert, but I can still share what I know about the 1920s, within and without my stories.
Are you that kind of reader?
Ghosts Through the Cracks is my first published novella. Set in Chicago in 1924, it is a story of love, fight and freedom. It’s the story of how Susie, a Chinese immigrant, reasserts her life and sets new goals. How she comes to be ready to forsake comfort and security to seek a more fulfilling expression of herself.
Some readers consider it a love story. Most readers consider it a fantasy story. To me, this is, above all Susie’s story and her fight to be the best and happiest woman she can.
Ghosts Through the Cracks is part of a longer project still in the making, Ghost Trilogy, set in Chicago in 1926. I have written the entire trilogy, but at the moment, the three novels stand at different stages of completion. The Bonecaster Coin, the first in the trilogy, is making the round of agents. Wish me luck!
Her stepdaughter’s birthday was approaching and she had found the perfect gift for her
Inspired by a Halloween Short Story Challenge.
She broke her promise and found success. A famous opera singer in Milan. But when the bomb exploded, the illusion shattered.
A short story set in 1921 Milan.
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