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J.R. Turner Interview

By on January 6, 2012

I recently had a chance to conduct an online interview with J.R. Turner. A fitting avenue considering her newest dark fantasy novel “Redemption” is available exclusively in e-book form. JR is an award winning writer, editor, and the current executive director of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association.

JNC: Your newest e-book “Redemption” is full of resurrection, demons, and mutants. What do you do in preparation for writing a dark fantasy of this type?

JRT: I wrote this book in 2009. At the time, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a few months to live. Of course this was devastating to me and as usual, I turned to writing to explore my feelings. I always wanted to do a straight up paranormal book and considering the life and death issues I was dealing with, the themes of heaven and hell, good and evil, choices and their consequences seemed the natural go-to elements for this book. Plus, I was having confidence issues with my writing ability and I thought “redemption” was a great personal motto to work with. Eventually, this became the title of the book as both Savannah and I sought our redemption on those pages.

JNC: It sounds like this project started as a very personal adventure. I know for myself writing is a superb way of exploring yourself (like all forms of art). Did you take away anything lasting from writing this book?

JRT: My personal transformation over the course of writing Redemption was dramatic. I was very dedicated to exploring my own morality. Savannah’s secret guilt, the reason she has a chance to earn her redemption, worked directly off my secrets and guilt, something we all have. By working to convey a heroine who did something so terrible, so awful, in a sympathetic way, it forced me to look at the darkness inside of myself and embrace everything I feared facing. I came out of this book a lot less self-condemning and with a lot more self-esteem. In other words, I found myself at peace with my own fallibilities. It’s okay to not be perfect, to make mistakes, to be human—something I surprisingly never allowed myself before.

JNC: There are mutant creatures in the book called “revenants” with a taste for human. Are these creatures that will seem familiar to my fellow zombie fanatics or are they something else entirely?

JRT: Oh, I  am such a zombie-holic! While there are direct references to some of my more favorite directors, writers, and films throughout the book–the revenants are more mutants than zombies. Think “I Am Legend” with Will Smith and “Priest” with Paul Bettany and you’ll be closer to my vision. These creatures were never really human, but descendants of those immune humans who survived the bio-toxin bombing that destroyed the world.

JNC: It sounds like you, much like myself, consume a lot of horror related entertainment. Is there anyone or anything out there in the genre that’s had a particular influence on your career?

JRT: George A. Romero! This guy takes horror to an intimate level by exploring societal issues within his movies and scripts. There’s a fantastic underlying element of class distinction, of good people forced to make bad choices because there are no good ones. This is fascinating to me. What if in order to save yourself you had to watch many people die horribly? These sorts of questions are often touched on in the horror genre, but Romero does an excellent job of making it the focal point of many of his stories. He rocks!

JNC: You mentioned earlier you wanted to write a “straight up paranormal book.” Have you ever experienced anything on the supernatural side?

JRT: I’d love to say yes because the few moments in my life that ‘felt’ supernatural are important to me. For example, shortly after my brother died in a car accident, I was overcome with grief as I did my daily cleaning. I remember closing my eyes and sobbing from the sudden agony of his passing. Then, the scent of him and warmth, like a hug, surrounded me and the pain became immediately bearable. Part of me wishes my brother came back for a brief moment to comfort me. Another part of me believes it was my brain’s way of dealing with the grief. Who knows for sure? In the end, I prefer having a visit from brother.

JNC: You’ve several books available in e-book form. The ease of digital publishing is changing the literary world completely. Anyone with an idea, the drive, and a small amount of capital can publish their book. It’s given rise to a sort of underground punk rock sort of writer. People who are by-passing more traditional publishing routes. Do you have any advice for any of these D.I.Y. writers out there?

JRT: While I’m not self-published—there are times I really wish I was! When I began in 1999, the publishing industry was very, very different. We were taught by the alumni in the field that self-publishing was career suicide. Of course that’s no longer the case and I encourage every single author out there to self-publish at least a portion of their work. Today, the alumni (and me!) are saying: Self-publishing badly edited books is career suicide. So if you do decide to go this route, either invest in a great editor, or find some highly skilled people to polish your book.

JNC: For any of these “Literary Ramones” out there could you elaborate on what sort of “highly skilled” people?

JRT: It can be hard to find professionals who have time to help a new author. However, there are ways to offer your support to up and coming professionals who will, if personalities click and friendships develop, offer their (or their friend’s) expertise. Writing groups and organizations were designed for exactly this purpose–just choose one in the genre you write.

When it comes to purchasing the opinion of professionals, do your homework. There’s nothing more disheartening for a romance author than to get feedback from a skilled person who thinks the genre is beneath his or her respect. Find someone who is an expert in the genre you write. Think small at first. You may get a lot more help (and spend a lot less money) if you choose to get feedback on a single chapter, rather than a whole novel. Don’t waste time (and money) having the expert read something other than the very, very best you have to offer.

JNC: Lots of people want to be writers and the first step is always the hardest. What would you like to say to any aspiring writers who are reading this now?

JRT: If you don’t have discipline, you’re going to have a very long road ahead of you. As with anyone who is self-employed, you must be determined to set and meet your own deadlines–even if it means giving up your birthday or forgoing a concert you wanted to attend. My advice is to first determine if you love writing more than a social life, and then work on discovering what it is you’re actually meant to write.

JNC: There’s a cliche I’m fond of; “writer’s write.” Would you like to tell us about any projects your working on for the future?

JRT: Oh goodness! I have the last three books in my Delbert Dallas series (middle-grade fantasy for reluctant readers) to complete. I have the fourth novel in the Extreme Hauntings series (my YA horror books) to finish–I’m sort of excited about this one because I get to do a haunted boot camp. I have a nanotechnology/paranormal thriller in the research stages, a nearly finished final draft of a romantic suspense titled “Still Life in Death” about a female artist who is being stalked by a serial killer. In 2012, Echelon Press will release another horror novel, this one about werewolves. So lots to do on the personal side of my writing life!

Redemption by Wisconsin author J.R. Turner

Visit J.R. Turner here:

Her book “Redemption” can be found at Amazon, Smashwords, or Omnilit

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J. Nathan Couch

About J. Nathan Couch

J. Nathan Couch is an author and paranormal investigator. He is part of the Wisconsin-based Paranormal Investigation and Research Society, and guides ghost walks and bus tours in support of Washington County Paranormal. His new book Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? is available now.

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