An Interview with Taylor Fulks: Author & Registered Nurse
Sylvia: Welcome Taylor. Please give our readers an introduction of yourself and a little about your book.
Taylor: Hello everyone! My name is Taylor Fulks~ Author of “My Prison Without Bars: The Journey of a Damaged Woman to Someplace Normal.” It feels very odd to call myself an author. I am a practicing Registered Nurse First Assistant, specializing in Open Heart Surgery to pay the bills. I’m also a wife, a mother of two very challenging (in a good way) adult daughters, and an ardent “nocturnal gardener” due to my ongoing fight with skin cancer. I reside in a quaint and picturesque town in Southern Ohio, along the banks of the Ohio River.
My Prison Without Bars, my debut novel, was chosen as the 2013 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award Gold Medal Winner for Realistic Fiction and is the 2013 Indie Reader’s Discovery Award 1st Place Winner in the Sexuality/Relationships category.
My Prison Without Bars is a courageous and harrowing journey through the catacombs of hell, from the mind and voice of a little girl, living with her own monster underneath her bed. Written in first person, this novel is not a memoir but more psychological thriller, based on a true story…my story, chronicling one woman’s attempt to claw her way out of the darkness of child sexual abuse, while struggling to find normal, in a not-so-normal world.
It is poignant, dark and graphic; not for the faint of heart.
Have you ever lived with a shameful secret? Afraid that someone or
something would ‘rat’ you out…exposing your demons for the entire world to see? Have you ever been in so much darkness that you didn’t know how to find the light? If so, then you will no doubt identify with my story; a saga much like Sapphire’s Push, that became the Academy Award-winning movie, Precious.
Sylvia: Wow, what a story. No little girl should have to endure such a horrific ordeal. What inspired you to write your first book?
Taylor: Truthfully, I didn’t set out to write this particular book at all. I wanted to be a mystery/romance writer. I’m a voracious reader! I’ve read over seven hundred books since 2007, so I flippantly reasoned, “How hard can it be?” I’m also a storyteller, though my audience is listening to me ramble on, watching me gesticulate with my hands (I’d explode if you tied them behind my back) rather than reading my words.
I sat down to write a romance that had been percolating in my head, but found I couldn’t write. I hadn’t lost my muse…I didn’t have one. All I could hear was a little girl inside my head, inside of me, begging for a voice. So, I finally listened.
In the beginning, I wrote about the abuse I endured, tentatively, innocuously, without detail or description, leaving it to the reader’s imagination as to the horror a child suffers at the hands of an abuser. I was completing chapter sixteen of my forty chapter novel when the Penn State, Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal broke into the national headlines.
In the beginning, I was elated; absolutely thrilled with the stance the University and the NCAA took in regards to Joe Paterno’s culpability, stripping him of his awards and accolades. They even removed a statue of him from the University campus. I was ecstatic with the arrest and prosecution of Jerry Sandusky, now a convicted pedophile.
I watched like a hawk, for stories from the victims, some quite young, but all I saw were grossly edited snippets of interviews that minimized the severity, and sometimes questioned the validity of the abuse. Then the day of reckoning came…a day that altered my life forever. I watched a group of students, administrators, and staff from Penn State stand in front of a TV camera and cry foul! One middle-age man said right into the camera, with unflinching eyes, “The punishment is too harsh for the crime!”
I have known rage in my life, feelings of anger so toxic, it’s quite frightening, but I had never amassed and embraced this level of insanity. I was possessed! I didn’t think. I didn’t process or calculate what I was about to do. I just reacted.
I shredded the first eight chapters of my novel and sat down to begin again…this time, in graphic detail. I didn’t consciously think through the consequences of telling my story, at least the consequences to me, personally. I did discuss it with my daughters, assuring them I wouldn’t publish if they were the least bit against it. Both girls came back at me with a resounding “Go for it, Mom!”
Raw, blatant honesty became my mission statement!
The words poured out of me like a faucet with a busted valve. I wrote with rage and fury, letting the words and experiences flow from the depths of my soul. I wrote until my hand cramped and my fingers were numb…then I cried. I cried for myself, and then for all the innocent children that are lost and have no voice. I would be their voice.
So, for good or bad, I laid myself naked and exposed to the world (or at least to the few friends that I thought would actually read my book). I bared myself before the world to be judged, criticized and condemned. I left nothing to the imagination…I take the reader far beyond what is comfortable, and far beyond what most would consider appropriate. I make no apologies for how I’ve chosen to write my book. It is dark, disturbing, and graphic, but then, so is child sexual abuse. I have told my truth…and now I’m free!
Taylor: Actually, I have a few messages or themes; I hope people pick up on these when reading my book.
- Tell! Tell any and everyone you can who will listen and help you find help…don’t live in darkness; there is a way into the light.
- You cannot truly love others until you learn to love yourself…flaws and all.
- Abuse is not something you deserve, nor is it something you did or brought upon yourself…it is something that was “done to you” and you are not to blame.
- You must never settle for crumbs. Love passionately, love deeply, and love yourself that way…you can’t love another, cherish another, until you do this for yourself.
- Forgiveness…if you can’t forgive the transgressor, that’s OK. But you must allow you, to forgive yourself for the things you think you could have done differently.
- You can survive and thrive…there is a secret place inside all of us that stores our inner strength. You must go there and harness it, grab on to it with everything in you, and allow yourself to be free.
- Find and embrace acceptance. You may not be able to change the past, but you can accept it for what it is…the past…and move on. You don’t live there anymore. Make your new journey one of finding peace. It’s out there for all of us.
Sylvia: Very important messages! Do you have any advice for other writers?
Taylor: I’m new to the publishing arena, so I feel quite inept to give advice to anyone concerning writing. But if I were to give one piece of advice, it would have to be…research.
Know what you are getting into before you set out to publish. If you’re just writing for your own enjoyment, by all means, do so. But if you are serious about publishing your work, you must do your homework. The writing is the easy part; cover art, formatting, and editing are relatively easy as well. It’s the marketing that is the real job ahead of you. You may have written the next big blockbuster/bestseller, but if you don’t get it in the hands of readers, it will sit collecting digital or literal dust, on your bookshelf.
Sylvia: What marketing techniques have you used to sell your books and which ones have been most successful?
Taylor: I am with KDP Select; meaning I am exclusive to Amazon. There are arguments for and against this program. If you are an established author, traditionally published, or an INDIE author with several books in your repertoire, then this is probably not the route you should go. But as a self-published author, I have found the perks to be most helpful. I’m also of a mind that if you can’t find it on Amazon, it doesn’t exist.
I took advantage of the “free promo” options. I had 8000 downloads of my book in two days. I scheduled my free promo on a weekend (two days). I’ve seen a few people on Twitter posting about their free promo on week days. To me, this isn’t wise. People work during the week. You want to concentrate on the days when people are most likely going to be home and hopefully on the computer….duh!…the weekend!
Next, I planned this promo three weeks in advance. I created an event on Goodreads (they mass email their readers, and I joined the Booksy Cup FreeKindle Group and posted my event there…be sure to post on the page and not in the comments section…I almost screwed the pooch with that mistake). I also bought a one month add on Goodreads. I don’t really think that helped. I had 38, 000 clicks and only 1 sale.
My hospital has three divisions (three separate hospitals) and I went to the public relations department and asked them to post in our monthly newsletter….they did!
I put fliers up in the elevators and high traffic areas of the hospital. I didn’t feel I was soliciting (which is against the rules) because I wasn’t selling anything, but giving something away for free. The fliers stayed up! I also put fliers up in the high school since many of my daughters friends have already read my book (to my mortification…but kids will read what you don’t want them to). Of course I did the obvious with the social stuff; I posted an event on Facebook and tweeted on Twitter like it was my day job!
The last and probably most effective thing I did was use www.freebooksy.com on Facebook. I truly feel this was the reason I had so many downloads of my book. For $100 USD you get a one day add that goes out in a mass email to all their READERS (that’s what you want, and there are almost 74,000 of them) a multitude of tweets, and all of Facebook flooded with your FreeKindle Promotion. Well worth the $100 investment, I think. I actually saw the ad for my book pass on my news-feed twice on Saturday.
I have used every free promo site I can find here in the States, and in the UK and Canada.
I have used paid promotional companies like Shelf Unbound book review magazine reaches more than 125,000 readers in the United States and 58 countries around the globe. Read the latest issue of Shelf Unbound here: http://issuu.com/shelfunbound/docs/shelf_unbound_august-september_2013.
Shelf Unbound is a 2013 Maggie Award finalist for Best Digital-Only Magazine and a recipient of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Honoring Excellence Award.
Shelf Unbound is proud to be a part of the Sips Card distribution network, which puts short fiction and poetry into local coffee shops around the country. www.sipscard.com
I have recently purchased a promo package from www.BookBuzzr.net that encompasses national press releases nationwide, as well as abroad, as I am going to Miami for the Readers Favorite International Book Awards ceremony. I’m hoping to really boost my sales. You can contact Amanda at info@BookBuzz.net for more information.
As far as what I feel has helped me the most…entering contests. The PR and exposure from contest sites has definitely been my biggest selling point. When I won the INDIE READERS DISCOVERY AWARD (hosted by Amazon’s Createspace) in June, and went to the ceremony in NYC at the Book Expo of America, my sales increased exponentially.
Sylvia: This is great marketing information. Thank you for sharing it with my readers. Why should we buy your book?
Taylor: Ha! I’m probably going to shock you with my answer. I NEVER ask anyone to buy, read, or review my book. I wish I could say, “It’s a nice weekend read.” But it’s not. It’s not the type of book I can say, “Hey, snuggle up with a blanket next to the fire, sip cocoa, and read my great book.” The reader must choose to take the journey I describe in my book.
We all like neat and tidy, the girl gets the guy, and happily-ever-after. My Prison Without Bars is none of those things, unfortunately. My book is the raw, unfiltered truth about child sexual abuse. Reading it has to be a choice the reader makes with the understanding that nothing is held back, or sugar-coated. It is NOT a memoir. It is a NOVEL based on a true story…my story.
It’s a sad truth. That which we fear, that which we don’t understand, we shun. Society and abusers hone and cultivate victims of child sexual abuse into becoming gatekeepers of secrecy. It’s a shameful, taboo subject that dates back to biblical times, yet we don’t talk about it. We don’t like things that push the envelope, cross boundaries or make us uncomfortable. We like neat and tidy.
Child Sexual Abuse is Shameful in the minds of most people in society. It’s something very hard to wrap your mind around. The mind is a compensatory organ, a flesh and blood computer if you will, allowing a plethora of knowledge and feeling to flow through its pathways…yet, always filtering and camouflaging some things, buffering and blocking others, and shutting off completely when it’s unable to handle, or compute. In other words, it makes sure the soul can handle the download of images (real or perceived) and information. And therein lays the problem with Child Sexual Abuse. We hear those three words and our minds will only allow us to imagine so far before we filter, buffer, block, or completely shut off the things too unpleasant to handle. My mission became clear…I had to take the reader to that dark, dismal, shameful place no one ever talks about, and with my written words…make them feel.
I will make this guarantee…This book will make you feel!
Sylvia: Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
Taylor: In my bio, I said I have an ongoing battle with skin cancer. For that reason, I built a covered deck in my back yard. I have three ceiling fans going in the summer, and a wood burning stove for writing in the winter. I go out there to write…I can talk out loud to work out dialogue, and my “little nest” affords me great privacy. I work out there until I can’t tolerate the cold any longer.
Sylvia: What projects are you currently working on?
Taylor: I have started working on my second novel, Sins of My Father, the mystery/romance I had intended to write from the beginning. This is another novel based on a true story, but totally different: this one is a true labor of love.
Sylvia: What is your POWER WORD? Why this word?
Taylor: My power word is WARRIOR. I hate the words victim and survivor when speaking or reading about child sexual abuse. No one’s hell is any worse than someone else’s…Yet while we are there, we endure it alone! Those who have endured their own demons, fought and clawed their way out of hell, and have actively searched for the light…WE ARE WARRIORS!
Sylvia: thank you Taylor! Please share your social media and book contact information.
Taylor: Sylvia, I can’t thank you enough for inviting me to post on your site. It has been an honor and a privilege.
- Website: www.taylorfulks.com
- Book: viewBook.at/MyPrisonWithoutBarsTheJourneyofaDamagedWomant
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/taylorevanfulks
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/TaylorTfulks20
- Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16109612-my-prison-without-bars