Women on Writing Author Interview

 

Meet Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up Claire Fullerton, Author of “Metal Gray”

Claire Fullerton is a runner up in the WOW! Women on Writing Fall Flash Fiction Contest with the very beautiful story Metal Gray. She is the author of contemporary fiction, Dancing to an Irish Reel, set on the west coast of Ireland, and paranormal mystery, in two time frames, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Both books published by Vinspire Publishing. Claire’s third novel, Mourning Dove, is a Southern Family saga, set in Memphis, Tennessee, where Claire grew up. It will be published in June of 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. Claire has been published in multiple magazines, including Celtic Life International, Southern Writers Magazine, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Her essays have appeared in five of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Currently, Claire is writing her fourth novel. She lives in Malibu, California with her husband, two German shepherds, and one black cat.

Find out more about Claire by visiting her website www.clairefullerton.com, her blog, Writing Notes, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @cfullerton3.

Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW!: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for today’s interview. Congratulations again on your many accomplishments but most recently as a runner up in the WOW! Fall Flash Fiction Contest! So now down to business: where did you get the idea for the character of Ella in Metal Gray? You describe her so well it seems she must be part of your personal story as well? Please tell us more.

CLAIRE: I would love to tell you about Ella, thank you for asking. Ella is a significant character in my forthcoming novel, Mourning Dove, which is a southern family saga, set in Memphis, where I grew up. The book will be published by Firefly Southern Fiction in June of 2018. The background of Ella and this book is that I entered a 3,000 word piece in The 2013, San Francisco Writer’s Conferences’ contest, in the narrative nonfiction category. The piece came in as the runner up, and I will tell you now that when I entered the piece, it occurred to me that should anything in the slightest happen, I’d turn the piece into a novel, which I did. To clarify the obvious, a novel, of course, is fiction, yet I knew with my nonfiction piece that there was an entire world already there to work with, as long as I changed names, created scenes and other characters that contributed to the momentum of the story. I can report that Mourning Dove is fiction, but that the character of Ella as she appears in the book as well as in the flash-fiction piece I sent to WOW! is a composite of many women who populated my life while growing up in Memphis. Ella represents the voice of brass tacks reason, wherever she appears, in that she sees all, knows all, and keeps her lips tight. Ella is in it, but not of it, which provides fabulous objectivity. What I did when I entered WOW!’s flash fiction contest was give the description of Ella, then made up the ending to fit the 750 word guidelines, which means it needed to be unique, self-contained, and brief!

WOW!: So clearly, you are no stranger to Ella and no stranger to writing contests. What role do flash fiction pieces play in your writing life? Do you have advice for other authors as far as contests and flash fiction pieces are concerned?

CLAIRE: Yes, I love entering flash fiction contests, for it is a way of fine-tuning one’s craft. The art of brevity should be in each writer’s tool-kit, and I was thrilled when I discovered WOW!’s contest. To answer your question about advice I’d give to any author, I’d say getting in the traffic and staying in the traffic is very important. I’ll give you a personal example: Vinspire Publishing honored me and basically started my career by publishing my first two books back-to-back. My third novel, Mourning Dove, will not be out until 2018, so I have a gap, with regard to staying engaged with my readership. By entering contests, and hopefully placing somewhere, it gives me the opportunity to share my work as it is published. This, along with staying engaged with social media is the life-force of an author’s career. It also gives authors the opportunity to meet nice people like Crystal with WOW!

WOW!: Now I’m blushing – thank you so much! It certainly is sound advice about staying in the traffic. Wally Lamb is one of my favorite authors and I didn’t realize he had released a new book because he had such a gap and even though I’m an avid reader, he really fell off my map. I hope other authors take your advice and stay in the traffic (not to be confused with playing in traffic…giggle).

You recently wrote “I tend to be a stream of consciousness writer, in that I write whatever it is I’m thinking.”

Can you give us an example of when that wasn’t such a great idea or when it served you well?

CLAIRE: I think it has always served me well, and I’ll tell you why by answering this generally: I prefer writing in the first person. I think it lends immediate intimacy, and gives the reader the complete idea of who it is they’re listening to. I say I am a stream of consciousness writer because writing comes to me easily. I write the story from the voice within me, and very rarely labor. I think if a writer decides who the narrator is, with whatever nuances or backstory they may have, then they can assume the narrator’s voice, and write from there. Before I begin a novel, I know the story I want to tell. I know the beginning, middle and end, and let the rest create itself, though I do take notes along the way, when something comes to me that I think I should include, in order to drive the story forward by illustrating a point, or perhaps it is something wittily said that will lend flavor and help the reader better understand the narrator or other characters. Summarily, I think that, when writing, it is best to trust one’s own thoughts. I’d rather risk writing from an authentic place and having it misunderstood, than constructing something inauthentic only to realize it sounded contrived.

WOW!: I’m going to repeat what you just said because it’s worth repeating: “I’d rather risk writing from an authentic place and having it misunderstood, than constructing something inauthentic only to realize it sounded contrived.”

This is a quote to remember fellow writers. Thank you Claire for sharing this insight and truth.

Dancing to an Irish Reel will now be available in all the South Dublin Libraries and I’m curious
what part you played in making that happen? What advice can you give to other authors as far as getting their books into more libraries (in the states or outside the states)?

CLAIRE: I give full credit to the unlimited creativity and enthusiasm of Dancing to an Irish Reel’s publisher, Dawn Carrington of Vinspire Publishing. Dawn was well aware that I once lived in Ireland, and that Dancing to an Irish Reel is set on Ireland’s west coast. She wrote to many Irish library’s and simply introduced the book: it’s blurb, its cover, and much about me as its author. She embraced this book and got it out in the world, as she educated me on exactly how to be involved in the promotional process. I have learned that the promotional process is unending, and to me, it is actually fun. The process starts out in a small arena, by aligning with the obvious social media outlets ( FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, etc.) but the thing is, once you’re aligned, it gets bigger! You end up meeting other authors through social media and by watching where they are and what they do, it triggers unending possibilities. I can tell you that after two novels that have been out in the world for a while, I am still discovering new places to promote because it is essentially a domino effect. But yes, library’s are a great avenue to explore, so I recommend that authors start locally, then get creative on the locations of libraries that may embrace the book, due to the book’s setting or subject matter.

WOW!: It’s nice to meet up with others who enjoy social media networking and all the endless possibilities!

I love your position of staying out of politics on social media (I too would rather talk about what unites us instead of what divides us). Have you ever approached a friend or colleague suggesting they tone down their political posts? How can we help spread the social media mentality of “See no evil…Hear no evil…Speak no evil” like Confucius

CLAIRE: Great question. I assume you saw the Word Press blog post I delicately wrote and hesitantly posted on this subject! I was torn over whether to post the piece or not! The impetus behind this came from too many months of vitriolic posts on Facebook during America’s recent presidential election. So many friends I’d been aligned with for years used Facebook as a forum to post their political views, and many of these friends are authors. I spoke to one author friend who was dismayed because one of her readers had taken her to task on something she posted concerning the election, and had declared she would unfollow her. I have pledged to never comment politically because I think it is polarizing. This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with someone who chooses to do so, it’s just that many are so heated over the issues that a difference of political opinion can have unintended consequences for an author. I adore meeting readers and other authors via social media, but am clear why it is that they’re my friends, and what it is that brought us together. My overarching respect for books, authors, and readers makes it easy for me to leave politics alone.

WOW: That’s a good way to look at it – it’s out of respect! I love that!

Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Claire! Congratulations again on Metal Gray and best wishes to you all your future projects!

An Author’s Connections

It’s important for an author to consider that once their novel is out in the world, the repercussive work becomes all about connections. It happens organically from the state of affairs at play in today’s publishing world, which is to say that authors are expected to be actively involved, not only in promoting their books, but in getting in the online traffic and more or less promoting themselves. Readers want a face with a name; they like to discover similarities between themselves and the person behind the words, and they can find this via the social media community, where edges are often blurred.

Pinterest, for example, is a great author platform on the one hand, but on the other, an author can establish boards that declare their love of dogs, their affinity with a certain region, the city or town in which they grew up, and a myriad other creative possibilities that give a follower something in which to connect with the author as a person first.

Twitter affords similar opportunities, and what is imperative to keep in mind about Twitter is that it is an ever-expanding network with endless connective possibilities that come in all manners. The ethos of Twitter goes beyond the act of following someone who follows you back; it’s all about staying engaged; promoting books by other authors; retweeting something that resonates with you out of the goodness of your heart, and basically staying in a flow that lets you present who you are as well as your interests.

I’ll venture to say it’s the same with Google+, Facebook, Tumbler, About.me, Instagram, and a host of other platforms. All are online forums in which an author can make themselves known, and have it be about way more than their books. The way I see it, with regard to authors, as long as they’re on these social media outlets, they may as well have fun.

I think there’s much to be said for authors coming to the social media table without an iron-clad agenda. They can let their contacts with people be about sharing, connecting, and supporting those with similar interests. Certainly social media is a great place to promote books, but at social media’s foundation is a sense of community, and this can be its own reward.

Of course, all this is not to say that authors shouldn’t come to social media without a plan; just that it doesn’t need to be a constant, self-orientated agenda. I think it’s best to consider social media and online forums as a place to connect with people who share common interests, and to stay engaged out of that sense of commonality, for its own sake.

Certainly, there are different vantage points from which to engage in social media. The good news for authors is that all of them create a ripple effect through the habit of that engagement. If your contacts regularly see your posts and like what they see, it stands without question that they’ll look into your profile, which is where they’ll get the great thrill of discovering your books!

 

What Price an Author’s Politics?

 

I don’t believe I’m the only one disenchanted with the current state of affairs on FaceBook. Rather than launching a campaign in broad strokes of generalities from a supercilious pulpit, I will keep things simple and try my best to articulate where I’m coming from as an artist, for writing, to me, is a high art.

 

Like legions the world over, I joined FaceBook to stay connected with many people I’d lost touch with over the years. I grew up in Memphis, which means I’m a Southerner, and Southerners are raised in packs attendant to other packs. The domino effect of this reaches into the hundreds. And I care about all my pack members, so I considered the advent of FaceBook a gift that kept me connected, now that I’m a transplanted Southerner living in California.

 

And then I cultivated a writing career. I, like other writers, was therefore obligated to do my share of marketing and promotion for my books, and Facebook is, perhaps, the most viable avenue to do so. In short order, my list of “friends” grew longer, and I, wanting to help my fellow writers, turned around one day to discover I was connected to unfathomable numbers of authors I would have never known otherwise. And it thrilled me. I will always be fascinated by those who create, be they a writer, musician, dancer or painter. Give me your art, says I; it softens the blow of the human experience. In my opinion, there is such beauty in this world, and it is the artist’s God-given aptitude that points this out. It has been my pleasure and honor to help promote other authors, and there is safety in numbers in this business of living, if one is lucky enough to come across others of their ilk. Like begets like, or so it seemed to me, but lately I’ve become soul-sick and heart-confused while looking at FaceBook, and I’m trying to get to the bottom of why.

 

I feel hoodwinked, led into the miasma of a bait and switch. I came to Facebook because of friendship and art, but now it seems I’m being held prisoner for political ransom. I know the arguments: freedom of speech, a forum for “voice,” and all the other rights people stand up for. I’m not suggesting any of this is wrong, but I do question its appropriateness. Just because one can doesn’t mean one should, and the irony for an author is pontificating politically automatically polarizes their followers. There’s no sense in not admitting this, and those that don’t might be assuming their followers completely agree with their views, yet if this is the case, then why preach to the choir?

 

I think authors should seriously think through posting their political view on FaceBook, and weigh it for the potential ramifications to their career. After all, the way an author shows up in the world begins with deciding how they want to be perceived. I had this question posited to me recently, when my literary agent asked me to articulate “my brand.” It’s going to matter when my next two novels come out, and currently there is wisdom in establishing and investing in my base. I’m thinking the more streamlined and specific I can be, the better.

 

Readers align with us for stories. Reading stories gives many suspended quarter in a hectic world. Readers don’t necessarily need to know who the person is behind the story. If an author is doing it right, their stories will speak volumes to answer the question, without detracting from the author’s mystique.

 

I’m not saying I long to be seen as mysterious, only that I like the idea of my stories speaking for themselves. As for who I am, I’ll let the readers decide, and willingly leave politics to the political pundits.

 

 

 

An Irish Lagnaippe

In Louisiana, they use the phonetically pleasing word lagniappe to denote a little something extra. Typically, a lagniappe is a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure as a way of saying thank you. I’ve been so enamored with this word that it’s found its way into my psyche and influenced my behavior, where it prompts me to go the extra mile, when in deep gratitude. And deep gratitude I have for those generous souls who have posted reviews, written me, and recommended my second novel, Dancing to an Irish Reel. Some have done as I suspected; they’ve written me to ask how much of the book is true, for I made no secret in sharing that I actually lived on the western coast of Ireland, where the book is set, and most readers know that writers pull from their own life to one degree or another.

I’m a fan of the first person essay. I consider it the art of brevity whose aspiration is to create a whole world around a case in point. I could wax loquacious on how the pursuit thrills me, how the challenge ignites the deep-seated, smoldering embers of why I write in the first place, which is to say I experience life as a witness and write to decipher its nuances in a manner that seeks to compare notes.

Sometimes life itself will hand you a lagniappe when you’re not looking. This was the case for me when I came across the Irish on-line community, The Wild Geese. There lies a compatible fraternity of like-minded souls, who can never get enough of their favorite subject, which is themselves. Proudly, I say, I am one of them; I am one of the island folk by lineage, and I flew into formation the second I found the flock. I brought much of who I am to this union: a writer, a shanachie, a child of Eire. I started writing the stories behind the stories that were my inspiration in the crafting of Dancing to an Irish Reel and as time stretched on, I realized I’d created my own lagniappe to give to those who read my book.

 

On my website http://www.clairefullerton.com/, there are three tabs on the homepage titled “Dancing Companion,” where a collection of my first person Irish essays can be found along with attended photographs.

 

Please accept them as my lagniappe!

 

 

 

 

 

The Gifts of Online Community

What’s important for an author to consider is once their novel is out in the world, the repercussive work that ensues becomes all about connections. It happens organically from the state of affairs at play in today’s publishing world, which is to say that authors are expected to be actively involved, not only in promoting their books, but in simply getting in the online traffic and more or less presenting themselves.

Readers want a face with a name, they like to discover similarities between themselves and the person behind the words, and they can find this via the social media community, where edges are often blurred. Pinterest, for example, is a great author platform on the one hand, but on the other, an author can establish boards that declare their love of dogs, their affinity with a certain region, the city or town in which they grew up, and a myriad other creative possibilities that give a follower something in which to connect with an author as a person first.

Twitter affords similar opportunities, and what is imperative to keep in mind about Twitter is that it is an ever-expanding network with endless connective possibilities that come in all manners. The ethos of Twitter goes beyond the act of following someone who follows you back; it’s all about staying engaged, promoting books by other authors, retweeting something that resonates with you out of the goodness of your heart, and basically staying in a flow that lets you present who you are as well as your interests.

I’ll venture to say it is the same with Google+, Facebook, the WordPress blogging community, Tumbler, About.me, Instagram, and a host of other platforms. All are online forums in which an author can make themselves known, and have it be about way more than just their books. The way I see it, with regard to authors, as long as they’re on these social media outlets, they may as well have fun.

I think there’s much to be said for authors coming to the social media table without an iron-clad agenda. They can let their contacts with people be about sharing, connecting, and supporting those with similar interests. Certainly social media is a great place to promote books, but at social media’s foundation is a sense of community, and this can be its own reward.

Of course, all this is not to say that authors shouldn’t come to social media without a plan; just that it doesn’t need to be a constant, self-orientated agenda. I think it’s best to consider social media and online forums as a place to connect with people who share common interests, and to stay engaged out of that sense of that commonality for its own sake.

Certainly, there are different vantage points from which to engage in social media. The good news for authors is that all of them create a ripple effect through the habit of that engagement. If your contacts regularly see your posts and like what they see, it stands without question that they’ll look into your profile, which is where they’ll get the great thrill of discovering your books!