"I love the collaborative arts," said Richard Fulco, the founder and editor of online Riffraf magazine and the author of the novel There Is No End to This Slope. Fulco has an MFA in playwriting from Brooklyn College, and has taught writing at the high school and college levels. "But I realized that I wasn't much of a collaborator. I much prefer to sit by myself and write by myself."
In There Is No End to This Slope, Fulco's first novel, a textbook salesman and aspiring writer named John Lenza navigates a series of poor decisions between 2002 and 2005 as he struggles with ennui and lingering guilt from the death of a childhood friend. Fulco worked on There Is No End to This Slope, which is set in Brooklyn, N.Y., on and off for close to seven years, gradually turning the story from a one-act play to a full-length play and then into a 257-page novel. He finished up the novel while taking a break from teaching to stay at home and help raise his twins, Chloe and Connor.
"This book is a tragic comedy," explained Fulco. "It's really about a man who wants more out of life, but doesn't quite know what that is. Which I think is kind of the dilemma of the modern man and woman in the 21st century. This guy makes one bad decision after another, and I want people to laugh at the humor and the tragedy of it."
Music has as large a role in Fulco's own life as it does in that of his fictional protagonist's; John is very passionate about music, and as a collector of vinyl is something of a relic of the past, struggling to keep up. In earlier drafts of the novel, there were quite a few song lyrics, Fulco added, laughing, but "then I realized I had to pay for the lyrics." And Fulco's own love of music led him to creating the music blog Riffraf four years ago.
"I was really missing music," Fulco said. "I felt too old to go out and play gigs anymore, which wasn't really the case but I felt old, and my wife said, 'Why don't you write about music?' I didn't want it to be a blog about my favorite bands. I don't think people really give a s**t about that sort of thing. I'm more interested in history, in songs that were lost or haven't been heard enough, in the craft of songwriting. It really got started with a feature on great rock photographers."
At the beginning, Fulco was posting on Riffraf around once per week. That turned into twice per week, then three times per week, and finally five days per week. After about two years, Riffraf went from a hobby to something "serious" when Fulco began hiring writers. And through Riffraf, Fulco came into contact with Wampus Multimedia, a record label and book publisher and publisher of There Is No End to This Slope.
"Mark Doyon, the creative director at Wampus, would post things about the Kinks on Facebook, he would read the blog and leave comments, and we realized that we liked a lot of the same music," Fulco said. "When I finished the book, I had Mark in the back of my mind. I gave him the book, and I thought he'd give me feedback, maybe send me to the right publisher because Wampus didn't publish fiction."
But, as it turned out, Doyon was thinking of branching out into literary fiction, and as Fulco put it, he "completely got the novel." The book was officially on shelves on March 18, with a launch party held at the KGB Bar in New York City, on March 29. There, Fuclo read excerpts from There Is No End to This Slope and discussed with fellow novelist Peter Melman how he writes, the story's transition from a one-act play to a novel, and the excitement and anxiety of finally having the book out in the world. Joked Fulco, about the response to the novel: "It could be Starship's 'We Built This City.' "
From his experience as a musician and as a playwright, Fulco knows how difficult it is to find like-minded, creative people. "Mark told me to never underestimate the people who get you. He's a great champion of mine; I've never had a collaborator like that in my corner," Fulco said. "I never had that in the theater. It's so hard to find that chemistry--you have to hold onto that for dear life." --Alex Mutter