I’m Claire Fullerton, the traditionally published author of Little Tea, Mourning Dove, Dancing to an Irish Reel, and A Portal in Time. I also have a novella titled, Through an Autumn Window, which is included in the book, A Southern Season: Scenes from a Front Porch Swing. I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and now live in Malibu, California.
# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
There are no “real-life” stories in my novels, though I draw from a strong sense of place and am inspired by people and events I know.
# What inspires/inspired your creativity?
People are always my inspiration, My last two novels are set in the Deep South, and the South has such wonderfully colorful characters that are part and parcel to the Southern culture. I think all stories happen because of the people involved, so my inspiration comes from simply paying attention to people’s mannerisms, the stories they tell, and their way with words.
In the colorful artistic underworld off-Broadway, Cammie, a dancer in her mid-thirties, has just landed her first part in a show since coming to New York City. Yet the tug of familial obligation and the guilt of what she sacrificed to be there weigh down her dancing feet. Her lover, Tom, an older piano player, came to the city as a young man in the 1980s with a story eerily in tune with Cammie’s own. Through their triumphs and failures, both learn the fleeting nature of glory, the sweetness of new love, and how a dream come true isn’t cherished until it passes. The bright lights of the stage intoxicate, while degradation and despair lurk close behind the curtain. Their sagas are marred by two pandemics, AIDS in the 1980s and COVID-19 today, which ravaged the performing arts community, leaving a permanent scar on those who lived through them. The poignant intersection of their stories reveals a love affair unbound by time, reaching across decades through the notes of a piano’s remembered song.
My Book Review:
In Gregory Phillips dynamic novel, A Season in Lights, the city of New York is in a constant state of becoming as seen from the perspective of two artists: a stary-eyed dancer named Cammie, come to the city from Lancaster, Pennsylvania in search of Broadway, and Tom, a black piano player from the mean streets of the Bronx, seeking a career as a classical pianist against all odds.
In language as fluid and graceful as the performers portrayed in alternating chapters, A Season in Lights beckons the reader to New York City’s inner sanctum. The atmosphere is electric, it glows and pulses with vibrancy, and Cammie, a ballet dancer and divorcee in her mid-thirties, sees the opportunity to dance on Broadway as her life’s second chance. Through a Times Square cab window, Cammie remarks, “I eagerly looked out at the neon glow and bustle of activity. The lights! Their glow had lured me here. The stage lights made me feel alive again.”
Tom, grounded and practical, knows a bit about life’s underbelly having witnessed the mistakes his hoodlum brother made. He takes a job as a ballet studio’s accompanist and plays it safe while keeping his eye out for classical opportunities. The ballet master takes Tom aside and insightfully says of New York City, “You get to choose your class here. It’s not determined by your upbringing. It doesn’t matter that you’re black or that I’m gay. It doesn’t even matter how much money you have. All you’ve got to do is convince people that you belong. You’ve got to tell them who you are before they tell you.”
A Season in Lights is a layered story. As the main characters struggle to actualize their dreams, each has a backstory to surmount. Small town girl Cammie feels guilty about moving to New York and abandoning her younger sister. She is prone to depression and torn over family obligations, on the fence about where to plant her roots. Of New York’s many merits, Cammie, on a visit back home, says to her sister, “What’s so wonderful about people in New York is that they’re all doing something. Nobody’s in New York by accident, not even people who were born there. Being there takes effort and purpose.” In considering her options of whether to stay in the city or move back home, Cammie realizes, “Ultimately, a good life for a dancer in New York would amount to scraping by and enjoying it.”
Tom, dutiful to his mother, is entrusted with his unpredictable brother’s safe keeping, even as his sibling plays too close to the edge. When push comes to shove, Tom prioritizes, and eventually finds the courage to save himself by walking away from his brother’s drug-related troubles.
What’s so compelling about this well-written New York set story is how well the author knows the city. The reader is taken to restaurants via hidden alleys, guided down side streets for late-night jazz, and taken into celebrated theatres both on Broadway and off. Author Gregory Phillips knows ballet positions and accurately speaks the language. When it comes to music, the writing is such that you can hear the compositions.
A Season in Lights is a modern day, tightly crafted story concerning artists living in the heartbeat of the fabled Big Apple. It’s a human story about passion and ambition; a fantastic foray that explores the myth and magic of New York City.
The author, Gregory Phillips
From a prolific literary family, Gregory Erich Phillips tells aspirational stories through strong, relatable characters that transcend time and place. Living in Seattle, Washington, he is also an accomplished tango dancer and musician.
My favorite Podcast is Charlotte Readers Podcast, hosted by Landis Wade, an author himself and “a recovering trial lawyer” who encourages authors to read and talk about their award-winning, published, and emerging works. This is the show where host, Landis Wade, visits with local, regional, national and international authors who read and discuss their work. The Charlotte Readers Podcast mission is to help authors give voice to their written words for listeners who love good books.
Host Landis Wade of The Charlotte Readers Podcast
The podcast’s community blog is populated with readerly and writerly content offered by talented writers. It contains nuggets of wisdom for readers and writers.
This week, I contribute to their Community Voices Blog with a short post about how I became a writer, and the link to the blog post, titled, There Is no There to Get to, is here:
Charlotte Readers Podcast wants to hear YOUR voice! Charlotte Readers Podcast is so grateful for the love writers are showing our blog, Community Voices, where we invite writers to submit their readerly and writerly voices to be featured on our website. The submission guidelines are simple, but must be followed for consideration. Read our latest posts, learn more about what we’re looking for, and submit your writing for consideration on our website: https://linktr.ee/CharlotteReadersPodcast
Here’s the Link to The Charlotte Readers Podcast Website:
Tina invited her friend Erica to attend a popular Tchaikovsky’s Spectacular concert on a summer evening with her parents. During the intermission, her dad left the seat to buy some snacks. Tina and Erica followed him wanting to use the restroom. The shoving crowd pushed them away, and they lost sight of him. It would be impossible to fight through the 18,000 people to find him or go back to Tina’s mom. This story tells about what happened to Tina and Erica after they got lost. Children can adapt to the learning from different situations they may observe or encounter. Adults could have discussions with the children about the situations to help them develop problem-solving skills.
My review of this delightful children’s book:
Third grader, Tina Tyler, looks forward to summer. It is the last day of classes, and she has had such a great school year that she hopes the next year will pair her with her teacher, Mrs. Jackson, who stands outside smiling and waving goodbye to her students and reminds Tina that the fourth grade will be a new adventure, a prospect that Tina readily embraces.
Tina is the exuberant sort, and when her mother takes her home to officially begin summer break, the two sit down at the kitchen table and prepare a ten-point list of best case scenario summer activities, and thus the merits of planning are demonstrated to the reader. Tina is excited by the prospects of swimming and asks her mother if she can host a sleepover party for her friends, which her mother encourages because it is important to be appreciative of one’s friends.
In a delightful surprise for Tina, Mrs. Tyler tells her daughter there will be an outdoor concert at the Hollywood Bowl where an orchestra will play Tina’s favorite music: Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Tina, wanting to include her best friend, asks if she may invite Erica, and when her mother says yes, Tina jumps for joy and claps her hands.
There is much to look forward to at the concert, and Tina’s parents take her and Erica on a two hour train ride to the outdoor event, which will include a picnic and culminate in a fireworks display more resplendent than any Tina has seen prior.
But one has to be prepared for the unexpected, and when in dire circumstances, a child does well to remember the wise counsel of their parents, so when Tina and Erica discover they are lost in a crowd of thousands of people, Erica despairs, until Tina says, “We should stay here. I remember Mom told me a long time ago that if I could not see her, stay where I am, and she would come to find me.”
Miriam Hurdle’s Tina Lost in a Crowd is a joyous, vibrantly illustrated parable designed to depict the safety and security that comes from listening to and trusting one’s parents. In seamless companionship with the gorgeous artwork of Victoria Skakandi, it demonstrates that having a plan to resort to when in the grips of uncertainty will lead to a certain solution where all will be well.
Meet author Miriam Hurdle:
Miriam Hurdle is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She published four children’s books at twenty-six years old. Her poetry collection received the Solo “Medalist Winner” for the New Apple Summer eBook Award and achieved bestseller status on Amazon.
Miriam writes poetry, short stories, memoir, and children’s books. She earned a Doctor of Education from the University of La Verne in California. After two years of rehabilitation counseling, fifteen years of public-school teaching and ten years in school district administration, she retired and enjoys life with her husband in southern California, and the visits to her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters in Oregon. When not writing, she engages in blogging, gardening, photography, and traveling.
Writer, Carla the Reader, writes this in her book review of Tina Lost in the Crowd:
“I read this book to my two oldest grandchildren (5 and 7) and we had some wonderful discussions. We read it straight through the first time, but on the second reading, boy did they open up. We talked about school ending and things they like to do in the summer. Fireworks are a favorite summer activity during the first weekend in July and as a family we go and watch them as well as have a BBQ. Swimming is another wonderful activity and then we talked about outdoor concerts. After all that, I brought them around to discussing what to do if they get lost. The oldest had a lot of ideas involving finding someone in a uniform, finding a mommy or daddy with kids to ask for help and find someone with a ph0ne to call their parents. We discussed what Tina and Erica did and decided that would also work well if mommy and daddy knew what direction they were heading. Even if they chose other options when they get lost, it opened up some great learning moments.”
Congratulations to author Miriam Hurdle on the April 15, 2021 release of this wonderful children’s book, which is available on Amazon!
“The Invisible Husband of Frick Island links the modern world with the past on a small island struggling to stay afloat literally and figuratively. It’s a lively, heartwarming story with eccentric characters depicting the lengths a small community will go to in support of one of its own.”
Piper Parrish lives on Frick Island and works at the local deli. At the end of every afternoon, she waits on the marina’s dock for Tom’s boat to come puffing into the harbor after “squeezing in every minute of the government-allotted eight hours of crabbing per day.” Piper and Tom are newlywed, childhood sweethearts, and Piper is patient for her husband’s return. “Time on the rustic Frick Island had always been more of a theoretical concept measured in jiffies or whiles or later ons,” so she is used to delays. When a boat captain tells her Tom radioed for help during a storm earlier that morning, and that his boat is now missing, Piper holds out hope for Tom’s return, even when his boat is found at the bottom of the sea four days later.
Colleen Oakley is the USA Today bestselling author of You Were There Too, Close Enough to Touch,Before I Go, and the forthcoming The Invisible Husband of Frick Island (May 2021). Colleen’s novels have been longlisted for the Southern Book Prize twice and Close Enough to Touch won the French Reader’s Prize. Her books have been translated into 21 languages, optioned for film and have received numerous accolades including:
A former magazine editor for Marie Claire and Women’s Health & Fitness, Colleen’s articles and essays have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Women’s Health, Redbook, Parade, Woman’s Day, Fitness, Health, Marie Claire and Martha Stewart Weddings. A proud graduate of the University of Georgia’s school of journalism, Colleen currently lives in Atlanta with her husband, four kids, four chickens, two guinea pigs, and one fish.
Book Description: THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND
Sometimes all you need is one person to really see you.
Piper Parrish’s life on Frick Island—a tiny, remote town smack in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay—is nearly perfect. Well, aside from one pesky detail: Her darling husband, Tom, is dead. When Tom’s crab boat capsized and his body wasn’t recovered, Piper, rocked to the core, did a most peculiar thing: carried on as if her husband was not only still alive, but right there beside her, cooking him breakfast, walking him to the docks each morning, meeting him for their standard Friday night dinner date at the One-Eyed Crab. And what were the townspeople to do but go along with their beloved widowed Piper?
Anders Caldwell’s career is not going well. A young ambitious journalist, he’d rather hoped he’d be a national award-winning podcaster by now, rather than writing fluff pieces for a small town newspaper. But when he gets an assignment to travel to the remote Frick Island and cover their boring annual Cake Walk fundraiser, he stumbles upon a much more fascinating tale: an entire town pretending to see and interact with a man who does not actually exist. Determined it’s the career-making story he’s been needing for his podcast, Anders returns to the island to begin covert research and spend more time with the enigmatic Piper—but he has no idea out of all the lives he’s about to upend, it’s his that will change the most.
USA Today bestselling author Colleen Oakley delivers an unforgettable love story about an eccentric community, a grieving widow, and an outsider who slowly learns that sometimes faith is more important than the facts.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND:
“An utterly charming story brimming with heart and humanity. This is the hopeful book we all need right now. I loved it!” —Emily Giffin, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Sweet, quirky, surprising, and altogether lovely, The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is everything I long for in a book. I fell in love with Oakley’s sparkling prose, charming characters, and quaint island setting. This is a story I can’t wait to revisit, again and again. A must read.”—Emily Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read
“What’s a town to do when a recent widow keeps talking to her husband that no one else can see? Follow along, of course. Colleen Oakley’s captivating The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is populated with quirky characters that stole my heart. Make this your summer read and discover the joys of a delicious Frick Island cake, the sanctuary of a tight-knit community, and the hope of second chances.”—Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
“A gently told story of grief, community and ambition, The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is imaginative, lovely and full of surprises.”—Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author of Always the Last to Know
“This twisty, never-predictable novel is exactly what we’ve come to expect by Oakley—a romantic mystery with a hopeful message and wonderful characters. I was surprised on every page!”–W. Bruce Cameron, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Dog’s Purpose
“Lovely, lyrical, and often profound,The Sweet Taste of Muscadines is women’s fiction at its finest and then something more. . . . the search for truth on the backdrops of Wesleyan and a remote island off the coast of Scotland is breathtakingly visceral, in an emotionally evocative story with a strong sense of place.”
Southern tradition, cultural nuance, and unresolved childhood memories lie at the foundation of this engaging story, which begins with a Southern funeral. Narrator Lila Breedlove is a transplanted Southerner now living as a young widow on Wigeon Island, off the coast of Maine. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she lives quietly and successfully seaside, designing and creating woven garments, an occupation metaphoric of The Sweet Taste of Muscadines’ intricately woven tale.
An unprecedented, live event will take place on Sunday, March 14 from 8:00 AM Eastern Standard Time on Facebook. 8 Book Pages will coordinate to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and the idea is for attendees to join the group pages ahead of time then hop from page to page as events happen! You can see the Book Pages here, at the right of the image below.
I will have the great pleasure of being “in conversation” with my favorite author, Billy O’Callaghan, who hails from Douglas, County Cork, Ireland, and who is the author of 4 short story collections and 3 novels, his latest being the newly released, Life Sentences, which I loved!
The Irish Echo released the article below yesterday. Below the image is the actual link!
Every March, I look forward to St. Patrick’s Day because it triggers the memory of when I lived on the west coast of Ireland. As an American with 48% Irish DNA, I felt right at home in Inverin, which is a small village in Connemara, 2.7. miles up the road from the village of Spiddal, the next significant town being Clifden, fifty miles or so up the same road.
I lived in Ireland for more than a year and loved every minute of it.. Connemara is a land separated into geometric prisms by grey-stone walls leading down to the rock encrusted shores of the Atlantic on one side of the coast road and bog-land that stretches out forever on the other. Alongside the novelty of discovering Ireland was a curious sense of familiarity that gave way to a sense of belonging. Between the time I arrived in Ireland and the time I left, I managed to ingratiate myself into the rhythm of a land that has more soul and character than any place I’d ever imagined.
Inverin really isn’t much more than a stretch of the coast road at the gateway to the Gaeltacht, which is an area on the west coast of Ireland where Irish is spoken as a first language. Inverin is moody, pastoral, a bit desolate, and those that reside there have deep generational ties. Inverin is 13 miles up the coast road from Galway City. Here are some photographs to give you an idea of Inverin’s atmosphere:
I lived within a short walk of this graveyard. It’s down a gravel road not far from The Centra, which, for all intent and purposes, is the lone gas station/grocery store in Inverin. I have a thing about graveyards that’s hard to explain. They speak to me of the significance of human existence–of love and life and history, with indelible, reverential resonance indicative of a region’s culture. Ireland takes its cemeteries seriously, and walking through an Irish graveyard has always given me an anchored sense of place. They are lonely, haunting, and beautiful, and what I love about the graveyard pictured above is that the headstones all face the sea.
Inverin was my home base, and during the week, I took the bus from Inverin into Galway, where I worked on New Road at the Galway Music Centre. Galway is a college town, which makes it feel youthful and vibrant. Here are some photographs that illustrate my point:
The Claddagh, Galway, a port for anglers on Galway Bay.
As a writer by nature, I walk through life with a running commentary in my head, and keep a journal. I took the experience of living in Ireland and used it as a basis to write a novel about a single American female who leaves the record business in Los Angeles and relocates to rural Ireland, where she meets an Irish traditional musician who won’t come closer nor completely go away. The novel is titled “Dancing to an Irish Reel.” I went out of my way not to patronize anything about Ireland, particularly its people. I wanted to refrain from bringing an American frame of reference to the book because I felt it had been done before and somehow cheated what I wanted to be the point of the story, which concerns the ambiguity of a budding love relationship, with its attendant excitement, hope and doubt. On the one hand, this story could have happened anywhere (I know of very few people who haven’t been thrown into confusion as they navigate the minefield of new found attraction) but because this story takes place in Ireland, I had the opportunity to highlight a setting in possession of unfathomable beauty, with a history of cultural nuances worth the singing of deep praise. In writing “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” I did what all novelists do: tell about how they find the world through the vehicle of one painstakingly crafted case in point story.
In anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day, there is a Goodreads Giveaway running until March 20 of Dancing to an Irish Reel.
And this will be fun, as well as unprecedented! On Sunday, March 14, I’ll have the immense pleasure of being a part of a Facebook, multiple book page St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I’ll be in conversation with Irish author, Billy O’Callaghan, at noon, Eastern Standard Time on the Facebook page, The Write Review. We plan to talk about Irish culture, the influence of Ireland on our writing, and whatever else comes to mind. I hope to see you there! You can find all the book pages involved in this celebration on the graphic below, so if you’re on Facebook, simply go to the book pages to join in the fun!
A Dance in Donegal Coming Febrauary 2, 2021 from Revell
All of her life, Irish-American Moira Doherty has relished her Irish mother’s descriptions of her homeland. When her mother dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1920, Moira accepts the challenge to fulfill her mother’s wish that she become the teacher in Ballymann, the homeland village in Donegal, Ireland.
After an arduous voyage, Moira arrives to a new home and a new job in an ancient country. Though a few locals offer a warm welcome, others are distanced by superstition and suspicion. Rumors about Moira’s mother are unspoken in her presence, but threaten to derail everything she’s journeyed to Ballymann to do. Moira must rely on the kindness of a handful of friends—and the strength of an unsettlingly handsome thatcher who keeps popping up unannounced. While Moira learns to trust Sean and his intentions, she struggles to navigate a life she’d never dreamed of . . . but perhaps was meant to live.
About The Author:
I’m your typical American mom, working, raising kids, and loving my hubby…I’ve just been blessed to do some of it in Vienna, Austria and the west of Ireland. However, after a decade of life overseas, we have settled back in America–in sunny Arizona!
I currently teach middle school English, and when I’m not working on school things, I’m spending time with my incredible family–my husband Seth and our 3 awesome kids–and writing.
A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel is a great historical fiction that has a wonderful plot, romance, a stunning backdrop with a dash of mystery thrown in to create an enjoyable read.
The book starts off in Boston during the 1920s where we meet Moira whom has just graduated from school to become a teacher. She ends up on a quest to her mother’s hometown village of Ballymann in Donegal, Ireland. Here Moira encounters so many new things: a different culture, societal culture and customs, the local inhabitants (some more welcoming then others), mystery surrounding her mother’s past presence here that is shrouded in questions and whispers, and possibly even love.
I love the awakening of Moira throughout this novel. Learning her profession, making friends, finding a partner/romance, facing questions of where she came from, who that makes her, what is her purpose in life, where does she fit in, and where is her home. I really enjoyed her finding herself, her place, path, and solidifying her faith. I also loved how the author was able to draw the reader in with the MC on her journey to the end of the novel. I really wanted to see how it would all wrap up.
I enjoyed the complex and rich array of characters. They were well thought out and added perfectly to my favorite part of the novel:
The location: Ireland. It was wonderful to be able to read and visualize such a beautiful place. Taking a peak into this rich culture, the people, customs, religion, daily lives, the food (oh my the food!), and the stunning landscapes at times took my breath away. The inclusion of the wonderful Irish Gaelic really added to the story as well. It is such a beautiful language. The author has a real talent in being able to give the reader a fully immersive experience to make one feel as if they were actually there right along with her, experiencing it all for the first time together. I absolutely loved imagining life within the villages of this gorgeous country within the early part of the 20th century. I learned so much about this time period there just from reading this novel.
An excellent book that has me yearning to travel to Ireland myself to find out where my own Grandmother is from.
Happy Release day to author Michael Farris Smith! I enjoyed Nick immensely!
“The story of Nick is the story of one lost soul on automatic pilot written in four compelling parts that dovetail to weave a psychic template of a WWI survivor. Its impact is profound, its resonance subterranean.”
It will take hours to wipe the awestruck look off your face after reading the last line of the anxiously anticipated Nick by Michael Farris Smith, a writer with a wildly enthusiastic fan base that fancies itself insiders to Farris Smith’s gritty esotericism. You’re cool if you follow this Oxford, Mississippi author. You are in-crowd if you’re hip to this writer who seemed to inherit the tool kit of the great Southern writers before him. Referred to as MFS by those who take his work personally because his stories do the talking for a certain strata of a particular region, in some ways Farris Smith’s clear, direct, and economic voice is an acquired taste even as his career prospers. But the publication of Nick will change all that, and wider readership will understand the attraction of this fearless writer who transcends literary limits and boundaries and plays by his own rules.
Michael Farris Smith is the author of Blackwood, The Fighter, Desperation Road, Rivers, and The Hands of Strangers. His novels have appeared on Best of the Year lists with Esquire, Southern Living, Book Riot, and numerous others, and have been named Indie Next List, Barnes & Noble Discover, and Amazon Best of the Month selections. He has been a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, the Gold Dagger Award in the UK, and the Grand Prix des Lectrices in France. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife and daughters.
When I sat down to give it a revision last year, the thing that really struck me and surprised me about it was how timely the novel felt. … I mean, it’s a country that was coming off World War I. It was a country in a great state of transition — which is what we are fully immersed in right now, the greedy and the rich getting richer. … [There are] characters in the novel who are coming off the war, who are very disillusioned with their own country. And it’s a country coming off a pandemic. I mean, I was just blown away like how strangely timely the novel feels now compared to, you know, 100 years ago. And if this novel would have been published in 2015, that would have all been lost. But here we are now.