Tag Archive | Memphis

Idabel Allen~Southern Storytelling

idabel allen photo color

If you love “home cooked Southern Literature in the tradition of Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner, you will fall in love with Idabel Allen. 

Thank you for visiting with us today. I am excited to hear about your new book and learn more about you.

Your book Rooted, tell me the story behind it, why did you write this story?

There were several reasons I wrote Rooted. One was the setting. I liked the idea of telling a story from a rural Southern perspective not tied to Memphis or Nashville or the outside world for that matter. It is very much a regional story in this way, complete with the customs and values specific to its place and time. Adding a New York punk rock character, Slade Mortimer, to the mix illuminated the Southern rural experience. Another reason I wanted to write Rooted was to allow the burdens of the fractured McQuiston family to fall on the patriarch’s shoulders. During the 1970’, the man was the head of the household – he made a living and set the rules for the family to abide by. And yet, it was the wife who managed the family and home life. I wanted explore what happened when outcomes of the patriarchs’ rules fall back on his shoulders, and not on the wife’s. Rooted is very much a story about taking responsibility for one’s actions – not just the patriarch’s character, but his descendants, as well.

Where did you get the idea for the cover?

rootedRooted is a Southern book with an edge perhaps not often found in the genre – something I wanted to capture on the book-cover. Bits of cotton grace the front and back of the book, a nod to the South’s agrarian heritage. The cow on the cover is Lucy, the last of Grover McQuiston’s grandfather’s herd. Lucy represents a connection to the past, something Grover and the South are quite keen to hold onto. On the book cover, the cow has blue hair and a nose ring, letting readers know there’s a bit more going on with this story than meets the eye. Rooted has been described as Southern grit-lit and I believe the cover conveys this message. 

Did you do research? What was the most memorable information found?

Most of my research for Rooted centered on music. With a New York punk rocker in the mix, I needed to understand the origins of the punk movement, its key players and their motivations for breaking away from traditional rock music standards during the 1970s. Turns out, punk as we know it today with the piercings and mohawks and shocking behavior bears little resemblance to punk’s origins. Fed up with mellow hippie folk rock and bloated stadium rock, a core group of poets and musicians in New York rejected music industry rules and with a do it yourself attitude created music and art that changed popular culture forever.

Does coincidence sometimes play a role in your books? If so, what is the strangest coincidence you’ve experienced and did you use it in this book?

The premise of Rooted is based entirely on coincidence. The unexpected death of Slade Mortimer’s estranged father sends him South to the town of Moonsock in search of an inheritance. Slade’s arrival, on the heels of a family scandal, sets in motion a series of unexpected events that resurrect questions regarding the mysterious of his mother’s disappearance twenty-five years before. Rereading Rooted recently, I realized it took a character with punk sensibilities to kick down the protective wall Grover built to guard the terrible secrets that had devastated the McQuiston family for decades.

I know I’ve experienced many coincidences in my life, but I cannot think of what the strangest one might be, nor have I used personal coincidence in any of my stories that I know of. But things have a way of working themselves into my work without conscious effort on my part. Only after the fact, am I able to recognize that something personal has crept into the picture.

What do you like most about writing? What do you like least?

I most like when my characters are developed to the point that they are telling the story, and I’m hustling to get it all down on the paper. When the writing is going well, I hear the characters voices in my head as if a live person were talking. That’s when the story has taken on a life of it’s own.

The opposite of this is what I like least. When the characters are not driving the story, or if I’m trying to force the story in a certain direction, the writing is cumbersome and stiff. It’s like trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. When this happens, it’s a good indication to take a few steps back and regroup. Usually, this is what is needed to get things flowing again.

Are you working on the next book?

I am releasing a middle school book this fall entitled, Cursed! My Devastatingly Brilliant Campaign To Save The Chigg. It’s about an overly dramatic eighth-grade girl, Ginny Edgars, friendless after one too many trips to the principle’s office, who decides to help class Freakazoid #1, Carrie “Chigger” Larson, uncover the devastating truth behind the Larson family curse – whether Chigger likes it or not!

I am also wrapping up edits on a historical fiction novel entitled, Strange Agonies In Some Lonesome Wilderness. In this story, a group of ex-slaves hoodooed to a Mississippi river island, turn to an anthropologist to help them pass on to the after-life, challenging what she believes about herself, her life and the one that lies beyond.

How long did it take you to write this book?

There’s a million ways to tell a story, finding the right way always takes me a little time on the front end. All told, I believe I have about five years invested in writing Rooted. I spent a bit of time experimenting with narrative and voice. I tried to write the book entirely from Sarah Jane’s point of view, and then Slade’s, and finally Grover’s. The story never really gelled for me until I landed on using all three points of view. The opening line of the book, “It all comes from the root,” was something my son once said to my grandmother. I used this line to anchor the separate narratives to the story and to let the reader know Rooted is a story about belonging to a people and a place.

Where do you think your story telling ability came from?

I’m not sure where it came from as far as my family. There’s an artistic streak on mother’s side, but not so much on either side in the literary vein. More than anything, reading everything I could get my hands on at a young age, and being born in the South where the oral storytelling tradition is still very much alive made me the writer I am today.

Listening to stories gave me a good ear for dialect and for gauging reactions. A good story gives the reader a reason to laugh, be shocked, even outraged. Too, I learned a lot from my favorite writers: passion from Faulkner, compassion from Welty and Steinbeck, possibilities from Woolfe, and fearlessness from O’Connor. Reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved is like studying a blueprint for how to construct a perfect book.

First and foremost a storyteller, Idabel’s books are all grounded in the same character-driven reality that holds the reader’s attention long after the story is finished. When not burrowing in the written word, Idabel says she is generally up to no good with her family, dogs and herd of antagonistic cows.  So visit her website and blogpost.

http://idabelallen.net/

idabelallen.net/blog

 

 

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Claire Fullerton-A Woman of Adventure

claire fullerton1download A word I would use to describe Claire Fullerton is adventurous. Although she was born in Minnesota, she moved to Memphis, Tennessee when she was 10.

I heard you consider yourself still a Southerner even though you now live in California.

“Yes, I do consider myself a Southerner, a card-carrying member of the last romantic culture on earth. When I was growing up, Memphis was a hotbed of social and cultural change. In this atmosphere, I embraced popular music, the city that sits on the bluff of the Mississippi is a musical mecca, and I wanted to be in its middle.  I found my niche in radio by being on the air-staff of five radio stations during a nine-year career.  Eventually this led me to Los Angeles where I worked as an artist’s representative securing record deals. After three years I took a trip to Ireland and stayed a year.”

I read you are a people watcher.

“My mother told me as a child, I used to sit and watch people.  I was thirty years old the first time I heard this, and she followed the revelation by telling me, “You still do.” If what is known as “the writer’s eye” is the ability to see the world from the outside in, then I am happily guilty.”

Tell us what opened the door to your writing.

“A happy accident involving a white dove that landed on my roof started my writing career. After a solid week of its residency, I walked into the offices of “The Malibu Surfside News” thinking maybe somebody had lost a pet.  The nice assistant at the desk asked me to take a picture and write a few lines. I decided to do better than that.  When news of the dove was published, the paper’s editor received public response, which she published in the subsequent edition. I felt it my civic duty to report when the dove flew away, so I wrote a piece in the interest of closure, but it opened a door instead. The dove led me to write a weekly column, which led to publication in magazines, awards in writing contests, and repeated appearances in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series.”

portal in time19780989063227_p0_v1_s192x300Your first published novel, A Portal in Time, tell us the story behind that book.

“My husband and I took a trip to Carmel-by-the-sea on the Monterey Peninsula and stayed in a historic hotel. I tapped my dear husband on the shoulder at 2:00 in the morning to report I couldn’t sleep because the hotel was so haunted. That incident was the beginning A Portal in Time.”

01 SW Cover May 2015 (1)I loved your article you wrote in our May/June Southern Writers Magazine, “Keeping the Faith on the Road to Publication.” Not only was it interesting and helpful for other writers but I know people who don’t write that read it and they enjoyed so much learning about this part of a writers behind the scenes.

DancingtoanIrishReel2 1400x2100[1] Your second book, Dancing to an Irish Reel,  Tell us about your book. I think you captured everything I think of Ireland in this book. A land where family, breezes, tradition and adventure are all rolled in the landscape together.

“One reviewer described it as “A sensitive and lyrical tribute to the Irish culture and the wonders of falling in love.” The story concerns twenty-five year old Hailey Crossan, who takes a sabbatical from her job in the LA record business and travels to the west of Ireland, where she is offered a job too good to turn down. It becomes a year of firsts, where everything is about discovery as Hailey navigates the social nuances and customs of a culture as old as time itself.
Hailey works at The Galway Music Centre, where she is surrounded by a handful of vibrant Irish friends who help her decipher what’s going on when she meets a regionally famous, traditional musician, who is so unbalanced at the prospect of love that he won’t come closer nor completely go away!
The title, “Dancing to an Irish Reel” refers to the push and pull, the ambiguity and uncertainty of attraction with all its hope, fears,  excitement and confusions played out on an Irish stage!

 

“And so begins Hailey’s journey to a colorful land that changes her life, unites her with friends more colorful than the Irish landscape, and gives her a chance at happiness she’s never found before.”

You have a wonderful ability to weave your personal experiences into your stories. Indeed, you are a talented writer.

When your next book is ready to launch, please drop by and tell us about the story.

Thank you for visiting with us today.

 Be sure and visit Claire’s website, http://www.clairefullerton.com/. She would love to hear from you.

Visit her on:  Facebook     https://www.facebook.com/claire.fullerton.79 and  Twitter  https://twitter.com/cfullerton3