Multidisciplinary Writing:

An Interview with Wesley Fulkerson

July 9, 2024

Wesley (W.A.) Fulkerson is an accomplished author and screenwriter with experience in fiction and nonfiction. He will be an editor for A Year in Ink, Volume 18, having a full circle-esque moment from his days of self-publishing. He lent his time and personality to answer a few questions about the writing world; read on and be inspired.

 

 

Kristina Markovska: You’ve written nearly twenty books and have a new one coming out as well. While writing these novels, has your writing process stayed consistent? If not, how has it changed?

 

Wesley Fulkerson: G.K. Chesterton has a great quote that’s really affected me as a writer. He says, “The true tragedy of the artistic temperament is that it produces no art.” The first time I heard that I felt really chastened because I used to make too big of a deal about having the ideal writing conditions; I thought I had to be understood by everyone; I would get angsty about my story, etc. And at the end of the day, being uptight about my process didn’t help me produce more (or better) novels. So I’d say my process hasn’t changed so much as my approach to the process has. I still research the same way, outline and dream up stories in a very similar way, but I’ve learned to be much more relaxed and hopefully humble about the whole process. I care deeply about stories and I do think they’re important—but at the end of the day, it’s just a book. I do better work when I can lighten up and just enjoy crafting something new.

 

KM: How would you compare your first book to your most recent in terms of what was most difficult about it?

 

WF: Editing was the most difficult part of writing for me to learn, and that was especially apparent when I wrote my first novel, Starfall. Years later, we actually went back and did a re-edit on the whole thing because the story was there, but I just didn’t have the ability to objectively evaluate my own work (or to accept enough direction from the editors) the first time it came out, and that showed in the first edition. I just had no idea where to start the refining process. Now, some 12 years down the road, editing feels much more natural and helpful. In my most recent book, The Weathermen, I didn’t see the editing and rewriting process as some big, daunting, confusing task, but as an opportunity to really make the book shine. Knowing how to effectively edit and having much more experience helps, naturally, so not only is it a mindset shift, but also the experience and the craft that I’ve learned enable me to carry out the editing process with confidence now.

 

KM: You started out as a self-published author before being represented in the traditional route. How does self-publishing affect your sense of accomplishment?

 

WF: This might be an unpopular opinion, but having done both traditional and self-publishing… I prefer self-publishing. It felt like a big accomplishment when I got my first agent and my first real book deal, but at the end of the day, publishing is very much an industry in transition, and in many ways the model doesn’t fit the modern world. I’ve had a lot more freedom and financial success with my independent books, and unless something changes, that’s the route I’m going to be taking with novels for a while. Non-fiction is a little bit of a different animal, in my opinion, and I do work with some publishers in that arena. But as far as connecting with fans through a story is concerned, I don’t see self-publishing as a lesser accomplishment. If my books reach people who are touched by them, if they treasure my books and share them with their friends, then it doesn’t matter to me if New York approves.

 

KM: What aspects of screenwriting have made your books stronger, and vice versa?

 

WF: Screenwriting is a very disciplined medium of writing in that you only have 90-120 pages to tell your story (no more and no less), 40 notecards to outline your story, and you have to hit on all the important beats but in such a way that the story is still impactful, organic, and original. Simply accepting the rigor of screenwriting has made my novels tighter, I think. Good novels are able to move at a slower pace than screenplays, but screenwriting has helped me to identify what does and does not belong in a story.

 

KM: Save My Seoul is an award-winning film that dives into sex trafficking in South Korea. How did you approach writing such a heavy topic?

 

WF: It was a difficult process. Just doing the research necessary to do a good job with that script was very emotionally taxing and heartbreaking. But the team at Jubilee had done a wonderful job capturing important moments on film, and the topic is so important, that I knew I had to find a way to help viewers be able to interact with these ideas for an hour and a half. To that end, my outline started with emotions, rather than with content. So, just to make up an example, the outline looked like: Intrigue – curiosity – delight – gratitude – worry – relief – etc., and then I would match content to the emotional path I had laid out. The first cuts of the film I saw when I was first brought in were either so soul-crushingly dark that the audience would just withdraw and check out, or they swung too far to the comic relief side, and it felt too flippant for something so important. So the way we fixed that was by being sensitive to and managing the viewer’s emotional journey.

 

KM: You have worked as a freelancer and as a writer/instructor at certain studios. What are some benefits to both types of work as a writer? Do you prefer one over the other?

 

WF: Every gig has its own pros and cons. At the end of the day, I feel like I have a story to tell, and when possible I enjoy seeing others learn how to tell their stories, too. Whether that’s working on a project with a big team or hiding in a corner somewhere dreaming up a novel, I just feel lucky to be able to write so much.

 

KM: How would you describe your teaching style? How has your own writing influenced your teaching style?

 

WF: I’ve heard students describe my style as “disarming,” and that’s something I really strive for. I want people to feel like they don’t have to be intimidated by the scope of the task before them. I am fairly technical when I explain the craft of writing, but I try to do it with a lot of humor, real-life examples, and encouragement. In my own writing, I tend to trade in big ideas, and I think that bleeds into my teaching style as well.

 

KM: What advice do you have for other writers?

 

VS: Write. Don’t be above receiving good criticism. Don’t accept bad criticism. Your third book is going to be far better than your first, and your sixth is going to be a lot better than your third, so keep your eyes open, always be learning and analyzing, and write another play/book/poem/screenplay/song/article/etc. Keep writing.

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