Interview with Nathaniel Turner

What is your e-reading device of choice?
I don't actually have one. Whenever I do e-reading, it's on my laptop or my wife's smartphone. As readers, we're huge fans of the physical medium.
Describe your desk.
Usually cluttered. Bills, files, important documents, mathematical calculations for home remodeling projects, notebooks and loose-leaf paper with ideas jotted on them, the "shred" pile of unimportant documents filled with important information, a few extra pens, my laptop, extra speakers, an external hard drive, and perhaps most importantly, a back-scratcher. It's a big desk with a couple of levels, though, so the "system" works.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
This is the question I always try to dodge at parties and get-togethers. I joke that there's the long answer and the less-long answer. The so-called "short" answer is that I'm from Texas, but that doesn't do the question justice. I was born in Texas, but my family moved away shortly thereafter. We spent time in three different cities in Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama again, then we moved overseas. We lived in Cyprus, Russia, India, and Singapore before I graduated high school and came back to Texas, where I studied at Baylor University. (I've moved since, but that's the less-long answer for the "growing up" phase of my life.)

In one sense, I think that traveling so much has encouraged me to set my fiction anywhere but here. Most of my work, published and otherwise, is speculative fiction, so "global consciousness" doesn't quite factor into it, but some of my future plans incorporate cultures and lifestyles from outside these United States. In another, completely unrelated sense, that sort of traveling made me delve into books more deeply. I didn't always have a lot of local friends, so I became very invested in the characters I read about. I'd like to think that made my characters a little deeper, although whether that comes through in my writing isn't for me to judge.
When did you first start writing?
I think it was 7th grade. I'm sure I came up with stories, and perhaps even wrote them down, before that, but 7th grade was when I tried to write an "X-Wing" series fan-fiction novel. (I finished about fifteen pages before I decided to try something else.) It marked the beginning of a long high school career of writing things far too short to publish, and more things that belonged in someone else's universe, before I finally started making real headway in college. Fan-fiction is where I cut my teeth, though, and I'm very thankful for the experience.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
To be honest, no, I don't. I know that I wrote a lot of fan-fiction in those first few years (mostly "Star Wars," although there were a few other universes, too). I might be able to dig back through old notebooks and find something that would scream "first story" at me, but unless I suddenly get a degree or two in forensic science, it's all just guesswork at this point.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Every time I read traditionally published authors' blogs on the independent publishing crowd, I get the impression that there's still some bad blood there. There are definitely some great authors who have been traditionally published that are using the self-published medium to great effect, but there are still plenty more who treat independent authors as second-class citizens. Hands-down, the most common reason I see those authors postulate for the existence of independent authors is that we've gotten rejected by traditional publishers.

I, for one, am not a part of that trend. Unless you count an essay that I once tried to get into a magazine, I haven't submitted my writings to any traditional publishers, neither the big houses nor the small ones. My reasons are more, shall we say, revolutionary. Between so-called "vanity presses" and e-book publishing, the book world is changing in radical ways, and traditional publishers haven't been keeping up. To their credit, they're big enterprises, and they can't turn on a dime--and certainly not for every new fad that comes along--but the power of independent publishing is that we don't need traditional publishing anymore.

Don't get me wrong; the services they offer are still of vital importance for authors. We still need editors, publicists, printers, and distributors, but independent publishing shows that we can shop around for those services and get them for much lower prices than we can get from traditional publishers--and we can even produce works of equal or greater quality. Not that the worst independent book is better than the best traditionally published book--not at all--but the compare the best with the best, and there's not much difference.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When I was younger, it was all about escape. I put myself in another world, and I shaped it, and I made things happen there that couldn't happen here. When I wrote the original draft of my first novel, that's the way it was. I was a teenager without a lot of direction, and I didn't have many people in my life to share it with. I was coming of age, and I wrote a novel that I thought was about coming of age. It was really about a hero's journey, and how he used to be a schlub and suddenly became an unstoppable legend.

As I got older, I developed important connections and learned about myself and about life. I didn't need to escape from my life--and I realized that I really had nothing to escape from when I was younger, either. Youth brings out the melodramatic in us all, I suspect. Writing was no longer about being in another place, and now I focused on being here. It is my opinion that all speculative fiction, no matter how outlandish, ought to show us, by example or by contrast, what it means to be human and how we ought to live. It's not about being preachy; it's about sharing an experience that makes us aware of who we are. When I rewrote my novel, and I made the final draft, I had that in mind. It stopped being a hero's journey, and it started being a human journey. Of course, the schlub still becomes a legend, but the path is a little more believable now.
What is your writing process?
Writing is very regimented to me. I hear a lot from authors who create these living, breathing characters who rise up and tell them what they're going to do, and it never lines up with the authors' original plans. That doesn't happen to me. I like to think my characters are lively enough, but everything in my stories serves a purpose. Sometimes, it's to fill a tropical niche (as in related to a trope, not a trip to Maui) or an archetype, but usually, it has significant bearing on the story. That doesn't mean I never change anything, it just means that my changes are driven by the story, and not by fictional personalities. If it seems to me that my character wouldn't behave a certain way, and they can't advance the plot any other way, then I change the character; the story takes precedence.

Part of "regimented" writing is having a plan. I've tried, once or twice, to come up with stories on the fly, through stream of consciousness or some random thought process, but I mostly end up cataloging a bad day that stuck in my mind. Unplanned stories also end too soon; when I first come up with a story idea, it usually has a beginning and an ending. If I don't plan out every meticulous detail, then that's all it will have, and it will be about five pages long, and it will interest no one. Sometimes, my plans only have what I want a chapter to cover--describing a setting, playing out a battle--but often, each section includes conversations, even specific quotations. Planning isn't just outlining; it's writing, just in vague shorthand.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I actually wrote quite a long article on this subject, and you can find a link to it on my website. The short version is that I wrote an original story when I was a college freshman that would barely qualify as a novel and, based on its quality, would only get purchased by my mother. A year or two later, I finally got around to editing it, and realized it was a solid idea for genre fiction, but lacked depth, pacing, and pretty much everything else you want out of a good novel. Sometime around then, a movie came out of Hollywood with my working title, and titles are very important to me. Since I had to come up with a new title, I looked around for more depth, and realized that the original story shared a lot of similarities to the myth of Bellerophon and his battle with the Chimaera. Using my brand-new bachelor's degree in Classics, I interwove the book with a lot of myths and classical tales. Once I got the finished product cleaned up, I had a strong title and plans for a trilogy.
What are you working on next?
I'm currently trying to power through the writing stage of my next novel, "The Aegipan Revolution," which is the sequel to "The Chimaera Regiment" and the second book in the Chimaera trilogy. I have the detailed plan already finished, so all that remains is to, you know, write it.

Beyond that, I have plans for the third book in the trilogy, which will actually be a prequel. I also have in mind a series of science fiction novellas, and another, unrelated series of novels in a setting that a friend and I dreamed up on a ferry about nine years ago. I also have a historical fiction novel and another retelling of a classical myth percolating, about which I am very excited. I have lots to work on, and not nearly enough time to work on it.
How do you approach cover design?
Covers are all about evoking an emotional reaction from the potential reader. For me, it's also important that a certain amount of plot be revealed in a cover. In an ideal world, I would have an illustrator on speed-dial, and I would pay him (or her) to create masterpieces of art for every book cover I need. In reality, I spend a lot of time with low-cost, royalty-free artwork (which is approximately relevant) in an image editor. Sometimes that means spending days, or weeks, doing nothing but searching for the perfect cover image; sometimes it means chancing across one while looking for something else.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Usually, at work. I still have a day job that keeps me pretty busy. Other than that, remodeling the house, spending time with my son, and as much reading as I can cram in around the edges.
What do you read for pleasure?
I try to maintain a pretty wide variety of subjects. When I was younger, most of my reading was in speculative fiction, and I still try to keep up with the genre (without success), but I also read biographies, history, Greek and Roman classics, theological and spiritual works, and "Calvin and Hobbes" comics.
What do your fans mean to you?
It always sounds trite, but it's always true. The fans make every artistic endeavor bearable. They made (or should have made) FOX regret cancelling "Firefly"; they kept "Chuck" on the air a season too long; they compliment, encourage, and inspire. Their words can turn an awful day into a great one, and can help you forget that one-star review, even if it hit a little too close to home. Without fans, I would question why I spend any time at all on my writing; with fans, I try to make my work the best it can be, and then I try to make it even better, for their sake.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
In no particular order, my wife, my son, and my God. Family is everything.
Who are your favorite authors?
I'm not a huge fan of "favorites," because I can never quite choose. I always feel like someone (or something) gets left out. In this case, though, it seems like an important question, and I do (sort of) have an answer for it. My favorite authors include, but are not limited to, in no particular order, Brian Jacques, Michael A. Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Timothy Zahn, Isaac Asimov, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Throw in Robert Bolt, Arthur Miller, and William Shakespeare, if we can include playwrights.
Published 2014-09-06.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Chimaera Regiment
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 88,850. Language: English. Published: September 5, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
A high fantasy retelling of the myth of Bellerophon and the Chimaera, this story follows Hector on his quest to become a hero, claim his heritage, and defeat the conquering Chimaera Regiment--hopefully in time to save his people from annihilation.