Check My Shelf with… Kerri Turner

I’m so excited to announce this new series! Each fortnight, I’ll be getting up close and personal with an author…well ok, with their shelves. But isn’t that really what we’re all here to see?! The first series of authors I’ll be focusing on is all our wonderful local Australian authors. It feels like Aussie fiction is having a moment. From historical fiction, literary fiction, contemporary romance, thrillers, young adult, middle grade and dystopian, it seems like we’ve never been as spoilt for choice with our homegrown talent. The purpose of this series to to shine a light on all these wonderful authors, and help support them, particularly in the strange times we’re finding ourselves in right now.

Without further ado, my first guest is Kerri Turner! Kerri stormed the scene in 2019 with her debut fiction novel ‘The Last of the Romanov Dancers’ (which btw, may have one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever laid eyes on!) and her second novel ‘The Daughter of Victory Lights’ was just released earlier this year. Her novels are evocative, rich in detail and emotionally moving. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of Victory Lights, one section in particular still gives me shivers even when I think about it now. Kerri is a lover of dance, and is quite partial to a jumpsuit…she joins me from Sydney, Australia!

Reading life
Hey Kerri! So lovely to have you. What are you reading right now?
The Lady of the Tower by Elizabeth St. John. It’s a historical fiction novel
about the woman who was the mistress of the Tower of London in the early
1600’s, and is actually written by her descendant.

What’s your latest #bookstagram made me do it purchase?
The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary. I was seeing it everywhere on Instagram,
and everyone seemed to adore it, so I just had to buy a copy!

What’s your favourite underrated book?
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown. It’s historical fiction with a really
unique concept, and is a beautifully written and moving book (and one that will make you hungry!). I know it’s quite beloved, but I rarely seem to come across anyone else that has read it!

What’s your favourite childhood book?
There’s so many! But I’d probably have to go with Veronica at the Wells by
Lorna Hill. It’s the second in a series set around the Sadler’s Wells ballet
school in London, and was responsible for so many of my dreams of
becoming a ballerina. I own several copies now, but my first copy is the book I’ve owned for the longest, and is falling apart because I’ve read it so many times.

You get to host a dinner party with 3 other authors, dead or alive. Who do you invite and why?
Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, and Roald Dahl. Imagine the conversation!

How do you organise your bookshelves?
I like to keep any books from a series together, and books by the same author together. Otherwise it’s mostly by mood. I collect vintage ballet books, and 1970’s hardcover editions of Paddington Bear, and these I keep as close to eye level as possible as they bring me so much joy.

The books I haven’t yet read are turned sideways, so I can see at a glance what’s still waiting for me.

Who is your ultimate literary crush?
Freddy Standen from Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion. On the surface he doesn’t
seem like your typical romantic hero, but underneath he’s everything that
counts: loyal, dependable, loving, honest, generous, and more. I adore

What’s your favourite book to gift?
I love giving Little Golden Books to friends or families with newborns. They
bring back so many happy and nostalgic memories for me, and usually I find the same can be said for their parents. Plus, I enjoy trying to foster a love of books right from the beginning!

A friend has 24 hours to kill in your home city/town. What are your recommendations?

I live in Sydney, and I would say start your 24 hours in the city visiting some of the fabulous bookstores like Kinokunya, Dymocks George Street, and Abbey’s Bookshop. Wander the mall to discover the talents of the local buskers, then head on up to the QVB Tea Room for some high tea in style. Then head over to The Rocks for a wander and to soak up some history.

If you’re still hungry or skipped high tea, have a bite here – I recommend the kebabs or pancakes at DARE. If it’s a weekend, take your time enjoying the markets. Stroll around Circular Quay and up to the Opera House. Climb the Opera House stairs and pop inside to the gift shop to pick up some souvenirs.

Enjoy a cocktail in the sun at the Opera Bar, then catch the ferry across the harbour to Taronga Zoo (taking plenty of pics of the Harbour Bridge as you go by). Make sure your zoo ticket includes a ride on the cable cars.If you still have energy that night, go back into the city to see a show at the opulent State Theatre. Or, if you want to stay on the same side of town as the zoo, catch a movie at the Hayden Orpheum (and you can follow with a late dinner or dessert at Maisy’s, which is open 24 hours).

Writing Life
What inspired you to write this book?
A dream I had. I very vividly dreamed that I was watching the Victory boat at the centre of this book, and the performance was nearly exactly how I’ve
described it (give or take a few details). The next morning I saw some footage at a museum which so closely resembled the dream I’d had, that I took it as a sign. I didn’t know yet where the book was going to go, but I knew I had the first spark of it.

How long, on average, does it take you to write the first draft of a book?
I’ve found that’s changed slightly with each book. As I’ve continued to learn
via the editing process, I put what I learn into the first draft of the next book. So the first draft of each new book probably takes me a little longer than the one before it. But I would say that I spend three to six months researching and outlining, and then maybe three months writing the first draft.

Do you have any writing rituals that help you get in the zone?
I open the blinds to let the sun in, and make sure I have a full glass of water
next to me so I don’t have to get up too soon.

What’s your favourite part of the publishing process?

When the book is out and you have readers contacting you to say how much the book meant to them, or share special memories that it brought up. I really treasure those messages, as they remind me of why I write in the first place:to touch readers, connect with them, and entertain them.

What attracts you to writing historical fiction?
I find the old saying about truth being stranger than fiction is so accurate.
There are so many things that I feel I couldn’t get away with if I’d made them up, but because I can point to the evidence that shows they really happened, I’m able to put them in my books! I also love bringing attention to untold or underrepresented stories.

What songs would you include on a soundtrack for this book?
I actually created a Spotify playlist for The Daughter of Victory Lights,
because music features quite heavily throughout the book. There’s a lot of
Cab Calloway, Anne Shelton, Doris Day and Sam Cooke on there.

If this book was to be turned into a film, who would you cast as the leads?
Jessica Brown Findlay as Evie and Oscar Isaac as Flynn. And for a bonus,
the burlesque performer Dirty Martini would be the supporting character Bee.

I love that the two protagonists of this story have unconventional jobs. What’s the most unconventional job you’ve ever had?
Probably the other job I currently do, which is teaching women and men who are over the age of 55 how to tap dance. My oldest students are in their mid-70’s, and have told me they want to keep going at least until they are 80, so I’m not allowed to stop before then! It’s a job I love. It keeps me fit, and inspires me.

What do you want readers to take away from this book?
While I always hope that my readers discover something new in history that they didn’t know about before, I primarily want them to feel a sense of escape, of connection to the characters, and of having been moved emotionally.

How can readers help their favourite authors on social media?
It’s actually a huge help when readers post about their favourite authors on
social media, probably more than they think! So posting photos of the books
they’re reading or that they’ve loved, writing reviews, sharing friends’ posts, sharing any information on release dates/giveaways/interviews etc., are all amazing ways to help authors gain a readership and be able to continue writing and publishing books. And don’t forget to tag the author in so that we can share your posts!

Do you read your own book reviews? Is it tough or do you enjoy getting
reader feedback?

I generally don’t read my reviews. I once met the author Sebastian Barry, who told me that you should never read your reviews, because the bad ones will just make you feel terrible, and the good ones will inflate your ego and make you a lazy writer. I saw the sense in that, and have stuck to it! The exception being if someone has tagged me in a review, because I know they want me to read it. Those times, I do love seeing which parts of the book the reader connected with, and what themes resonated, because so often it’s different for each person.

Any new projects coming up you can tell us about?
I’m working on two different historical fiction projects right now, but don’t have any firm details I can share. Watch this space!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love baking, especially while listening to musical theatre cast recordings. I
love ballet classes for stretching the muscles out that have stayed stagnant
for long hours while writing – sometimes I take a class, sometimes I teach. Cuddles with my dog and husband, and of course, reading.

Thanks so much for joining us Kerri! Check out my original review of The Daughter of Victory Lights here. Aussie readers can purchase both books at their favourite stores, physical or online, and international readers can find her books on Amazon and Book Depository!

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