As we try to meet new authors and expand our literary palate, we will meet folks who write in the same genre as us and those who write something other than what we write. I personally believe that a well written story can (and maybe should) contain elements of multiple genres. A drama should have a dash of offsetting comedic relief. A mystery might have a romantic underpinning. You can’t be all things to all people but you should read things outside of your normal sphere to broaden your talents.
We also get a glimpse into how other authors work, how they started, where they get their ideas. Each one we learn about teaches us more information we can use down the road.
With that in mind, meet a fascinating, intelligent author who brings a broad spectrum to the table – Claire Fullerton.
DAN: What is the working title of your next book?
CLAIRE: My next book? The working title is “Mourning Dove,” and nobody has seen it yet because I’m still going over it line-by-line. But “Dancing to an Irish Reel” was released six months ago.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
With regard to “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” I once lived as an outsider in rural Ireland, but it didn’t take long to grow accustom to Ireland’s social and cultural nuances. I lived in the region of Connemara, in what is known as the Gaeltacht, which is where Irish is spoken as a first language. The village I lived in is called Inverin. It has one grocery store and no traffic or street lights. Everybody there knew I was a single American woman living out in the wilds of the bog, but, I had no idea everybody knew this. It was a wonderful, yearlong experience where everything was new and different. When I got back to America, I started formulating the idea for a book.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? A year, but this doesn’t mean the first draft was worth seeing! The book went through many edits.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Jonathan Reece Myers as Liam Hennessey, Emma Stone as Hailey Crossan, Keith Nobbs as Declan Fenton.
Which living author or blogger would you buy drinks for?
Donna Tartt, but I’m not sure she’d be good company. Seems a little dark, edgy and cynical to me, and maybe not the best personality to ply with drink! But I find her books incredible for their unusual plots and structure. And there’s a woman who knows her way around the English language.
What makes you so damn interesting anyway?
I’m a dyed in the wool Southerner living at the beach in Malibu, California; let me spell the damn part of this out for you: Nobody in Malibu can get a handle on where I’m from. I can’t open my mouth without someone asking me if I’m from Texas, which is terribly disappointing for a Southerner from the Mississippi Delta. If this isn’t enough for you, I’m so damn interesting because I’m a ballet dancing German shepherd owner who was once a rock-n-roll DJ at a station on Beale Street in Memphis, before I was offered a job in Hollywood to work in the record business, in which I shopped a band named Better Than Ezra for a year and a half (more Southerners- not so easy to do in LA.) Then I worked in a post-production facility, where I met every movie star known to man ( name someone; I’ve rubbed shoulders) then moved to rural Ireland for a year, before fate landed me back in sin-city until I met my husband and moved to Malibu.
What is the best part about being a traditional author for you?
I have two books out with Vinspire Publishing, which is a medium-size press. The best part of this has been that they’ve literally walked me through everything I didn’t know about marketing and promotion, and I can’t stress enough how little I knew. I knew how to write and that was it, but after two and a half years, I now understand the game.
What’s something most readers would never guess about you?
I taught Pilates and Ballet barre to Greg Louganis and Cindy Crawford. Seriously. They both repeatedly came to my class. Cindy is so good looking you can’t even look her in the eye, and nice beyond measure. And Greg is Malibu’s hometown favorite. A lovely guy.
Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
I can’t wax enough about our two German shepherds. I spend a lot of time entertaining them. Believe me, if you don’t give a shepherd something to do, they’ll find it for themselves, so I’m outdoors with them a lot, either at the beach or in the woods. Beyond this, I keep up with ballet.
Why do some authors sell well and others don’t?
I think the question is best looked at from the vantage point of where an author is in their career (assuming, of course, that they’re good.) A writer’s career is “a marathon not a sprint” ( I’ve heard this forever) and so much of it comes down to constant, let me repeat, CONSTANT marketing and promotion. The way I see it, it’s all a build, and one has to tap themselves in with readers to prove they exist! But at the end of it all, it all comes down to the quality of the work and the ability to keep producing.
What’s the strangest place you’ve gotten a great story idea?
The lobby of the La Playa Hotel, in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, which is on the Monterey Peninsula. It was the strangest thing: as my husband checked us into the historic hotel, my eyes scanned the vast, opulent lobby, where there was a stone fireplace on one end and a sweeping Mediterranean tiled staircase on the other. I noticed a hallway flowing to the back of the hotel, which faces the ocean, and as I walked down it, I saw sepia-tinted etchings and old photographs taken of the area dating from 1900. People were in period clothing standing beside horses at hitching posts, the streets were unpaved, and everything looked eerie. In looking at one photograph, which was the architectural plan for a house, I realized the La Playa Hotel started out as a private resonance.
This put a different spin on the stairs I saw in the lobby, so I walked back and imagined myself, at the turn of that century, walking up to the level above, where I assumed there must have been bedrooms. When I actually did walk up the stairs, I saw a cathedral, wooden door at the end of the hall and knew it must lead to the master bedroom. I imagined there was a bay window looking out towards the sea, and imagined myself standing before it purposefully. “A Portal in Time” was the book I wrote that led me to that imagined window at the top of the stairs!
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
For “A Portal in Time,” I had no idea in which genre it belonged; I just thought I’d written a good page-turning, rather off-kilter story with an unusual ending. But when I submitted it to Vinspire Publishing, I said it was paranormal, because it had to do with the idea of past lives. For “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” I told the story in the first person and made it all a true to life commentary on how I experienced Ireland, although the story is fiction. This makes “Dancing to an Irish Reel” literary fiction, which is my favorite genre. My third novel is also literary fiction.
Can you wash light and dark clothes together?
Have you even turned a bunch of stuff pink in the washer? Can I now moan about the nature of my husband’s socks? Lord, have mercy. They’re of the white sporting variety and he tends to wear them around the house without shoes, which turns what was once white to the grossest color you’ve ever seen. I’m talking dirt-brown. With dog hair from two German shepherds. Have I turned anything pink in the wash? Maybe not, but I’ve never mastered the art of removing filth.
What “person” do you like to write in? First Person, Third Person, etc. – and why?
First person. I don’t think I’ll ever write in third again. I find other’s points of view too tricky, and if I write in the first, then there seems to be more authenticity in the telling. I prefer reading first person as well because it give me a person with whom to connect.
I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?
Yes! I submitted the epilogue to my third novel to Southern Writer’s Magazine’s 2015 short-story contest, and it is a runner-up. It’ll appear in their next edition. I’m actually still adjusting the 81,000 word manuscript- going over and over it- you know how it is. But I thought I’d submit the epilogue to the contest, even though it’s not technically a short-story, but it does stand on its own. I’m thrilled Southern Writer’s Magazine saw its merit.
How did your blog start?
I have a blog on Goodreads, which I’ve kept current with these past few years. It’s a great spot from which to start a blog because so many readers are on the site. For an author, it’s a ready readership.
How do you decide on a title for your book?
“Dancing to an Irish Reel” came to me because it describes what goes on in the book between the American outsider and the local, Irish traditional musician. The young lad, Liam Hennessey, has never been in love before, so when he meets American, Hailey Crossan, he doesn’t know how to handle himself or the growing attraction between them. He can’t decide whether to draw closer or run away, because he’s an Irish musician, married to the music, and not sure how this woman can fit into his life. But the attraction is clearly there and building, and in Hailey’s eyes, she’s involved in a dance and trying to find her footing as a stranger in a strange land.
What do you do for cover art? Do you do it yourself, hire an artist (you can name names if you liked them), or purchase premade?
Vinspire Publishing hired Elaina Lee: For the Muse Designs.
Plotter? Or Pantser? And prepare to defend your position! Both!
I know the beginning and end first, then I write down highlights, plot twists, and building blocks that I want in the story, and perhaps a few lines I want the characters to say in dialogue, which will shed light on their personality as well as move the story forward. I also answer these questions: what is the theme or themes of this book; what am I trying to say? What’s the point of this story? In my opinion, there’s very little point in writing a book if you don’t have something to say! I consider all this the scaffolding of the story, and from here, I fly by the seat of my pants. Writing a novel will avail plenty of opportunity for side-trips during the process, so to speak, and if I’m not boxed in with a concrete structure, then I’m free to explore.
What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story? What’s the least fun part?
I’ll put these two questions together here and report I’ve learned the imperative, in writing of any kind, and it is this: after you think you’ve finished, walk away and go back to it later. You’ll catch all kinds of things then. I’ve heard it said that writing is re-writing, and it is true.
What was your road to publication like?
Ah! Great question, which I spelled out in detail on The Story Reading Ape’s website in October, which is how I was lucky enough to find you!
What advice can you give new authors?
If you think you should, then you should! Writers learn as they go along, but it starts with getting in the traffic. There is no “there” to get to, only the willingness to stay the course with commitment. A writer’s career will create itself if a writer allows it to. It is typically unpredictable, so one has to stay loose in the saddle and persevere. And never, never, never compare yourself to others.
Who or what helped you the most getting started?
Not a soul. I dove in the waters alone! But then Dawn Carrington of Vinspire Publishing believed in my first novel and treated me with such guiding respect that it ramped me up in my own esteem and gave me motivation to continue.
What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?
Always first thing in the morning, coffee in hand, which leads me to the answer of the next question on this interview: my fear is if I didn’t begin each day with coffee, I’d go into withdrawal.
If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?
I’d go where ever asked and make it my mission to tell other authors how to plot their career. I’d answer any question because I know there are legions of great writers out there looking for an open door. I’d like to point the way.
Best book to movie you’ve seen?
“The Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy- the book, not the movie. There was no way to capture the lyrical, insightful flow of this great Southern novel in the movie. The book was all about the flow of past and present and how they beled into each other. It is the ultimate “sins of the father” book and so masterfully constructed I’m still not over its genius!
What are you three favorite books by other authors?
After “The Prince of Tides,” “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt, “The Mermaid’s Singing” by Lisa Carey and “Peachtree Road” by Anne Rivers Siddons.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
There was never a time when I was not. I say this because I always felt the need to keep a journal. I documented everything that went on in my life from a very early age because it just seemed the thing to do, to keep a running monologue, if you will. My career has been an outgrowth of this process. The only difference between what I’ve always done and publication is at one point, I started submitting.
Do you hate cats?
No, I do not. I have one black cat named La Chatte. She’s a left-handed cat with way too much to say. The dear thing understands paragraphs. And our two German shepherds still chase her, yet she remains completely unruffled. You’ve never seen such stoic confidence in a feline.
What was the most fun interview you’ve done and why?
Now why would I be stupid enough to say any other interview other than this was the most fun? And it seriously has been. But Ronovan Writes’ interview was unusually creative, and Chris of the Story Reading Ape is a star!
Claire Fullerton is the author of “Dancing to an Irish Reel” (Literary Fiction) and “A Portal in Time,” (Paranormal Mystery), both from Vinspire Publishing. She is a four time, award winning essayist, a contributor to magazines, a five time contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series, and a former newspaper columnist. Claire grew up in Memphis, and now divides her time between Malibu and Carmel, CA with her husband and two German shepherds. She has recently completed her third novel, which is a Southern family saga set in Memphis.
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.