At the start of 2018, I vowed to expand my reading horizons and try books I wouldn’t have previously considered. As if by fate, I spotted a sign up form for a Book Tour for Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton, which couldn’t be further from my usual reading material. But as soon as I read the blurb, I knew I had to try it. I was also eager to talk to Claire and find out what inspired such an intense, unusual coming-of-age story.
Read on to see what Claire had to say!
Hi Claire! What inspired you to write this book?
I am fascinated with family dynamics. I am intrigued by the idea of cause and effect within a family structure, and how it can come to be that siblings who share a history can turn out so differently. And I have a lifelong appreciation for the ways and means of the American South. I’ve heard it said that the South is the last romantic place in America, and I believe this is true. The customs, traditions and social mores of the South set parameters that can be stifling, so I wanted to tell a story about two siblings who come to the South as outsiders, which gave me the freedom of objectivity in writing about Southern nuances in Mourning Dove.
When people think of the Deep South of the US in the 1970s, often they have negative connotations. However, Mourning Dove shows the other side of that coin, where there’s elegance and intellect. Was it important to you to avoid the cookie-cutter image of the South, and show that there are two sides to every story?
Yes, and the particular side of the coin in Mourning Dove is well intentioned, for it aims for civility. Manners and form set the guidelines for civility, and there is much to be said for this keeping everyone in check. My question in Mourning Dove concerned the price of this civility. What is suppressed, when everyone employs denial in the interest of keeping things on an even keel? What are the long-range repercussions, when one adheres to short-range duty and appearances?
What made you decide to have your main characters as outsiders struggling to fit into your environment as opposed to having main characters from the South trying to fit in elsewhere?
I grew up in Memphis, so I felt that I could write about what made it unique. That Millie and Finley Crossan are outsiders gives them laser-sharp objectivity into the specifics of Memphis. I think the South as a culture is very specific in that it is perceived as a culture, first and foremost. Much is built on charm and social customs comprised of etiquette and social niceties, and there is a pride in tribal mentality that I find beautiful. People know who they are in Memphis. They have a strong sense of belonging. It’s nice to feel certain of one’s place in the world. Because I think the South is misunderstood by outsiders, I wanted to write about what was good about the region. People mean very well in the South, as a general community.
If you could describe the book in four words, what would you choose and why?
Cause and effect dynamic. Four words, precisely! I wrote Mourning Dove as a case in point, which was to say that it is our foundation in life that sets the stage and therefore explains a lot regarding the choices we make along life’s riddled path.
If you were asked to sort Millie, Finley and their mother into their Hogwarts houses, what would they each be in and why?
All would be in Gryffindor! They are slightly conservative, by the book people, who adhere to a code of honor for its own sake.
Thanks for talking to me, Claire!
Thank you! I loved these questions!
Which book opened your eyes to something new, whether it’s new communities, new lifestyles or new sorts of people? Let me know in the comments!
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