This post is in celebration of the surprising connections made from years of being a writer. I have four books and one novella out in the world, and another–fingers crossed- hopefully, making its way through the labyrinthian path from my computer to bookstores, but that’s another subject!
I’m thinking about the countless, sung and unsung heroes with whom I’ve had the pleasure to align over the years. “Book people” are passionate people committed to staying the course of what can only be described as an incremental growth pattern fueled by perseverance and dedication to the love of reading and writing. I’ve found the two arenas are tightly woven. You simply cannot have one without the other. It’s a particular breed of cat who knows this, and they are the breed who derive great satisfaction and personal fulfillment in centering their days on the written word.
Writers, and, readers, and bloggers, and book promoters breathe the very life force into the existence of a writer. They are the stalwart citizens of the literary world who take a writer’s work and magnify it, launching it into a wider sphere by ripple effect, creating attenuation by virtue of the fact that they have an audience of like-minded fellows. My gratitude for these passionate people is endless. They understand the solitary creation of writing as an art, and their support is humbling, sustaining, and imperative.
It’s fair to say that authors spend just as much time promoting their books as they do writing them. On average, each of my books took two years to produce, and that’s about the same amount of time I’ve dedicated to book promotion. It takes time to get the word out that a book exists in the first place, and getting to readers is not something that happens overnight; it’s a process, a build that feels like an uphill climb with countless stops along the way. One cannot do it alone. It takes a village, and much is furthered when an author takes the time to compare notes with those who have gone before them.
Which brings me back to the connections worth celebrating made from being a writer. I will now combine a radio host, an author, and a particular outfit dedicated to championing the literary arts to illustrate a case in point:
Bobbie Jean Bell has enjoyed a long career as the co-host of The Writers Block show on LA Talk Radio, which you can access from their online website. It has been a high honor, over the years, for me to appear on the show three times. Sadly, Jim Christina, Bobbie Jean’s charismatic, one-of a kind co-host of many years, died this past year. With continued commitment and touching sensitivity, Bobbie Jean Bell took the show into her own hands in honor of Jim, and rebranded the show, Rendezvous with a Writer, which airs every Thursday night on LA Talk-Radio. https://www.latalkradio.com/content/rendezvous-writer
Johnnie Berhard is the author of four gorgeous novels. She currently lives in Mississippi, and maintains a strong rapport with her native Texas. Looking back now, I cannot recall how I first crossed paths with this extraordinary writer, but I can report I met her in person at The Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas in 2020– or was it 2018? I think it was both, but I digress. Let’s just say the fruits of coming to know Johnnie Bernhard are endless. It has been my pleasure to feature Johnnie’s work here on my blogsite. In a minute, I’ll tell you how Johnnie fits into this, but while I’ve got you, look into Johnnie Here: http://johnniebernhardauthor.com/bio
The Catholic Literary Arts is an outfit that conducts itself in the highest manner. Their mission, as stated on their website ( https://www.catholicliteraryarts.org/) is this: “Catholic Literary Arts exists to provide a welcoming home for people of all faiths and goodwill to learn, to improve writing skills, to meet fellow writers and publishers, and to enjoy spiritual and intellectual formation in the great literary traditions of Western civilization.”
How the aforementioned entities collided with yours truly now delighted to be right in the middle is this: I had the pleasure of watching author Johnnie Bernhard teach a virtual class on the mechanics of writing fiction for The Catholic Literary Arts, and in later talking with her about the endless merits of such an important forum, Johnnie introduced me to Sarah Cortez, in the hope she and I would explore common ground. We did. Our common ground is this: Sarah Cortez is the president and founder of The Catholic Literary Arts, and I have much to say about the art of launching a book! Ms. Cortez took me seriously when I told her it would be my honor to teach a class for her noble organization. I am enthusiastic to report I will do just this on Tuesday, September 27th at 7:00 CST. Here is the link to register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/363439757097
And because Bobbie Jean Bell invited me to be a guest on Rendezvous with a Writer from 6:00PM to 6:50 PST on Thursday, September 15, to talk about books and writing, we will also be talking about my virtual class on Preparing to Launch a Book!
This is what I meant when I said I celebrate the surprising connections made from years of being a writer. The magical alchemy that results from staying the course is the gift that keeps on giving!
I hope you’ll join me on Rendezvous with a Writer on Thursday, September 15th ( link above) and that you’ll register for the class and tell your friends about my virtual class with The Catholic Literary Arts where I share all I know about preparing to launch a book!~
Having written 4 novels and one novella, I’ve devised a strategy in preparation for each book launch, and I’ll be a teaching an online class about it, for The Catholic Literary Arts on September 27th at 7 PM, Central Standard Time.
I’ll be talking about the steps to take in creating a solid foundation months before the release date of your book, and where to establish an online presence with strong connections that will support your efforts at book promotion, once your book is out in the world.
You’ve, no doubt, written a best seller; now it’s time for you to get ready to introduce your book to the world.
Because preparation for a book launch can be daunting, I will share the tried and true steps that can make it fun. I’ll be available for your questions in a question and answer forum at the end of the class, and I hope you join me!
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.
Some say your novel The Shores Of Our Souls is a romance. Do you consider it such? What genre did you intend it to fall under when you wrote it?
I believe my novel falls on a literary fiction shelf, or an upmarket women’s fiction shelf. I wrote it to open a conversation, so it’s great for book clubs. It’s cross-genre for sure, if you’re trying to label it. It’s about war, love, and international intrigue. It’s a bildungsroman for the female character, and parts of it are historical fiction.
What do reviewers miss about your novel?
My novel is a love story, not a romance in the strict sense of the genre. It’s about why and how we love. It differs from many other love stories in that it’s told from two points of view. It was a risk on my part, but I did it to give my readers a better understanding of Arab culture, religion, experience, and values. That’s what drives any relationship – perspective and values.
It also doesn’t fall into a traditional romance trope of “Happily Ever After.” Instead, it shows what two people, damaged and alone, can do to heal and catalyze each other if they share love, even if it’s short-lived. I don’t like tied-up-with-a-bow finales, although readers who want one may like my sequel better. My sequel A Thousand Flying Things opens a decade later, and my my protagonists Dianna and Qasim have had time and space to heal inside, come into their own, before they reunite again. We’ll see if their love survives the separation. (Hint: There are some surprises that even Dianna doesn’t know about in their decade of separation.)
Call it what you will, love conquers all, especially division. It can also lead to mutual understanding. The connection and empathy it evokes can resolve conflict. Every conflict we face teaches us about each other and the world we live in, but only if we feel enough compassion for others to walk in their shoes. Rarely, love leads to a lifetime partnership. Often, it teaches us who we are.
If there was one thing you’d like to tell your readers about Shores, what would it be?
If people read only the first few scenes, they won’t understand that these two characters have been broken. They want to love, but societal wounds have rendered them incapable of it until they heal. Damaged people don’t make the best decisions. If readers stay with the story, they will watch both characters heal, and heal each other. And as they heal themselves, they widen their hearts.
If they read on, they’ll discover the potential of love to heal and transform. Yet before that point, they’ll also see how secrets lead to distrust, cause love to recede and characters (and real relationships) to backtrack. Miscommunication leads to misunderstanding, but the love endures. And it’s the love that keeps both characters moving on their Life Paths.
What themes and questions did you want to explore in your series?
Love conquers all.
How to love during conflict, be it a marital separation or a world war. (A lot of my coaching practice is about resolving conflict.)
How parental love, familial love, friendship love differ from romantic love.
And the questions I pose:
Do we choose who we love, or does love choose us?
Can we love all those who injure us? Can we forgive?
How does fleeting love change us? Catalyze us?
Can unconditional love awaken us to who we really are and thus empower us?
How did you write from a male POV so vividly?
I wrote Qasim’s POV as backstory first, to better understand him. Then my beta readers fell in love with him.
I realize it’s controversial to write in a POV different from one’s own these days. Yet I think it’s what writers do, put themselves in a situation or a point of view to better understand it, and to show others how to understand. I was trained as a child and as a writing student to put myself in another’s shoes. I may make mistakes, but I tried to portray every character authentically, and especially Qasim, as a full, complex character, who has successes and makes mistakes. Just like we all do, if we are alive.
Yet I didn’t find his voice in a vacuum. I’ve lived and worked in Africa and traveled through the Middle East. And most importantly, I had a relationship with a Middle Eastern man long ago, although the true story, the true human I loved, is nothing like Qasim and his story. Yet that person created a launching place for voice and story.
Do you consider Dianna a strong protagonist, a strong female role model?
Absolutely, although she’s young, naive and head-strong in the first novel. She’s left home and family to go seek a career in order to send money home. She hasn’t rented a brownstone with a bunch of friends and partied every night. She’s on her own. She’s striding forth in a male-dominated world and work force, and she holds her own. She holds her own when Qasim patronizes her. And I believe she evolves into a self-empowered hero, someone who paved the way for the women who came after her.
She, like Qasim, is a woman of her time. Women were just coming into their own. The employment rate for women rose from 38 percent in 1960, to 43 percent in 1970, to 52 percent in 1980, and finally reached 60 percent by 2000. Yet these stats don’t say where the women worked, or their entry annual salaries (mine was $10,600 before taxes), or the challenges they met in the workplace, or how much they earned to a man’s dollar. In 1980, women had a career map, maybe even a role model, but they faced a lot of hurdles. I asked for a raise after two years on the job, and my boss told me that the raise had to go to the man because “his wife had just had a baby.”
I’ve heard readers ask about an audible edition of both your novels? Are those forthcoming?
A strong maybe. Stay tuned.
Your book is full of visual and sensory imagery. Is that how you usually write a scene?
I start with a memory, an interesting person from my life or from history, and a question I want to figure out myself. Then I close my eyes and a story plays out in front of my eyes like a movie. I used to think that most people wrote that way.
And how do you write? Do you ever use an outline?
I write most scenes with incredible speed. Most of my language and voice comes from that very first draft, even if it does have a bad plot.
Then I outline.
Then I make sure I’ve written and approve of my beginning, middle, and end, that both the narrative and character arcs are solid.
Then I revise to the middle, then to the end.
And then revise until someone tells me I have to stop.
How much research did you do for your novels? How much comes from your life experience?
I’m including an informal bibliography in my next novel, because I’ve received this question a lot. I was a researcher for five years for National Geographic, so deep research is part of me. Also, I have a personality like a scientist’s, in that I’m incredibly curious and want to get the heart of things, to as near “truth” as I can. Shores is well-researched. I can provide a bibilography to anyone who requests it. Just sign up for my newsletter at https://shoresofoursouls.com, and I’ll send you a complete bibliography.
Yet I didn’t find the The Shores Of Our Souls story in a library. I was a humanitarian worker for nearly two decades, with a work focus in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. I spent this time meeting and interviewing immigrants, displaced people, people in war, both civilian and military. I was an international humanitarian law instructor for the Red Cross (ie, Geneva Conventions). I witnessed these people’s life stories and I shared them with the world. I’ve spent time in Beirut, the last time in 2006, six weeks before the last war, with bombing raids already happening up the coast.
So that’s why you chose to write about Lebanon?
Not entirely. My initial protagonist hailed from Alexandria, Egypt. Every country in the world has its unique sensibilities, though. Egypt is completely different than Lebanon. Qasim fit in Lebanon, not Egypt. By the way, the man I dated was not Lebanese. But Qasim just had to be.
Do you have a favorite line in Shores?
The lines most readers love just came to me one day. “We often lose ourselves in love. Rarely do we find ourselves there. Never do we see it coming.” They open the novel.
But my favorite lines are at the book’s end. They’re an homage to E.M. Forster’s A Passage To India. The last lines of all my novels in this series will be a tribute to him. He was one of the first to write about the divide between East and West. I also added a falling feather in the scene because my BFF Laura Schmidt, an amazing writer with an amazing life, passed when I was writing the first draft of this novel. She sends me blue feathers as signs that she’s still with me, and she whispers inspiration in my ear on a regular basis.
Who are your favorite authors? Your favorite children’s authors?
My all-time favorite book is John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
My all-time favorite books on writing are by Eudora Welty: One Writer’s Beginnings and The Eye of the Story.
I’m an avid reader of fairy tales and myths from all over the world, and my very first book was The Three Little Horses, by Piet Worm, given to me by a neighbor when I was 2 years old. I knew I’d found the man I would marry when he introduced himself as a modern-day Druid, and told me he loved Tolkien.
I also loved C.S. Lewis’ The Narnia Chronicles, and E. L. Konigsberg’s The Crazy Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler changed my life – made me want to write about the world, cultures, history, and how my world related to it all. And it made me start running away from home, much to my mother’s chagrin.
My favorite contemporary authors are Isabelle Allende, Alice Hoffman, and Barbara Kingsolver.
But I almost always fall in love with any book that gets me past the second chapter with its voice and craft. Once I’m immersed in story, it’s tough for me to come out again.
What’s next for author Kathryn Brown Ramsperger?
The sequel to Shores, called A Thousand Flying Things, will be published next year. I’m working on the book cover right now. Then I hope to publish a memoir about adoption, teen suicide, and the mother-daughter bond. I have many books that are still works in progress, including a weird funny memoir on death.
I also host a Facebook Live called Story Hour most every Thursday @ 4 pm EDT on my Facebook Author page, with replays available on You Tube. I also am an intuitive coach at Ground One LLC, and a book coach with my own process. Most of my writing clients are memoirists. My method is called Step Into Your Story! (TM)
I love speaking anywhere, online or off, about story, the writing craft, global citizenship and peace.
Author Bio: Kathryn Ramsperger’s literary voice is rooted in the Southern tradition of storytelling and is informed by her South Carolina lineage. She began her career writing for The Roanoke Times and The Gazette newspapers and later managed publications for the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland. She has contributed articles to National Geographic and Kiplinger magazines.
Writing from a global perspective, her themes are universal yet intensely personal and authentic.
A graduate of Hollins University (Roanoke, Va.), Kathryn studied under several esteemed writers including—Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Eudora Welty; her mentor Richard Henry Wilde Dillard and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Henry Taylor. She holds a graduate degree from George Washington University.
Winner of the Hollins University Fiction Award, Kathryn is also a finalist in novel, novel-in-progress, short story, and poetry categories in the Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition. The Shores of Our Souls won the 2017 Foreword Indies award for multicultural fiction and also won an America’s Best Book Award.
Kathryn is a mezzo-soprano, has dined with artists ranging from author Marita Golden to musician and writer Kinky Friedman, and has traveled to every continent except Antarctica and Australia. She’s worked in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. She currently lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.
I have a newly released novel titled, Little Tea, but that’s not my focus here. My focus is on sharing an incredible experience I had on Facebook because it’s a case in point of what can transpire through the magnanimous efforts of one fellow author during these unusual times.
Those of us who released a book during the pandemic were blindsided as to how to proceed with promotion. In my case, I had a book tour of the South scheduled to promote Little Tea, only to discover each event was canceled. The good news is most of my events were rescheduled virtually, though in many ways, I swam in smaller waters. I stayed tethered to my desk bereft of the gift of personal contact and although I’m not taking the merit out of it, in most ways I preached to a Zoom choir. But an uncanny domino effect ensued that came through the power of connections, and although it’s not a complete surprise, I have Facebook to thank for a great time promoting Little Tea.
My good fortune began with the moderator of a Facebook book group who interviews authors via StreamYard on a nightly basis. I was a guest on her live show and was grateful beyond measure to answer questions about Little Tea. In thanking my hostess profusely, I said, “If there’s anything I can do for you, it would be my great pleasure.”
The first step along the chain of events came when the aforementioned moderator asked me to talk to a debut author she admires, who had questions about the publishing business. I issued the caveat that I’m no expert, but I’ve been in the business long enough to have an opinion. I’ll say here that my policy as an author has always been to pay it forward. Authors work in a common arena, and few of us would get very far were it not for the opportunity to compare notes. And so, I got on the phone with a complete stranger and talked about navigating the book world and am happy to report that by the time we hung up, I’d made a new friend. An hour later, my new friend messaged me via Facebook messaging and invited me to come to her Facebook group page to do an “author takeover.” I said yes before I fully understood the set-up, so, I’ll explain it now that I understand. This debut author had the foresight to create a private book launch group on Facebook. She issued a call-out six months before her book release and created a Facebook “street team” by offering incentives that simply boiled down to the joy of being involved. This street team was gifted with insider information about her debut novel. She gave her private group book swag, played games, and shared pictures pertaining to her life and her book that the general public wasn’t privy to, so by the time her book was released, roughly a thousand readers were ready to shout from the rooftops because suffice it to say, they felt personally tied to the book’s launch.
My invitation to come to her private Facebook group and do an all-day take over essentially sounded like this: “I know of a thousand people who’ve never heard of you, so come on over, I’ll introduce you, and you can post as much about your book as you want to.”
You better believe I came ready! I prepared with photographs of Little Tea’s setting in the Deep South (Como, Mississippi; Greer’s Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas; and my home town, Memphis) two book trailers, a dozen memes, Little Tea reviews, and, knowing that a picture tells a thousand words about an author’s life, photographs of ocean waves taken where I now live in Malibu, California and endless un-staged photographs of my three photogenic dogs. It was my dogs that got the ball rolling. It’s astounding how many people have “a German shepherd story.” The sharing of dog stories led to an enthusiastic kind of bonding. Soon enough, there was a vibrant thread in the private group of dog pictures that dovetailed to include the posting of pet cats.
Little Tea’s premise is built on the power of female friendships—the anchoring, long-lasting kind that see a woman through a lifetime. These friendships tend to have their own language, often times there’s a shared sense of humor spawned from shared history, and what comes from shared history is an arsenal of stories. In Little Tea’s case, much of the bi-racial relationship story is due to the setting, which is to say the story wouldn’t have happened as it did were it not set in the South with its attendant social mores set amidst the roiling cauldron of the cultural racial divide. There’s a line from Little Tea, when narrator Celia Wakefield describes her Southern upbringing by saying, “The thing about being a Southern girl is they let you run loose until the time comes to shape you.” I posted a meme with this quote during my author take over and it led to a riotous discussion about the South and the power of female friendships, which is part and parcel to the story of Little Tea—Little Tea being the nickname of the main character, who is Celia Wakefield’s childhood best friend.
I have to say I’ve always known that readers are discerning people. They’re interested in learning about a book, but they’re equally interested in learning about the author. The beauty of my all-day, author take-over was that it afforded the latitude of an unfolding. One subject led to another with regard to Little Tea, but what warmed my heart the most was the participants who shared their own stories in what became a delightful, even exchange. I came away from the event knowing I’d represented Little Tea and introduced myself as accurately as I could, but the real gift to me came from getting to know those who love reading as much as I do. I went into the author take-over hoping to reach readers, but as I learned about them, it turned into the thrill of finding common ground.
I’m still marveling at the fun I had in the midst of a fortuitous opportunity. It’s not every author who invites another to take over their page and meet their followers. When you’re lucky enough to meet the kind of author who realizes we’re all in this together, it serves as an exemplary reminder of the impact of paying it forward.
Claire Fullerton hails from Memphis, TN. and now lives in Malibu, CA. with her husband and 3 German shepherds. She is the author of 7- time award winner, Mourning Dove, a coming of age, Southern family saga set in 1970’s Memphis. Claire is the author of Dancing to an Irish Reel, a 2-time award winner set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire’s first novel is a paranormal mystery set in two, time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She is a contributor to the book, A Southern Season, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral ( because something always goes wrong at a Southern funeral.) Little Tea is Claire’s 4th novel. Little Tea is a Faulkner Society William Wisdom Competition finalist, a finalist for the Chanticleer Review’s Somerset Awards, and the August selection of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary Agency.
When your publisher finally gives you the release date for your novel, you start planning. You’ve been through multiple rounds of edits, decided on the book cover, have the book’s final PDF, ordered the advance review copies in print, devised a list of to whom the ARC will be sent after emailing those in the media asking for permission to send, created a folder on your computer delineating with whom you’re in correspondence, contacted book-bloggers, and organized a schedule on social media that walks the fine line of pre-release promotion and too much grandstanding, and, in my case, created a book tour that involves travelling to the Deep South from California.
I had my book tour for Little Tea planned so seamlessly, even I was impressed. I’d leave for Memphis on June 14 and stay in the Mid-South for ten days. I knew where I was going to stay, had scheduled a rented car for pick-up, an itinerary that included nine events, and embraced the logistics of running from pillar to post because it was going to be worth it. I’ve always said the best way to promote a book is to show up in person. Memphis is a long way from Malibu, but I grew up there, Little Tea is set in the region, people know me in Memphis, and the way I saw it, hustling down there would be a wise move. I did this on a small scale with my third novel, Mourning Dove, and it went so well, I figured I’d widen the parameters with Little Tea to include Lemuria Book Store in Jackson, Mississippi, and the Blytheville Book Company in Blytheville, Arkansas. The planning for Little Tea’s book tour took weeks, but I was all set to go!
Then the pandemic hit, and for months, I waited for the jury to come in on how big the impact would be. It seemed many of my scheduled tour stops held onto hope until its last gasping breath before they conceded defeat.
In stages, venues that had never thought about restructuring their business operation found a way around closing their doors. Book stores started curb-side service, looked at their in-store author event schedule and decided to hold the events via Zoom. Then libraries got on board, as did radio and TV stations. It took a while for everyone to adjust to the new normal, but by Little Tea’s May 1st release date, everyone had switched to Plan B.
I spent a week canceling everything that had gone into my trip and emailing back and forth with my book tour hosts about how to proceed. The result is that I never left my office. My husband, as luck has it, is an audio engineer and knows his way around sound and lighting.
Last week, I did my Little Tea book tour virtually, and I had a blast.
I prepared by drawing the curtains to a close behind my desk, which I hadn’t done once, in all my years of living by the ocean in Malibu, California. I had to clip them together so my desk’s monitor could see me. The overhead lighting above my desk was muted, a lamp was staged behind my 27 inch monitor, and a scarf was wrapped around the shade of my standing desk lamp. My monitor doesn’t have a microphone, but my laptop does, so I steadied it on a stack of books until the devise was close to eye-level. I replaced the wheeled swivel chair before my desk with the hardback chair from my husband’s office. Because I wanted what would appear behind me on-camera to look pretty, I put my mask on, drove down the road, and came home with this:
Here is how my office lighting turned out, as photographed as a screen-shot of my laptop:
My first Zoom meeting was with The Memphis Public Library. Fourteen avid readers joined and the meeting lasted for an hour. I did a thirty minute presentation concerning Little Tea’s premise, characters, and setting, along with how I arrived at the book’s idea. A question and answer exchange ensued next, which, for me, was the best part.
Another Zoom meeting was with WREG TV’s Live at 9 morning show with Memphis’s beloved Marybeth Conley. Let me say that 9 AM Memphis time translates to 7:00 AM in California, but the early rise was worth it!
Later that day, I had the best time, ever, as the guest of Memphis’s iconic broadcaster, Earle Farrell. We had so much fun naming our mutual acquaintances that talking about Little Tea took a back seat! Earle Farrell has had an illustrious career in media. He’s worn every shoe from reporter to anchor, and his Earle Farrell 4 Memphis show has the benefit of Facebook streaming.
I met with book clubs last week and was thrilled Last Sunday, when a Memphis friend texted me this, which kicked off the week with high-coverage of my local Zoom appearances.
The highlight of my week was a sold-out author webinar, hosted by the wildly popular Novel Book Store and moderated by fellow author, Susan Cushman, who did a first-rate job asking me questions and fielding reader’s comments. Susan Cushman is an adored author in South, and that she agreed to moderate the event was a gift beyond reason. For one author to interview another guarantees all bases will be covered! I cannot thank Susan Cushman and Novel Book Store enough. 100 attendees joined and the experience exceeded my expectations.
I have a few more Zoom meetings schedule before my Little Tea tour concludes. The great thing about doing a Zoom event is that those who missed it can watch it at their convenience on my YouTube Channel, which can be found by going to YouTube and typing in Claire Fullerton!
All told, it was a great week, and although the pandemic precluded in-person appearances, I am infinitely grateful to all who made adjustments and accommodated my schedule.
Every so often, I come across a website that champions authors with glittering flair. Postcards and Authors is such a place and Anita, the woman behind the magic, is wonderful! She has a wide reputation with good reason for championing authors. What an author does is send in a postcard with an image that pertains either to where they live or telling of their book. Authors from all over the globe enter and Anita showcases their postcard and goes to wonderful lengths to feature their work.
I wanted to share this site and information with my fellow authors. Take a look at the links below that send you to the site and direct you on how to submit!
I hope to see many on Postcards and Authors!
Here is my feature that was posted yesterday!
Claire Fullerton was a recent guest on LA Talk Radio – The Writer’s Block to discuss her new novel, Little Tea. Midway the conversation, her host asked, “When you write, who controls the book, you or your characters?” The presumed answer was the characters. However, Claire, whose previous career was on-air in music radio, answered, “I confess I must be a control freak because I think I’m runnin’ the show. Nobody’s taking over my book, including who I’m writin’ about.”
Claire Fullerton has always considered herself a southerner, though born in Wayzata, Minnesota, and currently living in Malibu, California. When she was ten, her family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. It was where Claire innately watched people and absorbed the music of prolific musicians who flocked to experience the city’s aura and recording opportunities. All the while, Claire was sharpening her writer’s eye. She considers Memphis the last romantic culture on earth.
However, like much of the country, Memphis was experiencing social and cultural changes, and Claire Fullerton was witnessing and taking it in, including the fight for racial equality. It would be some of those memories that she injected into Little Tea.
The story begins with a girls’ getaway at a lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas. Celia, Renny, and Ava, friends since childhood, meet to support Ava, who is having marital problems; however, before the three-day stay is over, Celia will be confronted with demons from her past.
When the time shifts in the novel, there is Little Tea (Thelonia), the daughter in a black family. Her mother is a maid, her father, a foreman, both for the white Wakefield family’s Como, Mississippi cotton farm in the 1980s – Celia’s family. The girls are ten-year-old friends who play together and are often joined by Hayward, Celia’s brother. Innocent and naive, this works well for the three of them, but they grow up… and people have opinions. The past and present come together with Little Tea at the core.
Reviews for Little Tea give an enticing glimpse into the story. Readers are awed by Claire Fullerton’s ability to interpret and depict southern characters in settings that epitomize the beauty of the terrain. Her previous multi-award winning novel, Mourning Dove, is also about a southern family set in Memphis, Tennessee. Excerpts and reviews for all of Claire’s books are on her website.
Visit Claire’s social media and sign up for her newsletter. (Scroll down for the links.) You’ll not only see great pictures of her writer’s life, but her three big German Shepard dogs, too!
Claire, Malibu seems a nice place to land after living in other cities in the U.S and abroad. Like you, I believe I can have an extra dose of inspiration with a daily ocean view! Maybe I’ll get to Malibu on my next California trip (being optimistic). It’s been a looong time since I’ve been to The Golden State. Thank you for the postcard. 🙂
I’d like to adequately express how much the WordPress book blogging community means to me, so suffer me while I warm up to it. I readily admit I’m the long-winded sort, even when I have an important point.
In this day and age of social media at the center of an author’s career, there is much to reconcile, and there are times I wrestle with keeping a proper perspective. On the one hand–and you’d think this to meet me in person–I am ridiculously extroverted; I have what author, Pat Conroy, labeled the “Southern sickness” of assuming everyone I meet is my best friend, yet on the other, I am intensely private. I don’t like showcasing myself because it feels like grandstanding, and quite frankly I’m not impressed with myself to the point that I think I have anything of significance going over any other writer. We are all of us playing a long-game, making our own way in our chosen field. But sometimes it seems that one has to have an elevated sense of oneself in order to promote one’s work as an author. There’s a fine line these days, and it’s the one thing I didn’t realize going into “being” a writer. I’m probably like many people in their 50’s. We were the generation who woke up one day to discover the entire world was online and all over social media. When that realization dawned on me, it was a major hustle to catch up.
Then there is the concern of reconciling novel-writing as art and publishing a novel as a business. Once upon a time–as little as twenty years ago–authors wrote books and turned them over to their publishing house to promote. If they had an audience to justify a book tour, the publisher paid for an author to travel from book store to library to book club to meet readers in person. This is still done, but on a small, discerning scale primarily intended for authors who have wide name recognition. As for authors with a small or independent press, when it comes to a book tour, it’s all out of pocket because they’re essentially on their own. Because book publishing options have opened up and there are now thousands upon thousands of authors in the race, the effort is geared toward keeping abreast of the tide and waving one’s hand above the noise. What’s more, in this day and age, the lion’s share of promotion falls to the author and is not only about promoting a book; authors have to promote themselves.
I’ve been torn over this for a while, now. I’ve limited myself in self-promotion by only going so far. I’ll take the opportunity here to add to Conroy’s definition of Southern sickness: friendly as we are, Southerners are an unflashy lot given to personal discretion. Too much going on about oneself is succinctly considered bad form.
I see it all on social media. People post all sorts of personal information from their family to their lifestyle to their political views. I’m not passing judgment, just making an observation, but I do know that too much online, personal information can put one in a vulnerable position and lead to an unintended consequence. It’s the downside of social media and it’s a struggle to strike a manageable balance.
So, how does an author effectively promote their book while striking a healthy balance? And whom should an author trust?
Which brings me to another consideration: There are the legions of online, profiteering book promotion businesses that have cropped up as a result of the book publishing boom. It’s staggering to me and hard to wade through the miasma to discern who is and is not reputable, while an author is hustling for literary recognition and book reviews. Authors need exposure for their releases, but who to choose within a reasonable budget?
Which brings me around to the WordPress book blogging community ( I told you I’d work my way to my point.)
I am humbled and proud to have aligned with the book bloggers here. I believe the book bloggers I’ve met on WordPress are as fine as they come. I stand in awe of Sally Cronin of Smorgasbord. Through Sally, I’ve met Olga Nunez, Michelle James, Robbie Cheadle, Teagan Geneviene, Rosie Amber, DG Kaye, and Chris the Story Reading Ape to name but a few. I stand in awe of each bloggers’ deft handling of content, organizational skills, dedication, professionalism, and magnanimous spirit. I recognize you all as passionate people involved in the book world for all the right reasons. Your impact upon many authors’ careers is nothing short of significant.
At long last, here is my point:
I thank each of you who has featured my books on your blog for including me in your esteemed fold. Your support of my career is a force that sustains me, and I remain so very grateful.
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.
It seems to me the release of a novel is like a wheel with its own life span. Though the elements that get a book out in the world happen in linear fashion, it feels as if they happen at once. This is what readers might not know as they read a book. There is a lot that goes into a book release. Within the time frame of getting my third novel, Mourning Dove, signed until its publication, it seemed every move I made was urgent, even though I knew, when I signed the contract, that Mourning Dove’s release was a year and a half away.
It all begins with a book’s contract negotiation. Promotion starts immediately, once the writer signs the contract. There is the business of sharing the news that a contract has been signed on social media to garner interest that the book is coming, that it will be winding its way from draft to print. And it is a winding way. What made Mourning Dove different for me is that when I signed the publishing contract, I had a literary agent. Because this wasn’t the case with my first two books, I didn’t know what to expect.
From the onset, my agent got to work. We talked about Mourning Dove’s genre, my brand as an author, whether to hire a publicist, which book festivals to submit to, which contests to enter, my presence on social media—all of this was planned once my editor sent me my publishers’ schedule. Because what a writer is doing pre-release is securing a foundation. A writer must know where they’re going and when. One has to create a launch pad well in advance of a book’s release that matches their publisher’s schedule. After the book has been edited, which in Mourning Dove’s case hinged on my editor’s schedule, and took three rounds, during six weeks, a writer waits for the advance review copy. There are magazines, contests, and online journals to submit to, each with their own schedule. A writer has to create their own schedule to keep track of what’s happening and when.
Once I had the advance review copy of Mourning Dove, I sent it to four well-known authors and two prestigious book magazines, in pursuit of book blurbs to appear on the finished book. Next came the selection of Mourning Dove’s book cover, which began with my written vision and went to my publisher’s art department and ended with the final version.
Once I had Mourning Dove’s book cover, I got to work in preparation for marketing. I had business cards printed with my website and contacts, post cards and bookmarks made with Mourning Dove’s cover and description. I created a glossy “one-sheet” with the book’s cover, its ISBN, Mourning Dove’s release date, my author bio, three book blurbs, and sent it to endless independent book stores, telling them that Mourning Dove was available for pre-order, and that it would be distributed through Ingrams. I joined the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance in tandem with my publisher, since Mourning Dove is set in the South, and my brand is that I am a Southern writer, being, as it is, that I grew up in Memphis.
As Mourning Dove’s launch date drew near, I reached out to more magazines and book bloggers, then scheduled a book launch event. I sent invitations to the launch, and word to my local newspaper requesting they send a photographer out for coverage. Once Mourning Dove was out in the world, I continued to distribute my one sheet, and still do, as time allows. I remain engaged in social media daily about Mourning Dove, and as I do, I support other authors.
Mourning Dove was released one month ago today, and I continue to promote it daily. I will be travelling to book events starting next month, with an eye toward doing as much in person as possible. I am reaching out to book clubs and speakers’ organizations. I believe eye-to-eye contact with readers makes a difference, and it is my sincere honor and privilege to speak with any I meet. My travel schedule has already taken me into 2019, and I have Mourning Dove submitted to 2019 book festivals, from whom I am waiting to hear. There are book award contests I’ve entered that announce awards for books published in 2018, in the year 2019.
In the meantime, I have another release coming on November 1st of this year. Currently the wheel is turning for this. It is a novella; one of four novellas in a book titled A Southern Season—each novella set in the South, and promotion began six months ago.
When you hear writers say that writing is a full-time job, it’s because it is. Each release has its own life-span, which begins with a sense of urgency and continues as long as the author is willing to work it. But the good news is if an author has a backlist, all effort put into each release aids and abets the life of the backlist. In my mind, each release is an independent wheel that helps drive a writer’s career forward.