Join me in welcoming Lee Fullbright to my blog today. I recently met Lee through my growing network of historical fiction writers. Lee is the author of the award-winning The Angry Woman Suite, published earlier this year. I’ve invited her to share some of her writing experiences.
Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog site, Carol.
Tell us a little about your book.
The Angry Woman Suite is a historical suspense novel about a celebrity double murder in Pennsylvania, in the early 1900s, and the attendant repercussions on several generations of one very fragile family, as told by three very different narrators. It was a Kirkus Critics’ pick, a 5-starred Readers Favorite, and winner of a 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award.
What inspired you to write historical fiction?
Looking back, I realize that my first “grownup” reads were largely, and accidentally, historical, like Gone with the Wind, Jane Eyre, Ramona, and The Good Earth, because those were the books that filled my mother’s bookshelves. Then, in my early teens, I became enamored with Anne Boleyn’s story, and that started my love affair with the Tudors. I read anything and everything Tudor-ish.
So, I’ve always loved history, and not just the signing of this pact and the taking of that country, but imagining the nuts and bolts of day-to-day life: the music and art, the manners and customs.
How do your novel ideas come to you?
In the case of The Angry Woman Suite, it was a random excursion to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, site of an infamous Revolutionary War battle, which gave me an idea. I was wandering a lush field of an old battlefield, imagining the horror of the fight between the British and the Colonials, and what it was they were fighting for; what was at stake—and all of a sudden, out of the blue, I thought of a young girl fighting against her family, for her freedom. And that was it. I could hardly wait to sit down and start piecing together Elyse Grayson’s fight for autonomy in the 1950s, as told by a young woman looking back on her life.
What has been your worst moment as a writer?
That’s an easy one. It took me a very long time to “corral” The Angry Woman Suite’s backdrops, as I was mentally all over the place, dropping story lines right and left. It wasn’t just Elyse’s story in the 1950s, or the 1777 battle that serves as her metaphor, but there are two other narrators of The Angry Woman Suite. Both are male—one is Aidan Madsen and the other Francis Grayson—and both intersect perspectives with Elyse’s, in shifting time frames, to tell the novel’s larger story of a celebrity double murder in the early 1900s and its subsequent fallout on three generations of one very fragile family, which is Elyse’s stepfamily.
So, lucky me—and I’m not being facetious—but I also got to research the Jazz Age, art, big band music, and oh, the list goes on, all the elements I got to play with, in order to re-create sixty years’ worth of a tale (not counting that Revolutionary War battle metaphor) about a girl’s search for autonomy, a young man’s for an identity, and an older man’s quest for justice.
I pieced my narrators’ stories together carefully (working at staying mentally “corralled,” so I didn’t lose myself or stories), each of their chapters like patches on a quilt. I started the novel with Francis’s voice, then went back in time to Aidan’s and the murder at the core of this saga, and then moved forward again, to Elyse’s, and so on, and back and forth I went, until I finished.
And then I joined a writers group, and, lucky me again, but my group loved The Angry Woman Suite—that is, until they heard Elyse’s voice, and then they wanted to change everything.
I’ll never forget when sister-writer Shelley said, “I think you should start the book with Elyse, and not with Francis.”
My heart skipped way too many beats. Didn’t Shelley know what that would entail? Yes, she had some good reasons (for wanting me to start with Elyse), but you don’t just copy and paste chapters and everything falls into place nice and neat, easy-peasy. No, once I’d start ripping—not cutting, but ripping—I’d have a big ol’ mess. I’d have what used to be a book. I’d have remnants.
I drove home after that meeting and crawled into bed and pulled the covers over my head, thinking, kill me now. All that work down the drain (because as soon as I’d heard it, I’d instinctively known Shelley was right). It would take a year, at least, to make a book again, if I even could, and then it would still be rough.
Sounds like a tough journey, and one I can so relate to! To balance that, tell us about your greatest moment as a writer.
Winning a 2012 Discovery Award for The Angry Woman Suite—and Elyse Grayson, as a young girl, is this novel’s opening voice, thanks in large part to Shelley and my entire writers group. It was the right decision.
I’ve been inspired by your writing experience, Lee. Congratulations on having all your work confirmed through the Discovery Award! And, thanks for joining us.
For more information on Lee Fullbright and The Angry Woman Suite, here are links to guide you:
Lee Fullbright blog/website http://www.leefullbright.com