The Spirit Behind Little Tea

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.

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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.

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https://www.clairefullerton.com

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