Through an Autumn Window: a Novella

At the end of 2017, Eva Marie Everson, the acquisitions editor of Firefly Southern Fiction, asked me if I’d be interested in writing a novella to contribute to a book titled, A Southern Season: Four Stories from a Front Porch Swing, scheduled for release in November 2018. At the time, I’d never tried my hand at writing a novella, and my novel, Mourning Dove, was scheduled for release in June of 2018. Thinking I’d be overwhelmed with my pending workload, I was hesitant to commit to the project, until I was given the project’s tempting guidelines: write any story you want to, as long as it’s set in the South during one of the four seasons. Right off the bat, I started thinking about the one season that bypasses California completely, and by this, I refer to the fall. I thought trying my hand at writing something I’d never attempted would be a great opportunity to stretch as a writer, and if you know anything about Southerners, you know they never tire of talking about the South. I said yes to Eva Marie, though at the time, I hadn’t arrived at my novella’s subject. But then kismet came into play when I got a phone call from a particular elderly gentleman in the Delta, who called to tell me about a mutual acquaintance of ours who had recently died. Our conversation was all over the place, beginning with how this person had died ( old age,) dovetailing into where the funeral would take place ( probably Memphis’s Independent Presbyterian Church,) who would, no doubt, attend ( everybody and their brother,) and which Memphis cemetery would serve as the final resting place (Elmwood, or Memorial Park.) Now then, I can only report that the way this particular Delta gentleman tells a story is so chock-full of laser-sharp cultural nuance that the second he got to his perfectly timed punchline ( though it was probably unbeknownst to him,) I knew I had the subject for my novella. Here is the gentleman’s artfully delivered line that spawned my novella:

“The one thing I know about a Southern funeral is something always goes wrong.”

I had a blast writing the novella I ultimately contributed to A Southern Season. I titled it Through an Autumn Window and set it during the three-day rites of a Memphis funeral, where not just one but many things go wrong. You’ll be happy to learn I hit the word count for the novella ( 20,000 words) right on its head. In Through an Autumn Window, I wrote about a long-festering, contentious dynamic between two siblings, even as both carried forth during their mother’s funeral trying to “do the right thing” in an effort at “keeping up appearances,” during their life-altering grief.

Here’s the good news: for the next five days, A Southern Season is free on Kindle. You can get it now by clicking on this link:https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GDZ9WF5

https:clairefullerton.com

A Southern Season

A year ago, I was asked by Eva Marie Everson, the acquisitions editor for Firefly Southern Fiction (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, which published my 3rd novel, Mourning Dove) to contribute a novella to a book she had in mind that would consist of four novellas, each set in the South and penned by a writer who hails from the region. Eva’s idea was to capture the 4 seasons as they played out on a Southern stage through the art of setting and story. At the time she asked me to contribute, Eva and I had just finished three exhillerating rounds of edits for Mourning Dove. I knew there would be a long wait ahead before Mourning Dove’s release, and although I’d never written a novella, I figured I might as well try my hand.  It was that, and what self-respecting writer would say no to an editor with whom they’d just had a wonderful experience, who gave the added incentive of A Southern Season’s assigned publication date!

Upon learning the scant guidelines of 20,000 words set in the South during the season of my choosing, I knew right away I’d write a story set in a Memphis fall.  Fall has always been my favorite time of year, for all her eerily suggestive, mood-enhancing promises. As for my hometown of Memphis: I’ll never tire of wrangling her peculiar nuances and charms, which, I’m convinced, are spawned from her proud cultural heritage.

In the days preceding the drafting of my story, I tried on many Memphis hats. There’s much to choose from in that historic, musical mecca on the Mighty Mississippi; it’s seen more than its share of changing times yet still boasts of its past. And the way I see it, a good story always comes down to the characters. How they greet the common place in the every day is where I find the heart of the story. In the Memphis in which I grew up, the particular milieu I come from was rife with story-tellers. As I pondered the subject of my novella, luck had it that one of them called me on the phone.

In the interest of discretion and not wanting to blow my source for all of its future gems, I’ll keep it cryptic by sharing I have the great largess of maintaining a friendship with a certain octogenarian who hails from the genteel side of the Delta and keep it there. Let’s just say it’s not what you say in life, it’s how you say it, and if you asked this particular Southerner for directions to downtown Memphis, they’d take that straight shoot down Poplar and purr it to spun-gold. And I couldn’t tell you now how it was we got on the subject of funerals, but when we did this refined, effusive character unwittingly coined a classic line. ” I know one thing about a Southern funeral,” this nameless person sighed, “you can bet your last dollar that something will go wrong.”

I knew right then that I had my story. I framed my novella within the rites of a three-day, Memphis funeral and titled it Through an Autumn Window. In it, I explored the unspoken complications and attendant guilt and nostalgia of a mother-daughter relationship, and paired it with the festering of unhealed sibling rivalry. I Set this mixed bag of a premise in a Southern culture where everyone tip-toed around iron-clad social mores then I let the games begin!

I am one of four authors who contributed to the book, A Southern Season, and I’m thrilled to announce the book was released on November 1st by Firefly Southern Fiction. There are four different voices depicting the South in this collection of novellas. I believe you’ll find each inspirational !