Road to Publication
Once upon a time, I spent a year living on the west coast of Ireland, in the rural region of Inverin, while I worked thirteen miles down the coast road in Galway City. I had the best of both worlds, for Galway City is a vibrant college town with cobblestone streets in its center, where local musicians busk for change before pubs as old as the streets themselves, and locals come in from the outlying areas for the day to tend to important business. Contrarily, Inverin, Ireland is a land separated into geometric prisms by grey-stone walls leading down to the rock encrusted shores of the Atlantic on one side of the coast road and bog-land that stretches out forever on the other. Inverin is known as the gateway to Connemara, and is part of a region known as the Gaeltech, which refers to the area on the west coast where the Irish language is predominantly spoken, and the “old ways” are kept. It was a pivotal, life-enhancing year. Between the time I arrived in Ireland and the time I moved back to Los Angeles, I managed to ingratiate myself into the rhythm of a land that has more soul and character than any place I’d ever imagined.
When I lived in Ireland, I considered myself only capable of writing poetry, which I did every so often in the daily journal I kept, in a spiral-ringed notebook I kept in the holiday home I rented. At the end of each day, I’d take my journal and sit out in the glassed-in porch that faced the rolling, green fields, before the Atlantic, and write down my impressions of the fascinating things that happened to me each day in this beautiful, pastoral land, which was so rich in cultural nuances. What was interesting to me was realizing that as time flowed on, the cultural nuances and social mores of Ireland started to make sense, and it seemed I exchanged my American frame of reference in favor of a softer, more authentic way of being in the world.
At the end of my time spent in Ireland, I returned to Los Angeles and brought my journal with me. Every so often I’d look at its pages and reflect upon my Irish days nostalgically, and as I did, it occurred to me I had the setting of a good story. I decided to try my hand at writing a novel, so I took the experience of living in Ireland and drafted a novel about a single American female who leaves the record business in Los Angeles and relocates to rural Ireland, where she meets an Irish traditional musician who won’t come closer nor completely go away. The novel is entitled, “Dancing to an Irish Reel,” and I went out of my way not to patronize anything about Ireland– particularly its people. I wanted to refrain from bringing an American frame of reference to the book because I felt it had been done before and somehow cheated what I wanted to be the point of the story, which concerns the ambiguity of a budding love relationship with its attendant excitement, hope and doubt. On the one hand, this story could have happened anywhere (I know of very few people who haven’t been thrown into confusion as they navigate the minefield of new found attraction) but because this story takes place in Ireland, I had the opportunity to highlight a setting in possession of unfathomable beauty, with a history of cultural nuances worth the singing of deep praise.
The truth is, it’s difficult in this day and age for a virtually unknown author to find an open door in the publishing world, and at the time, I wasn’t interested in self-publishing, for I knew nothing about it. After buying “The Writer’s Market,” I studied the logistics of writing a query letter to a literary agent then sent one out to a handful of literary agents over an eight month period. There was no avail. But I was convinced I had a great story, one that would especially speak to those who knew the reality of new-found love, which doesn’t always have a clean ending. I believed in the story, yet also believed in being practical, so I put my manuscript aside and wrote another novel on a subject that has always fascinated me, which is the validity of the idea of past lives.
I wrote my second novel in two time periods that fit together like pieces of a puzzle because I wanted to keep the reader on their toes. It was not my intention to answer the question of whether or not we have lived before, only to raise the question and leave it up to the reader. I titled the novel, “A Portal in Time” and looked online for publishers who put out paranormal novels, for this is the genre in which my book fit. I found a publishing house based in South Carolina named Vinspire Publishing, whose track record was impressive. In blind faith, I followed their submission guidelines and submitted my query letter and first three chapters, and good fortune rained down when I was offered a contract.
I cannot wax enough about what I learned from working in tandem with my publisher as we got “A Portal in Time” out into the world. To say I learned the intricacies of marketing and promotions is putting it mildly, and as I did so, I went back to my draft of “Dancing to an Irish Reel” and revised the manuscript. In time, I submitted the manuscript to Vinspire, knowing there was no guarantee of its publication, for Vinspire has an acquisition process that is not contingent upon what an author has produced before. I know now that because I kept the faith in “Dancing to an Irish Reel” and stayed the course, and because I was willing to revise the manuscript, with an eye towards what I’d learned in the editing process with “A Portal in Time” that what I considered my Irish labor of love was ready for publication, and I was blessed to have a publishing home that saw its merit.
What I learned from my road to publication has to do with the tenacity to stay the course. A writer has to have the humility to be willing to learn and grown while they keep the faith in their work. If they do this, wonderful things happen.
Claire Fullerton is the author of “Dancing to an Irish Reel” (Literary Fiction) and “A Portal in Time,” (Paranormal Mystery), both from Vinspire Publishing.
She is an award winning essayist, a contributor to magazines, a five time contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series, and a former newspaper columnist.
Claire grew up in Memphis, and now divides her time between Malibu and Carmel, CA with her husband and two German shepherds.
She has recently completed her third novel, which is a Southern family saga set in Memphis.