Gifting the Readers

It was an unusual path that led to the creation of my third novel, Mourning Dove, and the thought that spurred me on was gifting the reader with something to ponder.
Mourning Dove started as a poem, written rather cathartically, in verse that sought to put into words the repercussions of a personal experience. I wrote the poem but never shared it, thinking it would be enough to write it and leave it in my journal. Then, in 2013, I saw a call for submissions in the San Francisco Writers Conferences’ contest. In looking at the categories, I decided to tell the abbreviated story behind the poem in the requisite 3,000-word limit and enter it as narrative nonfiction. Because I liked the images and rhythm of the poem, I began my piece with the poem’s first stanza. As I wrote the nonfiction story, I remained true to the feel and flow of the poem. I reached the word limit swiftly and submitted it to the contest, under the title Mastering Ambiguity (there’s a good reason for that title.)
Three months later, I received notice that Mastering Ambiguity was a finalist in the contest, and, as I live in Malibu, I decided to make the trip to the 2013, San Francisco Writers Conference and attend the luncheon where the winner would be announced.
Entering the auditorium, I saw thirty-five, eight seated tables spaced on the floor before a stage. As I found a seat, I told myself that if anything ever came of Mastering Ambiguity, I’d turn it into a full-length novel. Mastering Ambiguity wasn’t pronounced the winner at that luncheon, but it came in as the runner-up. Knowing I had a good story, I kept my pledge and set to work turning Mastering Ambiguity into a novel.
But how to turn a 3,000-word, nonfiction piece into a novel that is essentially a coming- of -age and then some, Southern family saga? It occurred to me that if I focused on a sense of place, in this case, the genteel side of 1970’s and 1980’s Memphis, replete with characters exemplary of old-world social mores, I’d have a solid foundation for a cause and effect story.
I began by defining the aim of Mourning Dove, which would help me suggest its point. Once I had what I wanted to say in hand, I settled upon Mourning Dove’s themes, knowing, if I let them lead, I could write the novel in scenes that would lead to gifting the reader with an overarching point.
When a writer settles upon a theme, or themes in a novel, the idea is to make them universal, so that the reader will identify from the vantage point of their own life. In Mourning Dove’s case, I wanted to expand upon the idea of a search, for I believe all of us are searching for something, be it a daily search or over a lifetime.
Once I knew the beginning and end of Mourning Dove, I wrote the following in a composition book I keep by my keyboard, and allowed it to guide me:
A search for place/home
A search for identity
A search for meaning/God.

From there, I wrote the story of two siblings who were born in Minnesota but moved abruptly during their formative years to the Deep South, where they entered the traditionally Southern environment as outsiders. From here, the novel took on a life of its own and became not only about discovery, but about displacement and the navigational tools one employs, while trying to fit into a culture.
For the most part, writers write from what they know. They use their own impressions and experiences as fodder to one degree or another, in the process of telling a story. I believe this is inevitable and inescapable, and in writing Mourning Dove, I portrayed Memphis as I experienced it. Because I now live in California, the geographical distance afforded an objective eye with a sense of nostalgia for an era now gone by. Late 1970’s through 1980’s Memphis was well worth writing about because I am of a generation raised by those many call “the old guard.” These were the people born to a culture steeped in Southern social mores and tradition, who held to its ways as if manners and form were the template to society, so much so that it verged on stifling.
My aim in writing Mourning Dove was along the lines of depicting the culture the siblings came to as outsiders to show how its influence contributed to their psychological wiring. Because we are all products of our upbringing, it raises the question of nature versus nurture in influencing how a life turns out. It’s a complicated amalgam that contributes to how individuals end up as they do, and in writing Mourning Dove, I wanted to tell the story of siblings who share the same history but come to disparate ends.
Because readers are intelligent beings, I wanted to take the reader through a series of one telling scene to the next, so that they could divine for themselves how what happened in the end came to be.
It’s a give and take in being a writer. If a writer gifts a reader with something to ponder, the reader will take away their own conclusion.

 

Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton is a Faulkner Society listed, and winner of the Bronze medal for Southern Fiction by Reader’s Favorite.

Enter to win the audiobook of Mourning Dove: https://audiobookwormpromotions.com/mourning-dove/

https//www.clairefullerton.com

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When an Author Narrates their Book’s Audiobook.

I have always loved the solitary act of reading a good book. When I read, I want to be captivated. I want to immerse myself in the language and craft of a story. As a writer, part of me studies word choice and turn of a phrase as I read, but even as I do, I stay involved in the story. And I like the feel of a book: its tactile size and anchoring weight; the entire solidity of the reading experience. So, when my husband suggested I narrate the audiobook of my Southern family saga set in Memphis, Mourning Dove, I didn’t immediately jump. I had to think about it. I had to be convinced it would be worthwhile, shown the current marketplace of audiobooks, and basically set my book bias aside and expand my horizons.
Having grown up in Memphis, where Delta music is a religion, I know my way around many musical genres from the blues to rock-a-billy, to current day rock-n-roll. I had a brother who played the guitar and was as passionate as anyone I’d ever met about music as a language. Growing up with my brother, Haines, was like attending school in all things musical. When he wasn’t playing music, Haines was talking about it, and the very foundation of my teenage years were spent under Haines’s tutelage.
From my early twenties to my early thirties, I was on the radio. I began my disc-jockey career on a whim. I attended college at The University of Denver. There was a control room next to the cafeteria in my dorm’s building, and students could sign up for school credit to spin their favorite records over a building-wide PA system, on a schedule that worked with their classes. As a communications and fine arts major, I jumped when I heard I could do this. It seemed as natural to me as walking. After college, I returned to Memphis and embarked on what became a nine-year, on-air career in radio, beginning as a producer at WHBQ Talk Radio, and ending at the album-oriented rock station: WEGR, Rock-103, on Memphis’s infamous Beale Street. I loved every minute of it, but I got out of radio when I moved to California. I’d been offered a job in the L.A. music business as an A&R representative. Summarily, I took up-and-coming bands to record companies, looking for a record deal. I had luck with a band out of Louisiana named Better Than Ezra. While I was in Los Angeles’ music business, I never once pursued music radio, being, as it was and is that I’m possessed of a southern accent.
After four years, I left the music business, when it occurred to me that the music business wasn’t the profession I envisioned for myself in the long haul. I’d been writing poetry by then and arrived at the conclusion that I had wings because I was young and untethered. I thought long and hard about it, and decided, were I to have my druthers, I’d move to pastoral Ireland and become a writer. Far-fetched, I know, but the thing is I actually did this. I spent a year on the western coast of Ireland. I’ve been writing ever since.
As I prepared for the release of my third novel, Mourning Dove, it was my husband who asked if I would be recording the audiobook. At the time, there had been no mention of an audiobook of Mourning Dove from my publisher. I went to my computer and sent an e-mail asking my publisher if there were plans for a Mourning Dove audiobook in the works. The reply came quickly: there were no such plans. When I told this to my husband, he produced the statistics of audiobooks’ popularity in the current marketplace, then simply said, “Alright, let’s record it.” I sent an audition tape to my publisher. I was given the green light.
What I should say here is that my husband is “a sound guy.” What this means is he’s a composer and an audio engineer. He has a recording studio behind our house in Malibu, and when he’s in it, he’s like a pig in mud.
I spent close to a month in my husband’s recording studio; six hours a day, five days a week. The second I put on the headphones to read my work, every minute of my radio career flooded over me in full force. It was as comforting to me as putting on a forgotten favorite coat, and the sheer act of it felt somehow fated. I had a blast reading the 233 pages of Mourning Dove’s manuscript. It gave me the opportunity to read the lines in the exact voice I had in mind as I wrote the book, and the best part of it was acting out the southern characters. There’s something I call “the Southern sigh,” which can only be completely understood for its dramatic emphasis if you hear it. To write it, it comes across as, “Well,” she waved her hand and sighed, “I just don’t understand where Finley came from.” That’s one thing. I’ll tell you now that it’s better to hear it. To hear the Southern sigh in all its breathy concession sounds a lot like a balloon deflating. How it’s executed, quite frankly, says it all.
When an author narrates their own audiobook, they gift the reader with their full intention. They give the reader the mood and cadence in their narration, and when it comes to dialogue, they are able to share speech patterns, inflections, and accents. I think this gifts the reader with something the written word does not. Mourning Dove has been out in the world for two months, and I am happy to report that many who have read the book have written to me to say they also bought the audiobook on Audible.
I’m couldn’t be happier that the audiobook of Mourning Dove is out in the world.
From September 16-22, I’ll be doing an audiobook tour with this wonderful outfit: https://audiobookwormpromotions.com/mourning-dove/ I believe, if you’re so inclined, you can sign up for the tour. The tour includes a giveaway of Mourning Dove’s audiobook.

And here’s a sample of Mourning Dove’s audiobook.

I’ve recently become a fan of audiobooks. My hope is you are, too!

 

http://www.clairefullerton.com

Launching A Book Is Like A Wheel

It seems to me the release of a novel is like a wheel with its own life span. Though the elements that get a book out in the world happen in linear fashion, it feels as if they happen at once. This is what readers might not know as they read a book. There is a lot that goes into a book release. Within the time frame of getting my third novel, Mourning Dove, signed until its publication, it seemed every move I made was urgent, even though I knew, when I signed the contract, that Mourning Dove’s release was a year and a half away.
It all begins with a book’s contract negotiation. Promotion starts immediately, once the writer signs the contract. There is the business of sharing the news that a contract has been signed on social media to garner interest that the book is coming, that it will be winding its way from draft to print. And it is a winding way. What made Mourning Dove different for me is that when I signed the publishing contract, I had a literary agent. Because this wasn’t the case with my first two books, I didn’t know what to expect.
From the onset, my agent got to work. We talked about Mourning Dove’s genre, my brand as an author, whether to hire a publicist, which book festivals to submit to, which contests to enter, my presence on social media—all of this was planned once my editor sent me my publishers’ schedule. Because what a writer is doing pre-release is securing a foundation. A writer must know where they’re going and when. One has to create a launch pad well in advance of a book’s release that matches their publisher’s schedule. After the book has been edited, which in Mourning Dove’s case hinged on my editor’s schedule, and took three rounds, during six weeks, a writer waits for the advance review copy. There are magazines, contests, and online journals to submit to, each with their own schedule. A writer has to create their own schedule to keep track of what’s happening and when.
Once I had the advance review copy of Mourning Dove, I sent it to four well-known authors and two prestigious book magazines, in pursuit of book blurbs to appear on the finished book. Next came the selection of Mourning Dove’s book cover, which began with my written vision and went to my publisher’s art department and ended with the final version.
Once I had Mourning Dove’s book cover, I got to work in preparation for marketing. I had business cards printed with my website and contacts, post cards and bookmarks made with Mourning Dove’s cover and description. I created a glossy “one-sheet” with the book’s cover, its ISBN, Mourning Dove’s release date, my author bio, three book blurbs, and sent it to endless independent book stores, telling them that Mourning Dove was available for pre-order, and that it would be distributed through Ingrams. I joined the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance in tandem with my publisher, since Mourning Dove is set in the South, and my brand is that I am a Southern writer, being, as it is, that I grew up in Memphis.
As Mourning Dove’s launch date drew near, I reached out to more magazines and book bloggers, then scheduled a book launch event. I sent invitations to the launch, and word to my local newspaper requesting they send a photographer out for coverage. Once Mourning Dove was out in the world, I continued to distribute my one sheet, and still do, as time allows. I remain engaged in social media daily about Mourning Dove, and as I do, I support other authors.
Mourning Dove was released one month ago today, and I continue to promote it daily. I will be travelling to book events starting next month, with an eye toward doing as much in person as possible. I am reaching out to book clubs and speakers’ organizations. I believe eye-to-eye contact with readers makes a difference, and it is my sincere honor and privilege to speak with any I meet. My travel schedule has already taken me into 2019, and I have Mourning Dove submitted to 2019 book festivals, from whom I am waiting to hear. There are book award contests I’ve entered that announce awards for books published in 2018, in the year 2019.
In the meantime, I have another release coming on November 1st of this year. Currently the wheel is turning for this. It is a novella; one of four novellas in a book titled A Southern Season—each novella set in the South, and promotion began six months ago.
When you hear writers say that writing is a full-time job, it’s because it is. Each release has its own life-span, which begins with a sense of urgency and continues as long as the author is willing to work it. But the good news is if an author has a backlist, all effort put into each release aids and abets the life of the backlist. In my mind, each release is an independent wheel that helps drive a writer’s career forward.

http://clairefullerton.com

 

 

Balance in A Writer’s Life

I exchanged messages this morning with Michelle James, whom I had the pleasure of meeting online years ago, when Dancing to an Irish Reel came out. This shows me the beauty of WordPress—there are wonderful friends here, and I’ve found the community to be extraordinarily engaging and supportive. And it’s not just about books that we talk about. Books may be the reason why we’re drawn to the page in the first place, but typically exchanges lead into other places, and this morning Michelle and I talked about Pilates.
Michelle and I both incorporate Pilates into our weekly schedule, and it caused me to think about why I do it. It’s because I spend so much time at this computer, and it occurred to me that a writer needs balance. In order to find balance, it takes the realization that balance is a requirement of a writer’s life.
I have a wheeled chair on a hardwood floor that fits up tightly under my desk. I am a little-bitty ol’ thing, and I’m in the habit of sitting Indian style (can I say this in this PC world? Apologies for any offense) for hours at a time. I go through phases when a project is pressing, even if the immediacy is of my own making. Looking back at the past five and a half years, it’s staggering to realize that I produced four novels, but part of the explanation is I got myself into it because one door opened then things happened at once, in a flurry that felt like putting out fires.
Which brings me back to the subject of Pilates. I’ll add ballet because I still go to class. I’m a believer in the adage that the mind and the body are one, and I’ve found that without finding a balance, I suffer. Without reading and writing, I am aimless, and without tempering the way I sit at my desk, there are particular areas in my lower back that tighten to the point where my whole body locks up. Basically, I have to undo what I create, after I spend so much times sitting in the form of a pretzel. But it’s more than that, really. It has something to do with needing to get out of my head and into my body, and I think it matters, with respect to grounding myself on God’s green earth.
I’m going to take this subject further and talk about a decision I made once I came up for air after completing the edits for my next book, which I wrote after Mourning Dove (This book is another Southern novel in the capable hands of my agent, and hopefully it will be signed somewhere!) Because I spent so much time during the week and then some in self-enforced isolation, save for the occasional social outing or doing whatever it takes to tend to home and hearth, I decided to switch priorities. I know a group of wonderful women who live near me in this seaside community, and every morning they meet to walk the beach. I had to wrestle with the hour of joining this group. 8:00 in the morning is a questionable hour to be up and out of the house, and I have a bad habit of getting coffee then going to my computer the second my feet hit the floor. Once at my computer, away I go.
My commitment to leaving the house was made in favor of physical and psychological balance. Once the decision was made, the effort was easy because I knew the stakes, otherwise. If I start the day by getting outside and walking by the ocean, it gives me a certain perspective. The enormity of the ocean; the people out walking their dogs; the surfers sizing up the waves; the conversation of friends; and the simple act of movement reminds me there’s a big world outside of my office, before it’s time to close myself off when I return to my desk.
I think balance is imperative in a writer’s life, and writer’s need to aim for it. It takes commitment to write, especially when one writes novels, but it also takes commitment to lead a well-balanced life.