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Author Interview: Jeff Turner

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with Jeff Turner, author of The Horseman Who Came From the Sea.

FQ: This is the third novel focusing on the story of Henry Cameron. Do you have more stories planned that will follow Henry’s adventures, or was The Horseman Who Came From the Sea the conclusion for Henry?

TURNER: I set out to craft a trilogy about Henry Cameron and planned on ending the series with The Horseman Who Came from the Sea. But Henry Cameron has created quite the stir among his readers. This, in turn, has caused me to pause as ponder my future writing plans. When we left Henry, he was still a young man and he’ll be experiencing many historic events as he gets older (e.g., prohibition, women’s suffrage, the Great Depression, World War II). Lots going on to write about, yes?

FQ: You taught for over 40 years at Mitchell College. What types of courses did you teach over the duration of your career there?

TURNER: I was trained in human development and family studies. I carried this training to Mitchell College and taught a variety of courses, from child and adolescent development to adulthood and aging. My favorites were courses focusing on counseling, family dynamics and crises, parenthood, and moral development.

FQ: Your recent novels include a focus on horses, both war horses and otherwise. It is obvious from your writing that you know a great deal about horses, including everything from breeds to how to care for them. Do you or have you ever personally owned horses yourself?

TURNER: My father was a horseman and taught me everything I know about horses. We owned two quarter horses and participated in lots of horse shows. Once I learned the ropes about routines and care, I saw to their daily needs, exercise, and grooming.

FQ: All of the Henry Cameron novels include a military component, with Henry and Mickey enrolling at Camp Dewey and the Lieutenant having served in the First World War. Do you have any military experience personally or within your family?

TURNER: I’ve never served in our armed forces but honor those who did. My father was a B-17 airman in World War II and served as a radio operator-gunner. His plane was shot down on a bombing mission. He was luckily rescued, although injured. I also had a grandfather who fought in the trenches in France during World War I, and a cousin who served with the 101st Airborne during the Vietnam War. Several distant relatives fought for the Union army during the Civil War, two in cavalry regiments.

Author Jeff Turner
Author Jeff Turner

FQ: You have published a book every two years since 2013, which is quite an impressive feat. What plans do you have for writing future novels?

TURNER: I’ve had success with a two-year cycle for some time now. When I finish a book, I’ll take a break from writing for a few months, then construct a rough outline and story board for my next novel. I devote a great deal of time mapping out a cast of characters, plots, subplots and what not. I’ll leave a trail of post-its everywhere. Of course, historical research is critical, such as knowing the time span that enveloped the life of Henry Cameron. All of this occupies that first year. The actual book is written during the second year, a time when I’ve finally gotten some words down on paper and feedback begins. Drafts are widely circulated, and this becomes a time when I receive objective remarks and ideas from my posse of readers. Then, a revised draft is sent to several professional critics. I’ve taken a few lumps from this gang, but nothing fatal. So far, I haven’t been run out of town. Yet.

FQ: You have published both academic textbooks as well as novels during your career. Which type of book would you say you prefer writing and why?

TURNER: No question, fiction is my preference. For my entire academic career, I taught and wrote books with an extremely gifted and talented co-author, a fellow named Don Helms. Together we wrote over two dozen popular psychology textbooks. The money was excellent but the pace and pressure exhausting. When Don passed away, I left academic publishing and began writing fiction. I never looked back.

FQ: I was intrigued by the down-to-earth nature of the characters, as well as the tone of the entire story of The Horseman Who Came From The Sea. It is not too often these days to find a book that has a genuine, feel-good quality about it. What prompted you to develop your characters and story in this way?

TURNER: There’s always some degree of friction and conflict in my works, but a protagonist always emerges and never wavers in his/her role as a crusader and defender. I believe the feel-good quality of my characters and the story line originate from the character traits I seek to embed along the way: kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and hope. I try to live my life according to such standards and embrace positivity. There’s too much hostility in the world today, a spate of bitter, unkind, and spiteful feelings toward one another. I’d like to be remembered as an author who sought to capture a feel-good quality in his stories and someone who offered readers different ways to erode negativity.

FQ: You have earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees at three different Connecticut universities. What field of study did you earn your degrees in?

TURNER: I hold an associate degree in liberal arts, a bachelor’s degree in communication, a master’s degree in counseling, and a doctoral degree in human development and family studies.

FQ: If you had to recommend just one of your books to someone who had never read any of your work, which book would it be and why?

TURNER: I’d recommend Lost Boys of the River Camp. Given the popularity of the Henry Cameron series, this book is where it all begins, including Henry’s arrival at Camp Dewey, his connection with Lieutenant Cooper, his budding friendship with Mickey, his romance with Lily, and why he felt such friction with his uncle. My gut tells me if you read this book, you’ll want to read the entire series.

FQ: Between your multitude of published textbooks along with six novels, you have had a very successful writing career to date. Can you share with your readers one of your favorite aspects of being an author, as well as one challenge that you have faced along your journey?

TURNER: One of my favorite parts of writing is when a newly published book arrives on my doorstep. You marvel at the feel of it, its heft, scent, and cover. Everything about it brings glee and a state of giddiness. I’m convinced most authors have similar reactions to a new book, and it would surprise me if they didn’t. After so many hours devoted to its completion, there’s nothing like holding your creation for the first time.

As far as a difficult challenge is concerned, I have lots of trouble mentally saying goodbye and letting go of my literary characters. I truly miss them when my time with them is over. But then there are characters like Henry Cameron, who keeps hanging around with those beautiful horses of his, itching to take part in an encore performance. You know they’re just hankering for an invite.

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