On this cloudy and cool Friday morning, I hop into my transporter, pick up this week's featured author and we soon find ourselves at the end of a dock overlooking one of Wisconsin's many lakes. It's still cool here in the northern country, so we've brought along a thermos of hot chocolate and unbeknownst to me until that first sip, she's spiked the cocoa with a touch of Bailey's Irish Cream. Yowza! We discuss the upcoming fishing season and relaxing with our toes in the sand. Then, it's on to the questions...
1. Who is J. R. Turner and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
I'm your average Wisconsin homemaker. I bake, plan birthday parties, shuttle the kids to boy scouts and girl scouts, walk the dog, garden, and make quilts, crochet, knit, and other artsy fartsy things. Most likely my neighbors would consider my career as an author and all my travels interesting.
2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
Gosh, I'm pretty much an open book (no pun intended!) I used to have a black thumb. I killed those plants that are supposed to take care of themselves. Even murdered a cactus! You'd never guess looking at my garden and the massive amount of houseplants I have now. This is one of those things, y'know? After all the green death in my life, I saw keeping a plant alive as a challenge. Through research and practice, I gained the skills needed to grow and maintain healthy plants. I love the challenge of fixing a "weakness" I find in myself.
3. What interested you to be become a writer rather than something else such as becoming trapeze artist?
I love stories. I had rough life, seriously rough. I bounced between relatives a lot, and many were not the best role models. My family was always involved in the arts—most juggling music and art in some form or another. When I was 15, I began working as a contract artist, covering the overflow for my mom. Painting was just a way to make a buck for me though. Maybe it was because my parents were so very talented. Whatever the reason, I know that no matter what school I went to, or what apartment I lived in, there was always a library nearby. I spent hours there, enjoying the cleanliness and temperature control—and the silence. The pure joy of burying myself in other places and people never left me. I always wrote, but it wasn't until 1999, when I got my first computer, that I decided to attempt it professionally.
4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
Dean Koontz—for his love of language. Julie Garwood—for her amazing sense of humor. Stephen King—for being an amazing author (and to make my husband jealous!) And if the dead could show up wanting more than just brains for dinner—I'd love to dine with Margaret Mitchell and Mark Twain. The bravery of their social commentary through their entertainment is something I find fascinating.
5. If I were stranded on a deserted island (or suffering a four hour layover at the airport), why would your book(s) be great company?
Oh, they have so much going on in each of them! Romance and explosions in my earlier works, and spine-tingling ghosts, demons, and monsters in my newer books. Because they're designed to be a fast read, there wouldn't be any trouble passing the time.
6. Share the Turner process of writing in regards to: idea and character development, story outline, research (do you Google, visit places/people or make it up on the spot?), writing schedule, editing, and number of rewrites.
I generally write early in the morning. Five a.m. seems to be the ideal for me—though I don't know why. When I was an artist, I worked all through the night. As a writer, my best time is that space between sleep and just waking up. Maybe I can slide between realities from a dream-state better. When I'm developing a story, I prefer to write the first three chapters without constraint or research. If those three chapters work for me, then I'll stop and learn what I need to complete the book. I like to use personal journals online to gain insight to what my characters might experience and Google to 'see' locations.
I use an outline, generally a very loose scene-by-scene outline that is subject to change as I get deeper into the story. When I need to get submerged in the reality I'm creating, I like to do 10K Days—an event where the author aims to write 10,000 words in one day. The most I've ever written in one day was 23,000 words. I was very exhausted—but fully invested in my novel at the end. For rewrites, I generally do a story/plot edit, another round for characterization, and another round for technical issues like grammar errors or typos.
7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
Just write. Your natural process will only emerge once you're doing the work of translating the idea to the page. There are no shortcuts for a writer to learn, there's only the way that works best for the individual. Above all though, have fun! If you're not having fun, the reader won't be either.
8. I saw a great T-shirt the other day which read ‘Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
Mine are "Don't sweat the small stuff" and "Choose your battles wisely." Not so much because I live by them, but because I need to constantly remind myself of these two axioms. I'm getting better as I age, though!
9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
I almost did stop writing, but I couldn't stay away long. I'm working on Detour 2 Death now, it's the 3rd book in the Extreme Haunting series. I've been invited to write as many books in this series as I like, so I'll be busy for years to come. Beyond this, however, I'm now an acquiring editor for Echelon Press and in my spare time, I'm putting together a line of supernatural/urban fantasy books for adults. Not so much a series as it is a genre I'm drawn to. Currently, I've completed Racing the Moon—a book about werewolves written ala Jurassic Park and an urban fantasy ala Frank Miller titled Redemption. Both are fun books with a lot of world-building and research involved.
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
I can always be found on my website: http://www.jennifer-turner.com and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/JRTurner17 and on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JRTurner
Thank you so much for letting me spend some time with you and your readers, Stephen!