Books And Bites: Congratulations on the publication of “DFF: Dead Friends Forever (Extreme Haunting #1)”! Tell me a little about it—what’s your pitch?
J.R.Turner: Thanks so much! The ghost of a murdered girl is forced to relive her death over and over for a century. When she discovers skater girl Kaylee Hensler can see her, the ghost stalks her everywhere she goes. In order to free them both, Kaylee will draw on dormant powers to defeat the evil intent on imprisoning her as well.
I think what really makes this an interesting read besides all the spooky scary stuff that happens, is that Kaylee’s father is a shrink. Trying to retain an aura of “normality” while being haunted by a ghost no one else can see is pretty much impossible. All the strange events that happen leave her father seriously worried about her mental health.
BAB: No two authors seem to take the same route to publication, but almost every author has an interesting story about their journey. Care to share yours?
J.R.Turner: Stark Knight was the first book I had published. I originally wrote it for Silhouette’s Bombshell line. They rejected it because there was too much romance. Then I sent it into Harlequin’s Intrigue line, which rejected it for having not enough romance. I then chose to send it to Echelon because category length novels are tough to sell outside of category publishers and the story was too good (I believe) to change.
Of course I went through the full gamut of emotions waiting to hear back. I was concerned that this book would never find a home and I so totally loved my Lara Croft-ish heroine, Sara Stark. Finally, I got “the call” and Stark Knight launched two more books—Silent Knight and Good Knight. Echelon also took two of my romantic suspense novels, Bulletproof Bride and My Biker Bodyguard.
BAB: How did you get the idea for your novel?
J.R.Turner: My normal genre is action adventure, across a few different genres. When I thought about writing a young adult book, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to reach that same level of action that I love to write. Obviously I couldn’t give my teen characters Universal Machine Pistols (unless I wanted to do a post-earth type story where teens survived and banded together in armies—which was a route I considered for a while.)
My favorite television show is Supernatural. One Thursday after watching an episode, we wanted to watch something else scary and played The Grudge. As usual, I had a notebook in my lap and I was brainstorming ideas for this young adult series I was trying to put together. It clicked then that I could reach the same level of action I loved by “arming” my characters with supernatural powers.
BAB: Do you have another book in the works?
J.R.Turner: Yes! Tons of them! Which is unusual for me. I normally work on one book at a time, but it seems writing my first supernatural/horror novel opened up Pandora’s box and the ideas are coming fast and furious. Mainly though, I am working on the next five books in the Extreme Hauntings series. The second one is about a haunted boarding school. Kaylee is sent there as part of a court order (she’s convicted of vandalizing a cemetery on Halloween.) Because Kaylee’s dormant powers have been awakened, fate is working to send her where she is most needed. As sort of “spiritual first response” agent for heaven.
BAB: Your current novel, DFF: Dead Friends Forever (Extreme Haunting #1), is marketed as a young adult novel. Did you originally set out to write a YA novel?
J.R.Turner: Yes. My kids have been bugging me for years to write books they “want to read” so when my publisher began urging me to a write a Young Adult series, I figured it was time to bite the bullet and see what happened. As I stated earlier, I was fearful that I wouldn’t find an angle I could get excited about.
I shouldn’t have worried so much though, because my belief has always been that I can make any subject exciting to me if I adopt it to my own passions. I’ve always thought there was a shortage of really, really, really great ghost stories out there. Of course there are many, but compared to vampires? So when I chose the supernatural, I thought I should put my money where my mouth was and develop my own ghost stories.
BAB: How did you get the inspiration for Kaylee/Davey/etc?
J.R.Turner: My characters generally come to me in a flash—fully developed, three dimensional, with whole histories and backgrounds—just as if someone introduced me to a stranger and in the act of shaking their hand I was able to grasp the entirety of their lives and experiences. Kaylee came to me much in the same way.
She’s a small town tomboy just trying to fit in and get along. As an only child, her best friend, Davey is really very important to her. He’s the only one in her life that understands her perspective because he’s grown up beside her all this time. When he got really ill and nearly died (which is why he’s in a wheelchair) it drew them even closer together.
BAB: Who is your favorite character? Why?
J.R.Turner: Well of course Kaylee, then Davey are my favorites! But as far as secondary characters go, I love Madam Maggie. She’s a conglomeration of all the really great women I’ve known in my life. She has an awesome sense of humor, isn’t afraid to be exactly who she is and finds enjoyment in helping others. Writing her dialogue was just a blast!
BAB: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
J.R.Turner: In 1999 we moved from Milwaukee to Stevens Point . I had a choice: I could rebuild my clientèle and continue working as a contract artist, or I could pursue my first love, writing. I talked it over with my husband and he supported my decision to pursue writing as a career. From there, it was a matter of purchasing a computer and educating myself. Five years later, I was published.
BAB: In writing, DFF: Dead Friends Forever (Extreme Haunting #1) , what was your most surprising discovery?
J.R.Turner: I hadn’t intended for Kaylee to have her own supernatural powers. She was going to use the tools/tricks that Madam Maggie offered throughout the series to combat the supernatural forces opposing her. However, in the middle of writing one scene, Kaylee described the awakening of a psychic power. I totally loved it and from there, it’s evolved into a whole subplot that runs through the series and isn’t fully revealed until later on.
BAB: What’s your writing routine? Do you write in the mornings, nights, daily, or when the mood strikes you?
J.R.Turner: I’m a dawn writer—and I don’t know why! When I was an artist, I would stay up all night, enjoying a world where I was the only one awake. I can’t get the same sort of focus in the evenings though, when I try to write, so I started getting up earlier and earlier until I found my ideal time: 5:30 A.M. Ugh!
BAB: What experience did you have with your publisher? Good? Bad?
J.R.Turner: Wonderful!! I am forever bragging about how well I’m treated and the amount of perks that Echelon has for its authors. Between their hard work to promote us (almost unheard of with independent houses) and the quality of the books themselves, it’s truly been a dream come true for me.
BAB: If you had to pick one author as your favorite, who would it be?
J.R.Turner: Ohhhhh….this is like asking me which of my children I love most! I don’t know how I can answer with just one, but maybe… I guess if there was one author that really challenges me as a reader, an author I could read again and again, it would probably be Dean Koontz. His vocabulary and language skills are amazing and his stories are so very imaginative and interesting. It’s a rare combination that I think is at the root of his success.
BAB: Finally, thank you for taking part in this interview. Before you go, what message would you like to send to your fans?
J.R.Turner: You’ve got to keep following what happens to Kaylee and Davey! Each book has a unique “haunting” and location, but the relationship between these two grows exceptionally interesting. Kaylee’s got a wild ride ahead of her and I don’t think you’ll want to miss it!
You can also check out a book trailer for DDF here.