Did you survive physical abuse when you were younger?
Yes I did. Abuse is abuse no matter the adjective you use. Most of my abuse was of the sexual nature; however, confinement, bondage and punishment were in the mix as well. My abuser (a stepfather) was stimulated and satisfied only when he overpowered or frightened me.
Tell me a little bit about your story.
My prologue is actually the beginning of the end of my story. This is a novel based on a true story…my story. At a time when my personal life was falling apart, I went on an out-of-town business trip to clear my head and get some sense of what I wanted to do to change my circumstances. While entering my hotel room, I was attacked, bound to the bed, and beaten and tortured to the point of near death, by a man connected to my past. Lying there, I began to drift into a dreamlike state, an other-worldly state, as though my life were flashing before my eyes in Technicolor and surround sound. My story travels back in time, to the beginning of me…to the beginning of my being and the dark abyss that was my existence.
My abuse began at the age of three (almost four) soon after my mother divorced my abusive father and married her high school sweetheart. For years, the abuse slowly, methodically escalated in fervor, frequency and severity. I was sequestered from the outside world, outside influences such as television and radio, and forbidden to have friends. “It” began with looking and touching, then fondling, then my education in the art of pleasuring my captor. As time went on, the abuse became darker and more violent, ultimately resulting in rape and/or sodomy on a nightly basis.
The rest of the story entails the fallout from such abuse; how I dealt with the guilt, shame and secrecy, how I dealt with men, and ultimately the discourse and rage I felt for my mother. I really can’t go into more of the story without giving away spoilers. Suffice it to say, my novel is a dark and graphic account of the life of an abused child and her journey to finally find normal…whatever that is.
How do you think you situation made you a better person? Has it made you look at life any differently? In what ways?
I don’t necessarily know that I’m a better person for what I have been through. If I had to choose whether to go through it again or not…well obviously, not. But, my life is what it is because of what I endured as a child. I waited a long time, late in my life, to truly begin to look at my past, and try to deal with the rage and shame, anger and secrecy. That is an ongoing process for me. The damage inflicted by an abuser is forever. You can deal…you can cope…but the damage is always with you.
As far as how I look at life, I’m thankful for everyday. I’ve been re-evaluating my past for about two years now, and I’ve come to some conclusions about what’s really important. I see all people as having value, something to offer the world. I wasn’t afforded that courtesy as a poor child from the trailer park. I see the innocence of children as a gift to be protected at all costs…God knows, I had no protection as a child. And finally, I have found acceptance, not from others so much, but from myself. My past happened to me. I didn’t deserve it, nor did I cause it. That has been a huge obstacle for me to overcome. I am what I am. My past is my past. I don’t live there anymore. The rest of my life will be the best of my life.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing in March of 2011 as a means of staving off the “empty-nest syndrome.” I wanted to write Mystery/Romance, but my muse was filled with images of an auburn-haired, green-eyed little girl that had been tortured and abused, then forsaken by her protector…her mother. That little girl…was me.
Has writing always been something you wanted to do?
Not really. I am an avid reader. I have probably read 700 books since 2007. I’m also an animated story-teller by nature. I can hold a crowd in stitches with my sometimes gutter vernacular and gesticulations. As I said, I wanted to do something for myself after my girls left the nest. While listening to an audio-book, I thought, “I can do this! I can write as well as this chick can!” Well, it’s a lot harder than it seems. I’m still not sure how well I did with my debut novel, but my reviews on Amazon say it’s not too shabby.
What books/stories have you written? Published?
I’ve written one novel at present, My Prison Without Bars: The Journey of a Damaged Woman to Someplace Normal. I self-published through Createspace (an Amazon Company). You can get the print or Kindle edition on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.
Is your book based on personal experiences?
Yes. Although my novel is written as fiction, it is based on a true story…my story. My characters are real people (the names have been changed of course) and the events (99 percent of them) actually happened.
Is there any advice that you’ve been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?
Research what you are getting in to. Blog! Follow author blogs and really explore the world of publishing/self-publishing. The writing is the easy part. It’s what comes after the manuscript is done that is the hard part. Most of all, believe in yourself. I ventured into this without the intent of publishing. This was more of a journal for me in the beginning. I allowed some of my co-workers to read my work, which resulted in them pushing me to finish the story and publish as a novel. Well, OK then, I’ll do that. Boy was I in for a rude awakening. It’s hard, overwhelming, time consuming work, not to mention expensive.
Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?
It’s the most important aspect of the whole process. When you are consumed by your work, knowing your story, your characters inside and out, you lose perspective. You don’t see the little variances in flow, the redundant phrases, getting off track, story lags because after all, this is your story. I am indebted to a wonderful editor at Createspace. He not only did a copy edit (spelling and grammar) but also a content edit (story flow, sentence structure, and overall writing edit). He made me look and sound a lot better than I am…truly. After my professional edit, I read other books and noticed mistakes that in the past would have slipped by me. It’s a crucial part of the process toward making your work as professional as possible.
What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?
Actually there are two things that come to mind. First, my subject matter. No one wants to publish a taboo subject, and let’s face it, child sexual abuse isn’t exactly dinner conversation. I found five publishing houses accepting open submissions. I was thrilled, then I read the rules for submission. Mid-way down the page, my subject matter was in the “not allowed” categories. I was shutdown before I ever got started. No one was going to give me or my book a chance.
Second, is my ignorance of technology. I’m a CRNFA, certified RN first assistant in open heart surgery. I can take a vein out of a person’s leg through a half-inch incision using a scope, but I had now clue about downloads and uploads, HTML or websites, how to copy and paste, or what a link was. Everything I have done so far, I’ve done on my own…well, there’s also my best friend Mr. Google. I’m most proud of what I have taught my daughters. They were well aware of my computer illiteracy while watching me get doors slammed in my face, lose documents, sit at the computer crying or cussing for hours. Yet, they also saw me succeed. They watched me take a dream and make it a goal…a goal that I reached Dec. 17, 2012, when I launched my debut novel to the world via Amazon. What a great lesson in perseverance to teach your children! According to my reviews, I didn’t do too bad a job!
How did you find time to write your book?
I work six days on, then I have six days off. I’ve let a lot of stuff go in order to write my novel. My children and my husband have taken up a lot of the slack as I poured my heart out with pen and paper. I believe most authors start out writing what they know, I know I did. Often, I found the words just pouring out of me, five or six chapters in a weekend. It was a heady feeling, as well as material for some really vivid nightmares.
Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?
I believe we all do things like writing, for our own reasons. I started merely for something to do to keep from being bored and lonely. Funny though, it’s such a solitary pastime. I find myself lost in my own thoughts and dreams…not always a good place for me to be. Actually, I think the benefit is being able to express your thoughts in their purest state…no interruptions, no censored ideas, no boundaries at all (at least until the editing starts). I’m getting ready to start my next novel, and I almost fear the solitude. Not out of loneliness, but afraid that my exorcism with my last book didn’t work. We’ll see…
Several of my guests have often said that writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?
I can honestly say that writing doesn’t relax me. I relive (at least with this novel) every aspect of the scenes, becoming the characters and finding ways to make the words reach out and grab you. I hope that changes as I begin to write my new novel, that I can let myself go and just enjoy the experience. I’ve spent the last two years of my life consumed with My Prison Without Bars…it’s time to let go and just be free.
Has writing made you a better person?
I would have to say yes, but not just the writing. This whole journey has brought out the best in me. I thought that sharing my dark and dirty secret would mean I would have to live in seclusion for the rest of my life…from shame and guilt. I thought I would have to hang my head and avert my eyes when going to the store or a function at the high school. That hasn’t been the case at all. I have been embraced by my community, friends and strangers alike. Some hug me and cry, while others tell me they are going to buy my book…they’ve heard how good it is and want to read it.
I look at people differently as well as myself. Other people weren’t the problem…I was. I have lived my life in a vacuous rage, pissed at the hand I was dealt, pissed at myself for the choices and decisions I made, and pissed at my mother. Odd, one would think I would be pissed at my abuser…I am, but he’s sick and twisted. There’s nothing to be done for him. He will rot in hell with the rest of the pedophiles. But most of my anger is toward my mother…the woman who should have loved me enough to protect me and take me away from that monster, but didn’t. Having two daughters of my own, it’s harder to wrap my mind around that now. Hopefully, I’ve become a better mother for it.
Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genre and why?
Ahh…an easy question to answer…YES! I’ve read close to 700 books since 2007, either in print or on audio. I’m a voracious reader. I started reading in middle school. In high school someone would buy a trashing romance novel, and we would all take turns reading it…you were given 24 hours to complete the book! I stopped reading for pleasure in nursing school; when you have fifty-nine pages of med-surg to read for a test in the morning and you’re just finishing up your second job for the day, pleasure reading is an oxymoron. I started reading again when Harry Potter came out. I’d heard rumors of bad things, and my children wanted to see the movies and read the books. Better check it out. A friend introduced me to audio-books at the time and I was hooked. I read probably four or five books a week.
As for favorite genre, I love LOVE. I love romance with a good story line and a bit of mystery or suspense mixed in. Why? Because I haven’t had a whole lot of that in my life, so my imagination and my fantasies are brimming to the surface. My favorite love story of all time is Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon, but I also love to read anything by Sandra Brown, Karen Rose or Marie Force. The story is the draw, the romance is the icing on the cake….teehee!
Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?
Reviews are a book’s life blood. Tell me something. When you go to look for a good book, what is the first thing you do? Look at the reviews, right? If a book has several reviews and all above three stars, you peruse the synopsis right? Then you may look inside, read a few paragraphs and ultimately give the book a chance…hopefully. This is what a writer is living for…just a chance for their books to be read…for someone to say, “Hey, this is good!” Even well-known authors need reviews to sell their new releases. As a reader, you hold all the power to make or break the success of a book. So next time you buy a book, take the time to show a little love for your favorite or new author. The tables are turned…your words become the gift.
Have you ever received a bad review? If so, how did it make you feel?
Here is my purchased ($548) Kirkus review. I was crushed, but my friends say it’s not a bad review. You be the judge…
My Prison Without Bars: The Journey of a Damaged Woman to Someplace Normal
Fulks, Taylor Evan
CreateSpace (434 pp.)
$9.65 paperback, $4.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1477646557; Nov. 24, 2012
The disturbing account of real-life physical and sexual child abuse and its long-lasting effects. Escaping into a world of fiction often provides a welcome diversion: the forces of good triumphing over evil and an ending that pleasantly satisfies. This book will not leave you with that feeling. The brutal account includes graphic descriptions of child abuse, both sexual and physical, and is not for the faint of heart. Instead of supernatural or larger-than-life “bad guys,” the demons who haunt the story of Fulks’ childhood are all too real. To her credit, Fulks weaves a compelling narrative with commanding prose and unforgivingly detailed descriptions of truly horrifying experiences. As she moves past her childhood, she intensely describes how her experiences colored even the ordinary aspects of her life, from dating to marriage and even having children. Although there are a few bright spots in her story, the overall tone is indisputably bleak; readers won’t come away believing in the power of positivity. But for being so concerned with issues as serious as those raised here, the narrative maintains a refreshing outlook: Without sugarcoating the problems, Fulks trusts the reader enough to lay everything out on the table, no matter how gruesome or shocking.
The horrors described are truly harrowing, but if readers can make it through, they’ll likely come away changed and perhaps with a sharper perspective on the terrible long-term effects of child abuse. The reality might just be too real. A detailed, deftly told narrative that will shock even the stoutest readers.
I received this on Christmas Eve 2012. I was devastated. Not because it was so bad in my eyes, but because I had paid so much for a prestigious reviewer (according to industry insiders) to basically tell me what I already knew…it’s a dark and disturbing book. As far as review content, I disagree with the notion that it’s “bleak; reader’s won’t come away believing in the power of positivity.” I don’t know what they think they read, or what world they live in, but I survived damn it! That alone is a positive, not to mention I’m educated, hard working, and I don’t abuse my children. The fact that I didn’t write about rainbows, buttercups and unicorns laced with “happily ever-after” doesn’t mean it’s bleak. As for “the reality might be too real,” I am amazed that in our society we can read a three-book series about BDSM that’s all the rage (and good for her…I mean that sincerely) or read about zombies committing carnage, or read of serial killers and the details of their sick proclivities…that’s good fiction. But when I fictionalize my own experiences using details no more graphic than they do…my fiction is too real. I guess I should be proud of that. My book in all its smallness can “shock even the stoutest readers.” Well if you’re a stout reader you can find my book on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.
Taylor Evan Fulks is the author of My Prison Without Bars: The Journey of a Damaged Woman to Someplace Normal. Become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, check out her blog and watch this heart-breaking but inspiring book trailer.
Jason, I want to thank you for interviewing me. I truly appreciate the opportunity. I have been turned down by other bloggers, I’m sure because of the subject matter. Thank you for being the bold one in the crowd. You are top-shelf in my book.