I had the immense pleasure of narrating the audiobook of my novel, Mourning Dove, which is set on the genteel side of 1970’s Memphis, and concerns two siblings who come to the Deep South as outsiders and learn to navigate the customs and social mores of what is, to them, a foreign land. Mourning Dove is the recipient of 13 book awards and is classified as upmarket fiction, meaning that which bridges the genres of commercial and literary fiction, and to that I’ll add that lovers of Southern fiction have embraced this book as well.
Since I narrated the audiobook, I’m sharing a bit of video as well to give you a more immersive experience, which will hopefully parlay the full intention of Mourning Dove’s mood and feel. The audiobook is available on Audible! http://bitly.ws/jdX4
Eve Prince is done—with college, with her mom, with guys, and with her dream of fashion design. But when her best friend goes MIA, Eve must gather together the broken threads of her life in order to search for her.
When Eve’s grandmother, Boop, a retiree dripping with Southern charm, finds out about the trip, she—desperate to see her sister, and also hoping to alleviate Eve’s growing depression—hijacks her granddaughter’s road trip. Boop knows from experience that healing Eve will require more than flirting lessons and a Garlic Festival makeover. Nevertheless, Boop is frustrated when her feeble efforts yield the same failure that her sulfur-laced sip from the Fountain of Youth wrought on her age. She knows that sharing the secret that’s haunted her for sixty years might be the one thing that will lessen Eve’s growing depression—but she also fears that if she reveals it, she’ll lose her family and her own hard-won happiness.
2020 American Fiction Awards Winner in Coming of Age 2021 Eric Hoffer Montaigne Medal Finalist 2021 Eric Hoffer Category Finalist Buzzfeed’s 12 Most Anticipated Books of Fall Popsugar’s “The 21 Most Exciting New Releases Hitting Bookshelves Throughout October” Parade’s “Highly Anticipated Books of Fall” Frolic’s “Ten Books Perfect for Your Book Club”
“A touching intergenerational romp through the coastal South.” —Kirkus Reviews“
Boop and Eve’s Road Trip will touch your heart. A beautiful and emotional story of sisterhood, family, and friendship. From the first page, Mary Helen Sheriff’s lush and lyrical writing draws you in. Fans of Patti Callahan Henry and Kristy Woodson Harvey will adore this debut.”
–Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Last Summer“
Boop and Eve’s Road Trip is warm, witty, and wise, with characters I loved and characters I loved to hate. Filled with twists and turns and many a bump in the road, this trip is a delight from beginning to end.” –Han Nolan, National Book Award-winning author of Dancing on the Edge
MeetMary Helen Sheriff
When I was a kid I wanted to be a model, an actress, a teacher, and a writer. Lack of height, smoking good looks, and talent lost the first two of those professions for me, but I’ve had the pleasure of exploring the latter two.
I’ve spent 14 years in classrooms teaching elementary school, middle school, college, and professionals.
During this time, I’ve also had the pleasure of dabbling in writing for children, teenagers, and adults in a variety of forms including fiction, poetry, blogs, and nonfiction. I even spent several summers immersed in an MFA program in children’s literature at Hollins University (which I suppose isn’t exactly dabbling).
I’m taking a break from the classroom to concentrate on my writing. My debut southern women’s fiction, Boop and Eve’s Road Trip, was published on October 6, 2020
Great E-Book Deal!
Ebook on sale for the first time ever! Boop and Eve’s Road Trip was just nominated for a Zibby Award for best opening sentence: “Boop loved her daughter to the moon and back, but Justine had a way of sucking the joy out of a room faster than a vampire bat.”
Firefly Southern Fiction is running an e-book promotion this week, so if you haven’t read Little tea, for this week only, you can acquire Little Tea for .99 cents!
Here’s what you need to know about Little Tea:
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.
Women’s Fiction Momma5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended Reviewed in the United States. Verified Purchase Claire Fullerton has stolen my heart with lyrical prose and a deep understanding of family, friendship, and how history shapes us in Little Tea. Through the story of Celia and Little Tea, two incredible young women who dare to defy convention, readers are quickly swept up in a story of a 1980’s South that is hanging on to its roots by a thread. At times, the story made me feel the deep friendships similar to those in The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, but at others the tension resting just below the surface of this original story kept me turning the pages to learn what would happen. Fullerton’s depth of understanding when it comes to the relationships between Celia’s and Little Tea’s family ties will break your heart, and then all at once make it sing. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Southern Fiction at its BestReviewed in the United States. Southern fiction has always fascinated me for its evocation of that culture and language, the iconic characters and descriptions of environments. Claire Fullerton’s Little Tea more than satisfies a reader’s fascination with world she creates in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. In the way we all try to look back to make sense of how we’ve gotten to where we are approaching middle age, three childhood BFF gather and move forward the narrative of their connections. Race, family ties, mental illness and ambition are the themes that bind and inform this story with conflict, history and ultimately love. A wonderful story beautifully told.
Little Tea Book Awards:
1st Place Outstanding Literary/General Fiction The Independent Authors Network
2nd place Book of the Year: The Independent Authors Network
Gold Medal Winner in Southern Fiction: Readers’ Favorite
1st Place in the Chanticleer Reviews Somerset Awards for Literary Fiction
The Pulpwood Queens August Book Club Selection
Deep South Magazine’s 2020 Summer Reading list
Featured in Mississippi Magazine
Finalist in the International Book Awards
Finalist in the 2020 Kindle Book Awards.
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader rated it it was amazingI just click with author Claire Fullerton’s writing. I loved Little Tea just as much as Mourning Dove. She knows how to weave a southern tale.
Renny, Ava, and Celia have been friends since childhood, but they haven’t seen each other in ten years. They reunite at Renny’s lake house in Arkansas with much-needed time together commiserating and catching up.
Something happens that changes the tone of the weekend. Celia’s old boyfriend visits the lake house and causes the women to address the past.
Told in two timelines, the present and the 1980s, the story begins for these three friends. The deep south in which they grew up is not as pretty as it appears. Race and class issues are addressed with a profound but gentle hand.
Bottom line, I absolutely adored this story of friendship and how the remarkable bond of these strong women persevered over a long period of time.
Billy O’Callaghan rated it it was amazing “There’s a damp, verdant feel to Olive Branch, Mississippi, in the summertime. From the side of the road, everything is a chiaroscuro of overgrown, tangled green. Moss drips sultry from kudzu-covered oaks, shading twists of the road in canopies of diamond-dappled sunlight. The world there is flat, expansive, and quiet, evoking a mood both eerie and somber.” (from Little Tea) Claire Fullerton has an enviably light touch, a lilting style that carries shades of Pat Conroy and tinges of Anne Tyler while managing to be be wonderfully of itself. Little Tea is a triumph – a meditation on friendship that’s gentle, emotive and, above all, wise. This is a writer who knows the heart, and the world around it, and most importantly, knows how to tell a good story.
While I researched my novel, Little Tea, I visited three locations in the Deep South: Greer’s Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennesse, where I grew up; and Como, Mississippi, which is 45 miles south of Memphis. It was the month of July, in the high heat of summer, and if you’ve ever been to the Deep South in the month of July, you know the gauze-like, humidity is part and parcel to the experience.
I embraced it all from the second my plane from Southern California landed. Through the automatic, sliding glass doors, the humidity hit me with the life force of a raging inferno and followed me all the way to my friend’s waiting car.
In the Deep South, much thought goes into escaping the heat. People live in air-conditioned wind tunnels that drown out all sound and wear cotton sweaters inside, which seems, to me, utterly ironic, but there you have it.
There’s a specific character to the Deep South in the summertime that has much to do with the climate, a weighted sultriness that eases on the skin and slows everything down to the point that most things seem nice and easy. Nobody complains about the heat because it’s a regional given. Southerners live in harmony with the heat, build their houses with verandahs, put ceiling fans above, screens before their front doors, and rocking chairs out front because channeling the slightest of breeze is a cultural pastime.
It’d been a long time since I’d been to the South in the dead of summer, but I wanted to photograph Little Tea’s setting in the region’s full, resplendent nuance. I wanted the setting of the Little Tea to depict the South as character, and for that, I needed the trees in their fullness, the flowers in bloom, the sun’s glaring halo over Greer’s Ferry Lake, and the dirt roads fully shaded yet dry as a bone.
Photographing the setting of Little Tea, I knew, would anchor me to the South as I wrote the story, back home at my desk in California, but what I had in mind all along was a series of moving images with which I could gift the reader. After all, a picture tells a thousand words when it comes to a lasting impression. Included, here, is the book trailer of Little Tea I created. My hope is it will give Little Tea’s readers a good sense of place.
Years ago, I was on the airstaff of WEGR, Rock-103 in Memphis. I’d worked at four radio stations before I was hired at Rock-103 and at the time, considered that album-oriented rock station on Memphis’s infamous Beale Street the end all and be all of music radio. Because it was. To be working in music radio in the 80’s in Memphis, Tennessee, with its undisputed reputation of being the town that brought the Delta Blues to the big city, which Elvis, in his unique way, turned into rock-n-roll and inspired The Beatles and a host of others who put Rock-n-Roll on the American map was something I never forgot. Music is Memphis’s claim to fame. It permeates the air of that historic city and anchors its denizens proudly in a strong sense of place.
When one is a DJ at a radio station that reaches thousands, daily, one lives in a world within a world: a close-knit society populated by people who share the same passion, speak the same language, and hold music at the top of the hierarchy of things that really matter. In radio, the wheels turn on a schedule. There are air shifts and play lists, a Program Director, Music Director, sales staff, publicity team, engineers, and in the middle of it all is the Production Director.
At Rock-103, we called Rick Robinson the Production King. We called him that because Rick seemed to have taken up permanent residency in a small studio down the hall from the control room, where he produced radio spots and promos that went on the air. As Rick existed in the midst of a tribe of on-air talent, he was in the habit of summoning any one of us, when we least expected. He’d want to record a voice over for a commercial, a PSA, or perhaps a glib parody, depending on what he was working on in his electronic cave. Rick was the guy who was always firmly and squarely THERE in the creative commotion of Rock 103. He was a permanent fixture with a peculiar set of skills I didn’t know the half of, but I knew he spun magic on behalf of us all at Rock-103, and we relied on him.
It’s funny who you lose track of as the years transpire, yet perhaps it’s understandable for me since I no longer live in Memphis. Life moves on. People change careers, and I left music radio when I moved to Los Angeles and got involved in the record business. Simultaneously, I started concentrating on what I’d been doing since I was in my late teens: writing. Writing has been its own twisting path. So far, it includes four traditionally published novels and one novella, but the reason I’m mentioning this is to say that along writing’s twisting path, I had the good fortune to become involved with Southern Writers Magazine. Which, unbeknownst to me for the first year of my affiliation, just so happened to have its headquarters in Memphis.
It took my correspondence via multiple emails with the Creative Director of Southern Writers Magazine to discover they were headquartered in Memphis. Gary Fearon was the Creative Director’s name, and he and I had cause to collaborate on an advertisement for one of my books. Our back-and-forth correspondence ended up including the proverbial kitchen sink, after I discovered Gary was writing to me from Memphis. “I’m from Memphis,” I twittered.
“I thought you were in California,” came Gary’s reply, which turned into my telling him I was raised in Memphis, where I went to high school, and that I worked in Memphis radio.
“Which station?” came Gary’s query, and when I emailed my response, he said, “You worked at Rock-103? Me too.”
The thing about radio DJ’s is many use a stage name. When Gary Fearon was a DJ at another radio station, he used the name Rick Robinson then retained it, when he worked in production at Rock-103. To say we did chapter and verse over what a small world it is puts it mildly.
But back to my point of how life moves on: Gary Fearon left Southern Writers Magazine to focus full-time on his production demands. Robinsong Productions is the name of his company, where he produces radio and television spots for recording artists on tour and voices audiobooks ( because he’s blessed with precise diction and a tenor both authoritative and memorable.)
And here sat I, on the threshold of the release of my fourth novel, Little Tea, which is set in three places: Memphis, Heber Springs, Arkansas, and Como, Mississippi. The release date is coming up—May 1st—and in this visual world of promotional memes and scroll-stopping images, it occurred to me I needed a book trailer for Little Tea.
I looked at the pictures I took the last time I was in Como, Mississippi and thought, “Who can do a book trailer?”
One name came to mind: Gary Fearon the Production King!
Above, I’m sharing a picture of Gary Fearon. He’s in his studio at Robinsong Production, hard at work on Little Tea’s book trailer.
I love the surprising turns of life’s connections. In a strange way, it feels like an example of what comes around goes around.
I can’t wait to see Little Tea’s book trailer! I understand Gary found an image of a redbone coonhound and will put it on a dirt road, which is suggestive of a scene in the book, Little Tea.
I’ll share the book trailer, here, once it’s finished!
In the meantime, you can read about Gary Fearon at two websites: http://www.garyfearon.com book trailers and such http://www.robinsongproductions.com concert clients
Little Tea releases May 1st by Firefly Southern Fiction. It’s available now for preorder.
Little Tea ( named after a character whose real name is Thelonia Winfrey) is the story of those long-lasting female friendships that see you through a lifetime, wherein there’s shared history; language; and sense of humor. The narrator, Celia Wakefield spent part of her childhood at her family’s 3rd generation land in Como, Mississippi, where the cultural social mores concerning racial integration had yet to fully evolve. This premise sets the dynamic of a trajectory of events that impact her friendship with Little Tea and haunt Celia Wakefield decades later. When Celia reunites with two childhood friends at Greer’s Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas, Celia’s past resurfaces for long-overdue resolution.