[Happy St. Pats! I’m celebrating with a repost of Claire Fullerton’s guest blog. Dancing to an Irish Reel might not be her story, but it’s an eerie echo of mine.]
Welcome Claire Fullerton, Author of Dancing to an Irish Reel
Today I’m excited to turn my blog over to an author who is new to me, Claire Fullerton. Not only is she taking the Page 69 Challenge with her excerpt below, but she’s graciously contributed this guest post. (Please read on to find why her fiction is so close to my own truth…)
Guest Blogger Claire Fullerton: Truth in Fiction?
I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. Now that my book, Dancing to an Irish Reel, is out, I’m being asked the inevitable question, “How much of the story is true?” Everyone who knows me personally knows I picked up and moved to the west coast of Ireland without much of a plan, and that I stayed for a year. Add that to the fact that the book is written in the first person, that the narrator’s interior monologues in the story are unabashedly confessional to the point of unnecessary risk. I’ve been told the book reads like a memoir, and for that, I can only say I’m glad because this was my intention. I can see why readers might think the entire story is true. But writers make a choice in how to lay out a story, and in my case, I wrote the book based on the kind of books I like to read. I’m a one-trick pony kind of a reader. I want an intimate narrator’s voice with which I can connect. I want to know exactly whom I’m listening to so that I can align with a premise that makes the story’s swinging pendulum of cause and effect plausible. The way I see it, there are always bread crumbs along the path to the chaotic predicaments people find themselves in, and although many are blind to their own contributions, when I read a book, I want to be the one who divines how the character got there. What fascinates me about people are their backstories. Oh, people will tell you their highlights, alright, but they rarely reveal their churning cauldron of attendant emotions; they rarely confess to carrying acquired fears. We all want to appear bigger than our own confusion, and the key word here is “appear,” because when it comes to faces, most people like to save theirs. This is the point I wanted to make in the story, but I also wanted Dancing to an Irish Reel to be about discovery, so I started with a narrator who is a fish out of water: a twenty-five year old American ensconced in a specific culture she uncovers like the dance of seven veils.
And I can think of no better culture clash than America and Ireland.
In the midst of this there enters an Irish traditional musician named Liam Hennessey. He is from the region, of the region, and therefore it can only be said he is because of the region in a way that is emblematic. From a writer’s point of view, the supposition offers the gift of built-in conflict, most poignantly being the clash of the male-female dynamic set upon the stage of differing cultures trying to find a bridge. And I can think of no better culture clash than America and Ireland. I say this because I happen to know to the Irish, we Americans are a bit brazen, we have the annoying habit of being direct. But the Irish are a discreet lot, culled from a set of delicate social manners that seem to dance around everything, leaving an American such as I with much guesswork. No matter how they shake it, writers write about what they know, even if it has to be extracted from varying quadrants that have no good reason for being congealed. Dancing to an Irish Reel is a good example of this: it came to me as a strategy for commenting on the complexities of human beings inherent longing to connect—the way we do and say things that are at variance with how we really feel in the interest of appearances, and how this quandary sometimes dictates how we handle opportunities in life. In my opinion, there is no better playing field on which to illustrate this point than the arena of new found attraction. I’m convinced the ambiguity of new love is a universal experience, and since the universe is a big wide place, and since Dancing to an Irish Reel has something to say about hope and fear and the uncertainty of attraction, it occurred to me that I might as well make my point set upon the verdant fields of Ireland because everything about the land fascinated me. I wanted to take every reader that would have me to the region I experienced as cacophonous and proud: that mysterious, constant, quirky, soul-infused island that lays in the middle of the Atlantic, covered in a blanket of green, misty velvet.
Pg. 69 Challenge: Dancing to An Irish Reel by Claire FullertonGenre: Romantic Literary Fiction On sabbatical from her job in the LA record business, Hailey takes a trip to Ireland for the vacation of a lifetime. What she finds is a job offer too good to turn down. Her new job comes with one major complication—Liam Hennessey. He’s a famous Irish musician whose entire live has revolved around performing. And Hailey falls in love with him. Although Liam’s not so sure love is in the cards for him, he’s not willing to push her away completely. 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.
Pg. 69 Excerpt
Taaffes is a hallmark in Galway. It is a pub as old as the streets themselves with no fanfare outside, just a small tinted rectangular window and a discreet wooden door heralding a room that is dark as a tomb inside no matter the time of day.
I walked into Taaffes a few minutes after five and saw Liam sitting at the bar talking to the bartender. I sat down on the stool beside him and accepted the half-pint of Guinness the bartender placed before me as if he read my mind.
“Well, now I’ve seen where you work,” Liam said.
“You have.” I nodded. “Thanks for coming by.”
“Glad to do it. My brother Anthony will be here in a minute. He and his friend Eamon are playing here tonight.”
“Anthony plays guitar, right?” I asked. “I think I saw him playing guitar in Hughes, didn’t I?”
“He does. He sings as well, not very well, mind you, but he tries.”
“So, what’s he sing?” I asked.
“Songs from American songwriters mostly, people like James Taylor and John Denver,” he said.
It’s amazing the things that make it over here, I thought. I don’t know anybody who takes John Denver seriously in America.
“Do you have any other brothers besides Anthony?” I asked.
“No, but I have a sister,” he said. “People say we look exactly alike.”
“What’s her name?” I asked, thinking if she looked anything like Liam, she must be absolutely beautiful.
“Nula,” he said.
“Named after your mother or grandmother?”
“My grandmother,” he said.
“On your mother’s side?” I asked.
“Yes, did I tell you that before?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Then how did you know?”
“I didn’t; I was just guessing,” I said. Since most names in Ireland are family names, it wasn’t that big of a stretch.
“So, you’re a psychic then!”
“I’m not a psychic, Liam. Please,” I said.
- Title: Dancing to an Irish Reel
- Author: Claire Fullerton
- Genre: Romantic Literary Fiction
- Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
- Date of Publication: March 6, 2015
- Number of pages: 237
My own truth and fiction:
It was many years ago that I landed in Ireland and stuck out my thumb looking for rides. I’d just graduated with a shiny new diploma in Anglo Irish Lit, and it was time to see what I’d spent all those years studying. My advisor claimed that the best way to see Ireland was to hitchhike. And he was right. I met an amazing, incredible cross-section of people, and was invited into their homes, lives, and pubs. Everyone had a family member or friend in the States—did I know them too? Almost everyone had a random collection of rocks in their field—did I know it used to be a castle? One had the wrong idea—did I know it was that easy to break someone’s nose? And one was the funniest person I’d ever met—did I know I’d be leaving with a ring on my finger? Life happened, the ring ended up in the bottom of my jewelry box, and the memories have faded. But, as Claire writes so beautifully in Dancing to an Irish Reel, there is something magic about Ireland. I’d urge you all to read her beautiful book, and to plan a visit soon.