I’m in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, which is in California’s Central Coast, on the Monterey Peninsula. The climate here is the draw: it is year-round, temperate weather, often shrouded in coastal fog, which gives it a misty quality that reminds me of historic parts of the UK. What makes this part of California unique is the prevalence of cypress tress. I have spent the past few days going down to Carmel Bay for a long walk on its white, powder sand, and can’t resist photographing the area with the convenience of my cell-phone camera! I’m sharing the photographs I’ve taken here so you can get an idea for the magic that is Carmel-by-the-Sea, California!
I want to share my latest news with you about my third traditionally published novel, Mourning Dove, whose release date was June 29, 2018. I am happy to share the news that just yesterday, Mourning Dove won its 7th book award. Above is a Mourning Dove video to show you sliding images of those 7 awards.
I went into the writing of Mourning Dove wanting to write about two subjects: the social mores of the Deep South as exemplified in the setting of the old guard, as its known, and the dynamic between siblings. What fascinates me the most about siblings is the idea that they come from the same history, are cut from the same cloth, yet often turn out differently. The question of why this is led me through the writing of Mourning Dove, and although I have never said this publically ( and probably never will) I wrote down three themes to guide me through the book, otherwise written without an outline. The themes were this: the search for home, the search for identity, and, very loosely, the search for God, as in finding some semblance of understanding as to who’s really in charge, along with the question of what it is that shapes a person; whether it’s nature or nurture?
And with regard to the South with all its traditions, history, and rife population of characters peacock proud to call themselves “Southern,” I thought it best to show the South through the eyes of two siblings named Millie and Finley Crossan, who were born in the North, and come to the South as outsiders during the formative stage of adolescence so they could view their environment without a filter while trying to fit into the culture.
The sibling dynamic is a significant one to those of us lucky enough to be born to it. We learn who we are in relation to those closest to us, and when it comes to siblings, I believe there is a certain type of mirror imaging at play that helps to define us. I’ll say this about siblings: they never let you forget where you came from.
Mourning Dove’s book description says this:
“An accurate and heart-wrenching picture of the sensibilities of the American South.” Kirkus Book Reviews
The heart has a home when it has an ally.
If Millie Crossan doesn’t know anything else, she knows this one truth simply because her brother Finley grew up beside her. Charismatic Finley, eighteen months her senior, becomes Millie’s guide when their mother Posey leaves their father and moves her children from Minnesota to Memphis shortly after Millie’s tenth birthday.
Memphis is a world foreign to Millie and Finley. This is the 1970s Memphis, the genteel world of their mother’s upbringing and vastly different from anything they’ve ever known. Here they are the outsiders. Here, they only have each other. And here, as the years fold over themselves, they mature in a manicured Southern culture where they learn firsthand that much of what glitters isn’t gold. Nuance, tradition, and Southern eccentrics flavor Millie and Finley’s world as they find their way to belonging.
But what hidden variables take their shared history to leave both brother and sister at such disparate ends?
Here is one poignant reader review of Mourning Dove:
I enjoyed reading every sentence, and some of them are downright extraordinary and wise.
Claire Fullerton is a bright new star. I’ve read her last two books, and they are great, but this one is a masterpiece.”
I made this book trailer to give the reader an idea of the setting of Mourning Dove.
I hope you enjoy watching the Deep South as I know it!
I’m forever pondering the magic of life-long female friendships, the kind formed in childhood, or perhaps early high school that, for whatever reason, stay. On one hand, when we’re young, we’re in a state of becoming, but on the other, our early years are the set-in-stone template of who we actually are. We grow from there. We build our lives. We add and subtract what is and is not working. We shape and adjust and mold our lives as best we see fit but, in my mind, we never fundamentally change our core essence. We can move far from home, forge brilliant careers, marry, have children, divorce, witness sorrow and tragedy, and death, and it shapes our experience, perhaps informs our wary attitude, but the vagaries of life don’t re-define us. In a matter of speaking what happens in our lives refines us.
At the beginning of Little Tea, I said it this way: “There’s a side to the unions made in high school that has perpetual resonance, a side that remains in arrested development that will never let you forget who you essentially are.”
Our friends anchor us. They keep us on center page. They’re the ones who know our history, the characters in our dramas of cause and effect, and they never forget. This keeps us honest. Our friends are a touchpoint to see us through the ages.
I went into the writing of Little Tea wanting to make this point through the power of story. I began with three women friends who reunite after many years at Greer’s Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas.
I set Little Tea in Heber Springs because of its close proximity to Memphis, where the characters, Renny, Ava, and Celia grew up. They each live in another location and had to travel to the lake, and the thing I liked about setting the story near water is the idea of fluidity and fluctuating tides. Such is life, and the element of water is alive, ever-changing, and emotional. Sometimes we sit near water and reflect, other times we dive right in it. For the three childhood friends in Little Tea, Heber Springs Lake is a neutral ground.
Little Tea is the story of three women friends who reconvene because one of them is in trouble. If you take one problem and put it in the hands of three different women, you’ll receive three different solutions, each based according to who the woman is—her background, her history, her perception of the world. Great wisdom and sage advice are borne from the heart and souls of women, and it is this I wanted to capture in the story.
I like the idea of a group of women friends as an insular, secret society. This subject was the entire impetus behind my writing Little Tea, and I hope readers relate to it in the spirit I intended, which is to say there is great value in friendship.
Let’s vow to never take it for granted.
Anna Lucera, the main character in my Paranormal/Mystery, “A Portal in Time” has what I call “dependable intuition”, which is what drives the entire story in such a way that it is an unfolding of events. I chose to give Anna a heightened sense of intuition because I believe many people are aware that intuition has played a role at one time or another in their life. They point to coincidence, precognitive insight, or perhaps a gut-level feeling that has proven to be amazingly accurate. They report a sense of the uncanny in an episode with awe, or perhaps gratitude at the feeling of a type of magical helpfulness that has sprung from deep within. I know this has been the case with me, and I have always been fascinated by the subject.
Years ago, after having read untold books on the subject of intuition out of sheer curiosity and a desire to become educated, I unexpectedly fell into conversation with a passing acquaintance who told me about a woman that taught classes in developing intuition. Intrigued, I called the woman and spoke to her at length about her curriculum. I told her I didn’t want to get all weird about things; I wanted to stay grounded in the real world, yet still believed intuition is a reality and if one can actually be taught to develop theirs, then I’m all in!
For a year and a half, on the first Sunday of every month, I drove to class in Venice, California. The class lasted for five hours, and there were three other students besides myself. The teacher was what is known as a clairvoyant healer, as in, she intuits energetic information through visual images that spring to mind. We began by discussing energy. We learned about the chakra system then moved on to the auric field and its seven layers, which correspond to each chakra in the chakra system. We explored how each of us perceived information, and I learned some people do so visually, others through feeling, others audibly, and still others with an iron-clad “sense of knowing.” There was much more to my year and a half of learning, but what I’ve come to believe is yes, intuition can be developed! This is why I wrote “A Portal in Time.”
In “A Portal in Time,” I painted Anna Lucera as a spirited, slightly off-beat, unpredictable character whom her paramour finds absolutely fascinating. Because she is naturally intuitive, she decides to do the responsible thing and learn everything she can about her ability by going to class!
If you are interested in the subject of intuition and the by-products that come into a life because of its development, then “A Portal in Time” is the book for you!
There is currently a giveaway of A Portal in Time on Facebook at a book site called Sue’s Reading Neighborhood. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SuesReadingNeighborhood/
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/
I’m taking the opportunity to share why I wrote Mourning Dove. Plain and simply, I grew up in Memphis, in an era that I think was run by the last of the great Southern belles. Most of them are gone from the South, now, as am I, for I now live in Malibu, California. I have a conflicted relationship with the South. It’s a strange mixture of gratitude for having outgrown it and weepy nostalgia for the place in which I came of age. I can’t say if I’m nostalgic for the actual place or if it’s nostalgia for the innocence and endless possibilities that one carries in youth, but emotionally, I think they’re tied together. It’s the people of Memphis I miss the most, and when I think of Memphis, I think of its women. Never was there a cast of more glittering woman than those who populated my youth. They were fun, dynamic, refined, and rarely serious. They walked like queens and spoke in lyrical tones so compelling that I’m offended by other accents to this day. I set Mourning Dove in 1970’s and 1980’s Memphis because, back then, the particular Southern, social milieu was rife with nuance and tradition anchored by southern matriarchs who ran the social strata. I did not write about the side of the South where people drive pick-up trucks down dirt roads to the family farm while dodging a coon dog or two, I wanted to write about that side of the South that was coiffed and manicured; where people had an innate elegance that mattered. There is much to be drawn in a setting such as this, and what fascinated me most growing up was the cultural way of denial. In the Memphis I knew, they kept things light and airy. If something was unpleasant or unseemly, it simply wasn’t discussed. But what of two siblings born up north who come to the Deep South as outsiders? And how can they share the same history yet come to disparate ends? What unhinging happens in the delicate wiring of one but somehow misses the other? Is it nature or nurture, and how are we to ever know? In the end, all one is left with is the story. This was my aim in writing Mourning Dove. Always and forever, it will all come down to the story.