Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | By: The Write Way Cafe

An Interview with Jennifer Fulford

The Write Way Café welcomes author Jennifer Fulford, who understands that the life of a writer is a testament to sheer stubbornness and the love of writing.

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
A good vacation spurred the idea for my first book. My husband and I had traveled to see Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Falling Water near Cleveland, and on the drive, I had the chance to let my mind wander. Not about architecture, but about a character who had been bugging me for a long time. I had loved "The Three Musketeers," and one of the men, Athos, needed more backstory. My favorite Musketeer, Athos was a real loner whose history was vaguely patched together by Alexandre Dumas. I wanted to flesh out his character. Just so happens, my story involves a woman.

What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
First, I reread Dumas's novel and annotated it for language, plot, and setting. I drafted some early chapters and kept writing while I also studied the craft. One book I picked up, "Don't Sabotage Your Submission," was my bible for a while because it describes all the mistakes new fiction writers make. And, I wasn't immune. In fact, I could only read the book a few pages at a time because I'd have to go through my manuscript and correct all my mistakes. It was frustrating but a good process to work through. For historical questions, I tried to learn about the time period in general, but I also looked for answers to very specific questions rather than read volume after volume of history books. One question I researched was how peasants lived in 17th Century France. I found good books, picked out relevant details, and dropped them in for context. Once I had the draft finished, I knew I had to find a few gentle Beta readers. Luckily, my readers were encouraging, but it took another couple years of revisions before it was really ready for publication. When I started to get nice rejection letters, I knew I needed a little more patience to find an agent or publisher. Almost four years from the day I started writing the novel, a small publisher said YES. That was a glorious afternoon.

Where did the idea for your story come from?
I give all credit for my story to Alexandre Dumas, who wrote "The Three Musketeers " in 1844, and to Oliver Reed, the British actor who played Athos in two movies circa 1980. Those two men were the inspiration for this story, which picks up the plot where Dumas ends. Most readers may be unaware that Dumas also wrote several other books with the Musketeers as re-occurring characters. The next book in the d'Artagnan Romances is "Twenty Years After," but there's a big block of time that isn't covered in the characters' lives. Athos changes so much from "The Three Musketeers" to "Twenty Years After," I had to fill in the blanks. By the way, readers don't need to read either of these books to enjoy the one I've written.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
I've loved learning that Dumas's novel still has a significant readership and fan base. It's an enduring tale of adventure, not just for adolescent boys, which are definitely not my target audience. I give Athos a well-rounded characterization, which includes his sexuality. TV has picked up on this trend, too. The Musketeers are now the subjects of a sexy new BBC TV series and an independent web series. Also, a scholar in Britain has been in touch with me about his study of this romantic period in literature and why it still endures. Fun stuff for a Musketeer groupie!

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world?
I have learned so much it could fill several books. I try to keep track of my journey on my blog, but to say I've subjected myself to a thorough education in the arts is an understatement. I have realized that the life of a writer is a testament to sheer stubbornness and the love of writing. Traditionally publishing a novel is a rocky, sometimes harrowing, experience. There were many times I just wanted to run the manuscript through a damn shredder. But I always gave myself a cool-down period (usually three days) after a bout of bad news -- whether it was the 50th rejection, a bad critique, or a person who just didn't "get' why I kept at it. You do it because you love writing, and the story prods you to tell it.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
I am fond of Nicholson Baker's work. He wrote "The Anthologist" and "Vox." He crosses genres, which is unusual, and he's a wonderful spinner of good literary prose. Plus, he's just a damn nice guy. Recently, I also discovered the work of British writer Glen Duncan, and I may obsessively read everything he's written from now until Christmas. It's sexy and literary.

What are you working on now?
I just finished a short memoir, and don't know what to do with it. Maybe nothing. That's another advantage to being a writer, you can write just for yourself, or if you think you've written just for yourself, you can decide to publish it later. There are so many choices for publishing; it isn't the obstacle it once was. I also have revisions on my plate for the second Musketeer book, which is a prequel to "The Three Musketeers," about how Athos meets his nemesis, Milady. They originally had been married. I also have a novella in progress. It is a book about false intimacies and interweaves two storylines. I'm enjoying the heck out of it.

Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?  Which one and why?
I'm game for anything. In fact, I may also write a thriller. And a screenplay. Who knows? If something doesn't stick, I'll try a new idea. It's fun to experiment.

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
No question -- making myself work on a schedule. I tend to work when my brain is finished mulling over a detail or two, which sometimes doesn't equate into a daily practice. Today I finished a project after I'd given myself a few days to think through certain details. I like my drafts to be solid, and if I go half-committed in one direction, I feel like I've wasted my own time. But I generally work a little every single day, even if it's just a page in longhand.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
My desk is a messy work in progress. I clean it maybe once a month, only to sort the stacks, but if I'm writing regularly, I usually abandon the desk for the bedroom and my laptop. There's no clutter on my bed, and everything is soft, a good environment to think. Plus, I'm a notorious scribbler. I write notes to myself at the grocery, the bank, the car line at my kids' schools. I've started keeping index cards and pens around the house so I can remember a good line as soon as it comes.

For more info about Jennifer and her book, "Blood, Love and Steel," see her website, www.TheMusketeerSeries.com, or visit her blog, www.LivingOnInk.com. She's also a frequent tweeter, @jmfwriter. On Facebook, follow her at The Musketeer Series, https://www.facebook.com/TheMusketeerSeries?ref=hl

To buy "Blood, Love and Steel: A Musketeer's Tale" find it on Amazon.
Or from Powell's City of Books.

About Jennifer:  A long-time journalist for print and radio, Jennifer Fulford began writing fiction as a hobby. She's found the freedom from journalistic conventions to be so gratifying that she decided to write a trilogy based on her favorite book, "The Three Musketeers." She also writes poems, loves to hike, drinks gin, and isn't shy of a game of Crazy Eights with either of her two daughters. She lives in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina with her children, her black cat Ollie and Golden Retriever Lady.


HiDee said...

Interesting interview. Thanks for being with us today!

Jennifer Fulford said...

Thanks, HiDee. You all do a great job of promoting writers and writing. Keep it up! jf