It’s been far too long since we had a visitor here in the reading room but tonight we’re joined by C.M. Turner, author of Where The Ironweed Blooms (reviewed here) and the forthcoming Not Flowers For Charlie.
Drew: Now we’re only a week away from the release of your new book, Not Flowers For Charlie. Without going into too much detail, what can you tell us about it?
C.M.: Not Flowers For Charlie is a coming of age novel that begins in 1960 in Southern California. It deals with personal tragedy, love, loss and addiction. The MC and narrator, Seymour, carries his sorrow and guilt well into adulthood. He eventually escapes to the Pacific Northwest to cope with the demons of adolescence and there, finds peace through the love of his wife and children.
Drew: Now, as you say, the bulk of the novel takes place in the 1960’s. Your previous novel, Where The Ironweed Blooms was set even earlier in the century. Do you naturally find yourself drawn to period pieces?
C.M.: I do. They are always my favorite reads, so makes sense I suppose.
Drew: Speaking of favourite reads, who do you consider influences?
C.M.: The writers I have been most influenced by are Emily Bronte, Harper Lee, Carson McCullers and J.D. Salinger.
Drew: I did feel like Not Flowers For Charlie had a similar flavour to To Kill a Mockingbird in places, seeing the world through younger eyes. For the most part, that feels true of your first book as well. Was that planned or just what felt natural to the stories?
C.M.: Thank you. That is a major compliment! To Kill a Mockingbird is very high on my list of favourite books! I think the Ironweed book just came naturally. A lot of it developed around family stories and stories my late husband shared over the years.
Drew: And Not Flowers for Charlie is dedicated to your daughter. Would it be safe to say, family, whether your own or the ones your characters build is a major theme in your work?
C.M.: Yes. Family always has been and always will be, the most important thing in my life, Drew. I think that just naturally transfers to my characters.
Drew: And it transfers to your online presence as well. I know you’ve always been very supportive and encouraging to many of our mutual acquaintances and H.A. Callum specifically mentioned you in the acknowledgements of his debut, Whispers In The Alders.
C.M.: I consider you and H.A. Callum to be two of the most supportive and encouraging people in our Twitter writing community, Drew—and it was the honour of a lifetime to be mentioned in his book, Whispers in the Alders!
Drew: Well, thank you for saying that. One thing that just came to mind regarding both you and H.A, in comparison to many of the other authors I know, is that you both have self-contained novels as opposed to series. Do you think that is something you would ever want to explore or do you prefer having each stand alone, as it were?
C.M.: I never thought about that, but you’re right. For myself, most of my novels, with the exception of one, are already written as stand-alone books, so I would have to answer no to your question.
Drew: Now, that begs another question. How many more do you have written and do you have any timescale for releasing them?
C.M.: I have a family saga that covers the time period 1920 -1992 that I’m hoping to release in 2020 if all goes well. That, and one other are still in different stages of edit and I have another one I started 2 years ago that I am trying to get back to and finish.
Drew: Impressive. To come back to the ones I’ve already read, I’d say another common feature between the two is how the events and choices of childhood can carry on and define the rest of our lives. If it’s not too personal, would you say that’s true in your experience?
C.M.: I would definitely say that’s true! Many things that occurred in my childhood, have had a major impact on who I am today…even on what I write. In my opinion. we are never that distanced from our childhood. It follows us all through life.
Drew: For good or bad.
C.M.: I sure think so. However, the bad seems to lessen with time.
Drew: I was curious about one thing in regards to Not Flowers For Charlie. The predominant part is Seymour’s recollections of the sixties, part of it is current Seymour and part is Charlie’s log. Did you write each part individually and then sort them in the editing process?
C.M.: No. While there have been changes since I first started the book, his recollections and Charlie’s log always remained the same.
Drew: How long were you working on it?
C.M.: Years off and on! It was started when I was living in Kentucky, worked on when my husband and I moved to California, my home state—and finished on Bainbridge Island, Washington. That book has travelled as much as I have!
Drew: Is that one of the reasons Seymour relocates to the northwest?
C.M.: Yes it is. Moving to the northwest, breathed new life into a book I had considered finished at one time. In many ways, that was the most significant move of my life.
Drew: I can understand that.
C.M.: My daughter and I found a family there too, in her in-laws.
Drew: Good, I’m glad of that. We’ve been here a wee while now, do you feel like wrapping things up with some random quickfire questions?
Drew: So, what are you currently reading?
C.M.: I’m so glad you asked. I am currently rereading Whispers In The Alders, by H.A. Callum! A great book deserves more than one read.
Drew: True enough. I hate the plotter/pantser description so are you an architect or a gardener?
C.M.: I’m a gardener.
Drew: Do you have a preferred time of day for your writing?
C.M.: It used to be night, but now I prefer morning and afternoon.
Drew: Who’s your favourite Muppet?
C.M.: Kermit the frog!
Drew: Where can we find you online?
C.M.: On Twitter.
Drew: And Not Flowers For Charlie will be available on April 1st?
C.M.: Yes, it will! I thought Charlie would find that date amusing.
Drew: I’m sure she would. Anything you’d like to say before we finish up?
C.M.: Yes. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to do this interview with you, and for making it feel like we were just in my living room sharing a nice conversation.
Drew: Thank you for joining us.