Friday, March 31, 2023

Q&A with Richard Fulco




Richard Fulco is the author of the new novel We Are All Together. He also has written the novel There Is No End to This Slope. He is also a playwright and a high school English and creative writing teacher in New Jersey.


Q: What inspired you to write We Are All Together, and how did you create your character Stephen? 


A: Several centuries ago, I was a musician. The gigs. The rehearsals. The studio. The songs I wrote. The musicians I played with. The people I met. The places I traveled. When I embarked on We Are All Together it was my intention to revisit (and in a sense relive) those memories from such a transformative period of my life. 


I occasionally lean toward nostalgia, though the memories from that particular time in my life weren't entirely joyful and glorious. There was a ton of heartache, failure and rejection. The irony is that although my intention was to recall my previous life as a musician, only one legitimate story made it into the novel.


Overall, I wanted to capture the desperation of an artist. With desperation comes temptation, self-doubt, fear, anxiety, and a host of other things. I tried my best to depict a struggling musician (Stephen Cane) who is so desperate to be a rock star that he is willing to do whatever it takes, even if that means betraying his best friend and collaborator, Dylan John.


When I started this particular project, Stephen was loosely based on Syd Barrett, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd. In later drafts, Syd became more of an influence on Dylan John. I was deeply captivated by the premise of a famous rock star who quits his band and retires from music at the height of his artistic powers. 


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: We Are All Together is a rock and roll novel that takes place during the summer of 1967, so while I was writing I was also listening to music of the late ‘60s. Come to think of it, I'm typically listening to the music of the late ‘60s, which was a musical renaissance of its own. 


There’s a profound John Lennon lyric in the psychedelic song “I Am the Walrus”: “I am he as you are he as you are me / And we are all together.” Previous working titles included “Crazy Diamond,” a reference to Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, as well as “World on a String,” the Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald song, which somehow made its way into the novel. 


Once I latched onto Lennon's lyrics, however, there was no turning back. The Beatles are featured quite prominently in the book; therefore, it made sense to borrow a lyric from a Beatles song and employ it as the title of my book. Moreover, inhabiting such a polarized society, I was drawn to the inherent irony in the lyrics.


Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I don't usually have difficulty with the beginning of a novel, although I must write the first chapter over and over again before I can really advance the narrative. For me, the middle and end are the most challenging. 


When I first started working on We Are All Together, I thought I was writing a tragedy. About midway into the first draft, I decided that I wanted to write a more uplifting story. When I figured out the book’s ending, I just plugged in the events in the novel’s rising action and revised the beginning. Over and over again. 


Q: A review in The Prairies Book Review said of the book, “Like Stephen’s shifting priorities in the story, this novel is so much more than the sum of its parts—an appealingly soul-searching literary tale that beautifully renders its characters’ search for identity.” What do you think of that description?


A: Every character in the novel is searching for an identity. For instance, the character Tony Campbell is a chameleon who changes personalities nearly as frequently as he changes his clothes. One day he's an author and the next day he's a yoga guru.


The characters in this novel are young and naive, but open to opportunity, exploration and experimentation. Such experimentation nearly proves to be fatal for Stephen. Everyone in the novel, with the exception of Clementine and I think Stephen's mother, is trying to figure out who they are, where they are going, and what they truly want out of life.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm working on a coming-of-age story, a bildungsroman that is one part literary fiction and one part young adult. The novel contains quite a bit of magical realism too. I've been working on the first draft, so I'm excited to see where the narrative will lead me.


I'm fortunate to know (I think) how this book is going to end, but writing the middle of a novel, to me, is the most challenging, though it can also be the most rewarding.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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