What's going on with you? Are the leaves falling yet?
Enjoy it for now!
Today we have Courtney Pollman-Turner, a rising fantasy author!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer:
I’ve known that I liked to write from a very young age. We had a program at our school called Young Authors, thanks to Carol Kemna, who was one of our teachers at the time. She brought this program to the school and everyone was required to write a story. The stories were then judged and awards given for the best story in each grade, as well as the best overall story for the school. I won for the school several times and I can’t recall any childhood achievement that felt as good as having my writing validated.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
My book, Water’s Calling, is based off of the backstory of my Dungeons and Dragons character. Thanks to some old friends from high school, I started playing DnD for the first time during the pandemic. We had a remote group with an irregular session schedule, so it helped the DM for us to keep character journals. Once I realized it was going to be more than just a few pages of backstory, I started to create a world and a magic system of my own and it grew from there. I also find a lot of inspiration in the books that I’ve read. Sometimes I read a book and imagine the story following a different path. I let my mind wonder down that path and it can often lead to an entirely new story idea.
What does your family think of your writing? My entire family is incredibly supportive. My parents have always believed in my writing and encouraged me to write. Like me, my sister is an avid reader and she is always happy to devour the rough drafts I’ve given her. My husband really didn’t become a reader until he ended up in a relationship with me so he doesn’t read as quickly as I do and has different taste in genres so it was actually not easy to convince him to read my book. He was also intimidated by the length of the book, largely because he doesn’t read quickly. I told him he had to read it, though, because I needed to discuss plot points with him so he lovingly complied. Even if he doesn’t read with enthusiasm, he is the reason I’ve been able to produce a novel and will be able to produce more. My husband takes care of things around the house so I can spend time writing and tiptoes around when I’m writing because I need absolute silence. He’s very patient and supportive.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer?
Absolutely. Write. Write and have people look at your work and tear it apart and do this knowing that nobody… NOBODY… has a perfect product and you can always learn something. Eventually, you will go through the process of refining your work so many times that you will have the confidence to overlook suggestions that you don’t believe are right for you but to get to this point, you have to really open yourself up to criticism. This was very scary for me. I remember experiencing fear and dread when I first opened up my manuscript to review my editors’ comments. Thankfully, the team I worked with at Smashbear Publishing were always very supportive and encouraging and left constructive criticism in a respectful way. So, don’t be afraid to have your writing judged and understand that writing is a SKILL and to get better at a skill, you have to work on it and have others coach you to the next level. Aside from this, read. You can learn a lot from the books you and enjoy, and sometimes even more from the ones you don’t.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Ghost in the Garden by Carol H. Behrman. It’s also the first book I ever finished in a single day. I didn’t want it to be over and chased the feeling of connection I had with the characters for quite a long time before finding another book that drew me in the same way.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. As a clinical psychologist, I spend a lot of time talking about energy with patients. Sometimes draw from you without giving back. Writing isn’t one of those for me. It takes mental energy from me and I can only write so much for so long before I need to get up and do something more active. At the same time, it gives me a sense of mastery and fulfillment so it terms of spiritual and emotional energy, it fills me up. I just need to ensure that I don’t give it too much of my mental energy at any one time or I will end up feeling burned out and writing will become a chore instead of a joy.
o you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Yes, definitely. It might be more challenging to capture an audience, but perhaps they will be able to generate work that resonates with other people who experience emotions similarly. Different people are able to sympathize with different characters and somewhere out there, somebody is wishing for a book written by an author who better understands their internal experience.
Does a big ego help or hurt a writer?
I think there has to be a balance. If you have too big of an ego as a writer, you’re not going to be receptive to the constructive criticism that could take your work to the next level. On the other hand, if you don’t have a solid sense of self-confidence, it can be crushing to receive rejection letter or feedback from improving your work. It’s not easy to find the right balance between self-confidence/ego and receptiveness to outside input, but if you can find it, I think you’re in the right headspace to master the craft.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I did, only because I’m still an active duty naval officer and a clinical psychologist. I decided to use my real name, though, because I’ve worked really hard to get published and I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a child. I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to see my name on the cover and writing is something I hope to continue even after I’ve retired from the military.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Talent doesn’t matter as much as hard work. When I was younger, I had a very fixed mindset. I thought my writing was either good enough to be published, or not. I didn’t realize that it was a craft that could be practiced and honed. I had this mentality about a lot of things and it kept me from pursuing things I wanted because I was certain I didn’t have the talent that was necessary.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
SO much has changed for me. I’m currently going through my initial draft of book 2 and applying all of the things I learned in book 1. I’m more of a plotter now, whereas I was a pantster for book 1 and it nearly led to me giving up when I got stuck in the middle with no idea how to move the plot along. I have a better understanding of what to look for when self-editing and how to answer the questions that my readers will be thinking at different points in the text. The editing team as Smashbear Publisher was a pleasure to work with and they put a lot of effort into growing me as a writer so I can catch my own “mistakes” when I review a rough draft and provider a higher quality product for their review and revision.
What do you have coming next?
Water’s Calling is going to be at trilogy so I’m currently working on book 2 in the series. I don’t have a publication date yet, but I’ve told my publisher that I will have a draft to them by the end of November 2022 so hopefully it will release sometime next year.