It’s a pleasure to have author Claire Fullerton from Malibu, California, here to talk about her new release, Little Tea.
How long have you been published, Claire?
Since the year 2013
Nice. What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.
I am traditionally published and have four novels and one novella out in the world. A Portal in Time was published by Vinspire Publishing in 2013; Dancing to an Irish Reel was published by Vinspire Publishing in 2015; Mourning Dove was published in 2018, by Firefly Southern Fiction, who also published my novella, Through an Autumn Window in the anthology, A Southern Season, the same year. Little Tea was released on May 1, 2020 by Firefly Southern Fiction.
Those sound like interesting books. Tell us a bit about them.
I write stand alone books best categorized as Upmarket Fiction, in that they bridge the gap between commercial and literary fiction. I pay attention to character and language, and love to write stories about the human predicament, which is best played out through relationships. My last two novels (Mourning Dove, and Little Tea) have the subject of family dynamic at the heart. I love to write about that which goes into impacting character.
Characters are important in all books, and it’s true that featuring them in context with their families, as you do, is a great way to develop them.
Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
I plan to write as best as I can, as long as I can. My aim is always work with a compatible publisher for the genre in which I write, which is, in some way, open-ended.
Great plan. I also like to write different genres, but mostly mystery subgenres.
What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
I love all readers. Seriously, I do. I think readers are intelligent creatures, and those who read tend to do it as a way of life. I am a storyteller who basically depicts what goes on in this business of life. I assume everyone relates to the vagaries of life and chance and cause and effect. Those that like reading stories with a strong sense of place and a lens on character are those I’d love to read my books.
As a librarian, author, and also a reader, I also appreciate people who read and those who write, as well. I’ve learned many things from other authors and found inspiration through their books.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
I love this question because it is so important that authors compare notes. It’s most important to understand that you already are a writer! The aim is to see your work out in the world and in this day and age there are many options. I see the publishing business as two-fold. There is art for art’s sake, and then the business of publishing. Ask those you know who have books out in the world why they chose to go the route they did. Consider all options and decide how much time and work you’re willing to put into it. I am traditionally published because the thought of self-publishing is daunting, but I know many self-published authors who are enjoying wonderful careers.
That’s a great answer, Claire. It’s important for authors to find their own paths, and although there are so many choices to doing that today, that makes the decision a bit tougher. That’s why it’s so important to network with other authors and learn about the business side of publishing.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
When I shopped my first novel, I didn’t have a body of work behind me that was very impressive, and so I had a lot of agent rejections. Luck and timing gave me the opportunity to write a weekly column for The Malibu Surfside News, in which I basically told first person stories! It helped me as a writer and gave me a good credential. All the while, I wrote essays and submitted them to magazines. By the time A Portal in Time was signed, I had a body of work behind me. The first shift in my career happened then.
It’s good to have publishing credits, even if they aren’t from novels. I started with articles and then had a short story published in an anthology. I’m still querying to agents, but I have two very good Indie publishers, have published 8 books, and am continuing to write articles, short stories, books, and blog posts.
Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?
I do not belong to a writing group. My joke is I’m a lone wolf in the wilds of California. I believe writing critiques are subjective, anyway. I think finding one’s voice and growing comfortable with it is key.
I don’t blame you about that. Some writers find them helpful. I’ve never belonged to a critique group myself, although I participate in a writing workshop at my library. If you don’t use a critique group, it can be useful to have beta readers.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
I’m the proud dog-mother of 3 German shepherds and one expressive black cat. I love their personalities, and we have a great rapport. I am also a teacher of ballet barre and Pilates mat. And one of my main loves is music, as I was a radio DJ for nine years and grew up in the musical haven of Memphis.
How interesting about your music and ballet background. I also have a black cat and two others. I had a German shepherd when I lived at home with my parents and also poodles.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
I won’t say I don’t like it, but promoting a book once it’s out in the world is a full-time job! I’ve learned a lot through the years, and always encourage new authors to gain an understanding of the promotional sphere before they have a book out. What I like is helping authors.
I might give you a call – lol. Actually, I find promoting the toughest part of being an author because of the amount of time it takes away from writing which is even more difficult for those, like me, who have full-time jobs.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?
From Little Tea:
The light was always dim in the entrance hall, irrespective of the time of day. The carved crown molding on its high ceiling matched the dark walnut wood of the floor and door casings, which glowed in polished rosettes above the opening to the formal dining room on the right and the ample living room on the left, with the green-tiled solarium behind it. The entrance hall had a central catacomb feel and was always the coolest area of the house. In its cavernous elegance, footsteps were amplified on the maple floors during the months of June through September, then fell to a muted padding when Mom had Thelonious haul the crimson-and-navy runner from the attic and place it beneath the foyer’s round, centered table. At the end of the hall, behind the stairs, was my father’s den and attendant screened porch, but rarely did I visit the interior. My father was a private man, reclusive and solitary by nature, and whether he was in the library or not, the door was always shut. I had to skirt the gladiola arrangement on the entrance hall table. The floral design reached wide with flourishing arms toward the French credenzas against both sides of the walls. My reflection flashed in the ormolu mirror as I ran toward the stairs to find my mother. My hair crowned me with the color of night’s crescendo, dashing so dark it almost looked purple. I am 100 percent Wakefield in all that distinguishes the lineage, from the dark eyes and hair to the contrasting fair skin. There has never been a Wakefield to escape the familial nose; it is severe in impression, unambiguous in projection, straight as a line, and slightly flared. John and I are mirror images of each other, the yin and yang of the Wakefield, English bloodline. But Hayward was born golden, just like our mother, who comes from the Scottish Montgomerys, whose birthplace is Ayrshire. John and I possess an unfortunate atavistic Wakefield trait, though on me the black shadow is a ready silence, but on him it plays out as something sinister. John and I are individual variations of our father’s dark countenance, which is to say in our own way we are loners. People slightly removed. But Hayward got lucky, in possessing our mother’s shining essence. I could always see an internal light in their green eyes that set off their amber-colored hair.
I put my hand on the thick banister and climbed the stairs to the first landing, where my parents’ bedroom and living quarters unfurled like wings. The bay window overlooking the garden had its draperies drawn against the searing, silver sun. Walking into the sitting room at the right, I called for my mother, thinking she may be in the adjoining master bedroom. “I’m upstairs,” her voice descended. “Celia, come up. I want to see you.”
I mounted the stairs to the third-floor landing and found my mother perched lightly on the sofa in the alcove that served as a central area for the other four bedrooms. Behind her, sunlight filtered through the organza window treatments, highlighting the red in her hair. Her slender hands held a three-ringed binder of fabric swatches, the swatch on top a cool, blue toile. She patted the seat beside her and I settled softly. My mother was cultivated, circumspect, and radiated a porcelain femininity. Always, in my mother’s presence, I gentled myself to her calm self-possession. In my heart of hearts, it was my hope that the apple didn’t fall far from the proverbial tree.
“Tell me,” she said, “what do you think of this fabric for your draperies? We could paint the walls a light robin’s egg and put white on the molding. I think it’d be divine.” She looked around the room as if seeing it for the first time. “It’s time we got rid of the wallpaper in there. You’re growing up.” She laid her ivory hand on my cheek. “You’ll want this eventually. I think now’s a good time.”
I knew enough of my mother’s ways to know she was engaged in preamble. She was practiced at the art of delivery by discreet maneuver, and I suspected her impulse to transform my room had hidden meaning. “Why is now a good time?”
My mother looked in my eyes and spoke softly. “Celia, I’m telling you before I tell Hayward because I don’t want this to come from him. Your father’s going to be taking a job in Memphis, so we’ll be moving.”
“We’re moving to Memphis?” I gasped.
Yes, honey. You’ll be starting school at Immaculate Conception in September,” she answered. “You know the school; its attendant to the big cathedral on Central Avenue.”
“But that’s a Catholic school, Mom. I thought we were Episcopalian.”
“We are, honey, but it’s highly rated academically. Your father and I think being exposed to a different religion will broaden your mind and give you beautiful advantages. We can come back here any weekend we want, and you’ll have a brand-new room when we do. You’ll have the best of both worlds, you’ll see. You’ll make new friends in Memphis, and Little Tea will still be here. It won’t be a drastic change at all. Try to think of it as an addition. There now, sweetie, don’t make that face. It isn’t the end of the world.”
But it was for me; Memphis intimidated me. Memphis was the big city compared to Como, and I found it cacophonous and unpredictable in its patchwork design. There was a disjointed, disharmonious feel to the city, what with its delineated racial relations. Parts of town were autocratic in their mainstay of Caucasian imperiousness and there were dilapidated, unlucky parts of town considered dangerous, which a white person never chanced. This much I’d learned on my visits to my grandparents’ house near the lake in Central Gardens. Blacks and whites never comingled in Memphis, even though they did coexist. But there was an impenetrable wall that separated the races, and I’d been raised in a footloose environment where it didn’t matter so much.
I took my teary eyes and sinking stomach to my bedroom so my mother wouldn’t see me cry. Through the window over the driveway, I watched as Hayward and Little Tea threw a stick for Rufus. I hadn’t the heart to run tell them our lives were about to end.
That was excellent. Best wishes with your new release. I’m sharing your blog tour and giveaway. Thanks for joining us on Ruff Drafts.
by Claire Fullerton
About Little Tea
Publisher: Firefly Southern Fiction (April 28, 2020)
Paperback: 252 pages
Digital ASIN: B0817J667Y
Southern Culture … Old Friendships … Family Tragedy
One phone call from Renny to come home and “see about” the capricious Ava and Celia Wakefield decides to overlook her distressful past in the name of friendship.
For three reflective days at Renny’s lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas, the three childhood friends reunite and examine life, love, marriage, and the ties that bind, even though Celia’s personal story has yet to be healed. When the past arrives at the lake house door in the form of her old boyfriend, Celia must revisit the life she’d tried to outrun.
As her idyllic coming of age alongside her best friend, Little Tea, on her family’s ancestral grounds in bucolic Como, Mississippi unfolds, Celia realizes there is no better place to accept her own story than in this circle of friends who have remained beside her throughout the years. Theirs is a friendship that can talk any life sorrow into a comic tragedy, and now that the racial divide in the Deep South has evolved, Celia wonders if friendship can triumph over history.
About Claire Fullerton
Claire Fullerton hails from Memphis, TN. and now lives in Malibu, CA. with her husband and 3 German shepherds. She is the author of Mourning Dove, a coming of age, Southern family saga set in 1970’s Memphis. Mourning Dove is a five-time award winner, including the Literary Classics Words on Wings for Book of the Year, and the Ippy Award silver medal in regional fiction ( Southeast.) Claire is also the author of Dancing to an Irish Reel, a Kindle Book Review and Readers’ Favorite award winner that is set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire’s first novel is a paranormal mystery set in two time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She is a contributor to the book, A Southern Season with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral ( because something always goes wrong at a Southern funeral.) Little Tea is Claire’s 4th novel and is set in the Deep South. It is the story of the bonds of female friendship, healing the past, and outdated racial relations. Little Tea is the August selection of the Pulpwood Queens, a Faulkner Society finalist in the William Wisdom international competition, and on the short list of the Chanticleer Review’s Somerset award. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary.
Website – https//www.clairefullerton.com
Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/cffullerton
Purchase Link – Amazon
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