It’s my genuine pleasure to feature Dennis Fulgoni on today’s Author Spotlight. Among other things, Dennis is a fellow Antioch Alum (he sat next to me at our graduation ceremony) and a great friend. He won an Intro Journals Award, a Kirkwood Award for Fiction, and a Special Mention in the Pushcart Prize. He’s taken his keen eye for prose to my manuscripts often. If you’re a fan of my prose, you’re a fan of his editing as well. His fingerprints live on my work, and they’re better for it. I hope you benefit from his wisdom as much as I have.
DF: I’ve been writing since I was 16, so around 28 years. When I first started, I wrote Twilight-Zone types of short stories. Everything needed an eerie twist. I tried to infuse some humanistic themes into the stories as well. My high school English teacher, Ms. Hanson, would read these stories to our World Literature class on Friday mornings. I always got an amazing response from the audience, and as I was not a terribly good student in high school, the attention I received for something I’d created at school was pretty amazing. I became addicted. So I kept writing on my own, and I began to read more serious literature: Camus, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare. When I went to college, I jumped around, majoring in business law, then anthropology, and finally settling on English literature. I took writing classes and joined the Creative Writing Club which met in the back room of an Italian restaurant, Garfano’s. We all got drunk and read our stories and poems. We laughed, became enraged, banged on table tops, drew inspiration from each other…it was glorious and I was in love with it all. I finally decided to pursue graduate studies in writing, first at San Francisco State, then at CSULA and UCLA, and then finally at Antioch for my MFA. I’ve been writing off and on for all those years, publishing in journals; winning a prize here and there; my writing no longer has those flashy twists; I guess you could say it’s a lot more literary now…in the vein of say Tobias Wolff, Raymond Carver, or Flannery O’Connor…but I think what I learned about audience response in high school has stuck with me all these years; if you can surprise, you should, especially if the surprise is organic and inevitable. Lately, I’m putting in more of a consorted effort into the writing, and find myself writing close to every day. This is a blessing and a need for me.
AG: Why did you decide to become a writer?
DF: Definitely the feeling I get from writing, which is like nothing else in my life. And also the feeling I get when I read something to an audience, or when someone approaches me to tell me they’ve read one of my stories and it’s moved them in some way. That’s addicting for sure. When I’m really into a story or a novel, it’s as if nothing else matters in the world. That’s kind of a selfish feeling, I suppose, but one I relish. The things that may nag at me during the day tend to disappear and are replaced by these great creative juices that take precedence over everything else. I’ve heard many writers say that writing “saved” them. That sometimes sounds corny to me. But honestly I feel the same way. Without it in my life, I really do feel I’d be lost. It gives me a purpose, and beyond that, a lens through which I can see the world and make sense of my own experiences. It’s like creating your own experience all over again but in this sort of perfect, artistic way. That is not to say I romanticize things, or that everything I write about has to do with my personal experience (often my best stuff comes from something I’ve read about, or overheard); but I’m able to mull things over when I write, and shape them in a way that has real meaning for me. Life goes by so quickly, but with writing I have time to think, and mold, and remold. Writing gives my life an aesthetic that really helps me to understand myself and the world around me. It is essential to my happiness.
AG: What is the one piece of writing advice you wish you’d had at the beginning of your career.
DF: Well, you hear writers shouting from the rooftops, “Write every day!” You also hear from many of these same writers: “You can’t wait for inspiration, or the muse, to knock on your door. You’ve got to drag him, cigar dangling from the corner of his mouth, into your office!” I think both of those things are true, although I get sick of hearing them repeated. But if I had listened to that advice a little better in my youth, and if I had applied it, I think it would have helped my writing a great deal. I think it really is about discipline. Like everything we do, the more we practice the better we get to a point. I think making it a daily part of my life earlier would have been beneficial for me, and would have sped things up for me in a way that I would have liked. I had full time jobs teaching and coordinating; I had a family to raise. But those are really just excuses. At this point in my life, I intend to follow that advice more closely; to make writing a routine in my life. This not only improves the writing, it improves the soul.
AG: What are you currently working on? Any special projects?
Yes, I am working on a novel called All Good Killers. In many ways this book is very personal to me. It is loosely based on some people I grew up with in the 80’s. It has a rich sense—I hope anyway—of place (Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Boyle Heights…places I grew up). The writing of this novel has been slow at times but always exciting for me. I love the main character and his vulnerability. I also love the girl he falls for, even if she is wrong for him. The novel is set during the Richard Ramirez killing spree in Los Angeles. Ramirez serves as a backdrop of tension…as he forges on with his killing sprees, he moves closer and closer to the main character’s house. It creates a wonderful tension in the book I think. Well, lo and behold, two days ago, I learned that Ramirez had died in prison. He was pretty young, and on death row, and this sort of shocked me that he’d died from natural causes in the hospital. I started getting all these texts from people saying “Better get your book out now, Ramirez is in the news!” This gives me further impetus to write, but I have to admit I started to get anxious. The more I thought about it, though, the more I thought: “What am I getting anxious about?” The book is about more than Ramirez; I plan to finish the second draft this summer, without rushing it, so I can market it in the fall.
AG: What do you have coming out next? What do your fans have to look forward to.
I hope that folks will look forward to All Good Killers. In the more immediate present, I have a story called Thunder out in the Hawai’i Review this summer, as well as in an anthology called Literary Pasadena. The latter can be found at Amazon.com or at bookstores in the L.A. area, most notably Vroman’s bookstore in Pasadena, which helped promote it heavily. I also have a story I’m very proud of called At the Broken Places which can be found online at Black Heart Magazine. This was a very interesting story for me to write, very different from anything I’ve written, and I’m happy with the outcome.
AG: How can my readers find out more about you and your work?
Readers can find out more about me and my work by Googling my name! In addition to those stories mentioned above, I have something at The Citron Review called Impact that I like very much. I don’t have a website up yet, although I suppose I should in the near future. For now, read some of my stories online or buy Literary Pasadena or New Stories from the Southwest. I’m focusing on finishing my novel before I go more electronic with my bio.