Interview – Jeffery W. Turner, author of Notes to Stephanie
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Jeffery W. Turner, author of Notes to Stephanie: Middle aged love letters and life stories. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Jeffery. For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
Jeffery W. Turner: By trade I am an IT consultant not a full time writer – that is until I see a lot of books!! I also used to do tax account and while I have not done that since 1985 I still have my CPA certificate. In IT I usually work as a project manager so I have worked with and or managed many types of people which help when I write seeing how life revolves around what happens to all types of people.
I have two kids, both grown, who are the subject of my thirds book. As far as hobbies go I play disc golf, like to cook, go walking, watch the weather, swim in my pool & guzzle beer, play wargames – now there is a subject few understand and I see one of your staff plays them too– and of course read (history, sci-fi, and current events).
I am also in Fort Worth Police’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) group too for community service – see my second book “Notes to Stephanie: Days Remembered” (NTSDR) where it is mentioned more than once and is where I met “Stephanie” of the first two books. I have been in CERT since 2006, so long that I get to do more “advanced” things like attending an IED (yes, improvised explosive devices) class and teaching part of an WMD class (weapons of mass destruction class, I taught “improvised nuclear devices” – INDs- in fact). Teach about INDs? Huh? How, you’re an IT guy and CPA? Well, how I came to know about that will be a Note in my fourth book…..a clue is below.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
JWT: There is no set answer for that. The original book was written on my lunch hour or on a quick break between meetings. The short “Notes” format allowed that. The second book was penned when I was between projects for the most part and it was created in between sending out resumes and such. The third book was written sort of like the second was too. Aside from that I like to write in the morning and that also applies to business writing on the job too. I do not usually write everyday however unlike what many writers do.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
JWT: When Stephanie and I were still married I realized one day I had enough of the Notes to make a book. Since people always said I could write I put it together after the divorce.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you decided to write non-fictional work, and do you see yourself ever writing fiction?
JWT: The contents of the Notes – all life stories – provided the material by default for the books without needing to invent integrated characters and story lines. What I did have to do was make it all interesting and meaningful to the reader. Writing fiction is MUCH harder to write than non-fiction, at least I think so, so given my usual work schedule and other time constraints non-fiction seems to fit to that reality well. Therefore, while I DO have a big imagination – ask my kids and friends about that side of me – I do not see myself writing fiction.
SPS: So, tell us about Notes to Stephanie: Middle aged love letters and life stories.
JWT: When I attended CERT class I met Stephanie who was in there too for some community service. Well, like a couple of teenagers we started looking at each other and talking – see “CERT Class: Starting To Be Partners” in “Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered” (NTSDR) for that story! And few months later we married on Halloween of 2006. This book is a collection of stories about what happened to us and also some pure love notes too. In many cases since we knew the details of what I was writing about I did not go into details about the event itself but instead looked at the philosophical side of it and how it affected each of us. I just started writing the Notes one day and kept doing it over the period of our marriage.
SPS: How and why did the notes first come about?
JWT: The first note was inspired by a sunrise I saw driving to a client in Dallas from Fort Worth one morning. At first the Notes were very brief but in short time they grew in length and told a story or described something about us as a couple. As things took place I wrote about them, there was no “grand epiphany” that made me start writing them.
SPS: How easy did you find it to put out there something that at the time was a very private thing?
JWT: I honestly did not have a hard time doing that since the things I write about are experienced by SO many other people. I will note that I do no not go into details on some things like sex – I am not into “erotica” although “Loving In The Pool” from NTSDR is a “PG 13” rated departure from that rule. I also never go into details about our divorce either since I figure there is enough of that garbage out there in the media. We weren’t something like you see on those reality TV shows at all.
SPS: Is the style of the book one of tales about how each note came about, or is it more a literal collection of notes?
JWT: Each Note is a real story so I guess each book is a collection of Notes (stories). Since I wrote the first book’s contents while on lunch or a break I kept doing that – each Note is usually fairly short. For the reader it provides an easy read too since you can read a Note of two, put the book down, and pick it up later and so the same thing again.
SPS: What kind of responses have you received from people who have read your debut work?
JWT: Each of the books has some Amazon reviews. They are all good and I think they reflect what I said above about people having experienced so many of the same things themselves they can quickly relate to the situation being written about.
SPS: Was the idea always to continue into a sequel (Notes to Stephanie: Days Remembered) or was it originally meant as a one-off piece?
JWT: I never thought about a sequel until my best friend, someone I have known since 1990, read book #1 and then asked if I had more of the Notes. I told him that was all of them. Later, I realized there were many events I did not write about so that is when the idea for the sequel was born. Also, some of the things I refer to in the first book, like the “family angst” issues, I DO go into more detail about in NTSDR. So I wrote it…..and took the pictures in it. Actually the draft had a LOT more pictures in it but when I got the proofs back of the book they just did not print right, so many of them were removed. That was a disappointment since the pictures were part of the books theme. By the way ALL of the original Notes in the first book had an image fitting to their topic in them. Since the images were pulled from the web and are usually copyrighted I had to take them all out. A shame since they meant something to me and the story.
SPS: How did you find the process of writing, editing and publishing the second time around? Where there lessons you learned first time around that helped you?
JWT: With the second book I had joined a writer’s club and the meetings provided a lot of good suggestion and editing. I also used a professional editor too. Using an editor as opposed to something more like a “just” a proof-reader made the biggest difference in the quality of the work. I repeated this process with the third book too and even used a second editor.
SPS: What prompted you to move away from Stephanie and focus on your children for your latest release Notes to my Kids: Little stories about my grown up kids?
JWT: After two books on me and Stephanie I felt the story had been told. Having said that if you look at the last Note in it, “Do You Remember”, you can see I could have written another one! But again, enough is enough and I thought of what the next one would be some more.
In the end since my mom has put together a tome of genealogy information about our family (and a cookbook of her and her mom’s recipes) I took that another step by compiling the third book for my kids which is a collection of the events in their lives as seen by my eyes. That way when they are old and with THEIR grandkids there is more of the past than a family tree and the stories of the past verbally retold to the younger generation. In short the third book was a way to preserve family history better. That will be the focus of the fourth book as well.
JWT: I do have some common themes. In no particular order: the passage of time, the generational nature of families, the stages of life, “things greater than ourselves”, and life’s ups and downs. These show up in all three books related to the set of unique stories being told.
Here are two examples of these ideas from my first book:
“So more years will pass being together my Stephanie dear; I look forward to them even though we will be getting old for sure. That is OK too, we will enjoy each other’s company as we enter into the twilight of our own lives even as our four kids enter into the prime of their own. This is the natural order of things; this is how it should be. We will move across the horizon of our own distant wedding anniversaries yet to come and unseen over time, one after another each year we are one. And we will be changed by our travels through life together. Changed into something better, and greater, than what we are now”.
“So to me, the cycle of a line of thunderstorms is like the line of our lives as seen on the temporal radar screen. It comes and it goes, waxing and waning and giving definition to the day and night, but in the end the rain does ends. As do our lives, which oscillate back and forth in their own rhythm of good and bad until our torrents of love emotion, grief, happiness, hope and fear that make our own storms of individuality pass into the calm of eternity.”
SPS: What did your children think of your work, was it something they were aware of pre-publication?
JWT: My kids were aware of it from the start and liked it. They were involved in it since they approved the “chapter list” and pointed out mistakes I made on some of the details – I’m getting old and fuzzy-minded, eh? Actually they made very few changes as a result of them reading the drafts. My daughter supplied the front and back cover pictures too.
SPS: What’s next on the self-publishing horizon for Jeffery W. Turner?
JWT: The fourth book, which I have started writing is about my growing up years. It will be a collection of Notes like the last three. Right now it is titled “Notes About Me and My Kin: Stories About Growing Up”. I will probably change that some. It will have more than just playing baseball in it and such. For example, the first Note (already written and on my blog) is “Merry Christmas Granddad” which is about Christmas Eve 1968 when my maternal grandfather got a phone call that a natural gas well he had invested in had blown out. We got in his Buick and went to see that – think Gulf BP disaster on a very small scale I might say. I was around some interesting things as I grew up, like seeing Apollo 11 blast off in person and touring Denton, Texas’ regional FEMA underground bunker in Boy Scouts (see the mention of INDs above). Such things will be a big part of the book.
After that the path is a bit unsure. I have some Notes I wrote on unrelated things, these are on my blog and might be the core of a fifth and “general” Notes book, plus the Notes that could be created from the things in “Do You Remember” mentioned above (“addendum” to NTSDR if you will).
And since I do IT project management I have a chapter outline of horror stories from the IT world too. “Project Mismanagement” is the title and will be a sarcastic and off the wall look at IT disasters I have seen.
All of this will keep me busy for years to come.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
JWT: Yes, I did not long consider the traditional route and literally went to Amazon and purchased books on how to do it and did some research. I wanted to retain control of what I produced and it better fit my work regime too.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
JWT: Yes and no. The biggest surprise is how best to do your marketing. When you do it all yourself that is harder than producing the product itself. By trial and error I now think that using Goodreads (book giveaways specifically), your web site (short, succinct views of information I can imbed in Tweets or Facebook posts), and Twitter itself (posting book excerpts on my blog) provide the best exposure for the least amount of time. Remember, I still “work for a living” and if I am on an airplane going to a client I cannot spend all day on social media!!! Facebook is a total waste of time – I call it “Wastebook” in fact.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
JWT: Join a writer’s club and be open minded to the many bits of advice that you will get there. See it as a “Toastmasters for writers”. Be open minded to what the members tell you and be willing to examine your works closely. The one I am in helped me tremendously.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
JWT: I’ll say that my three editors, each of which write, have works worthy of examination. They are in no particular order: Margo Dill, Ruby Johnson, and Jeff Bacot. They all write different things but they are very good at what they do!
SPS: Thank you for joining us today Jeffery, and all the best for the future.
JWT: You are very welcome, I really enjoyed the chance to tell you some more about my works.
SPS: For more information on Jeffery and his Notes series, please do visit his Author page here.