“Don’t be afraid of the blank page”: How to start your writing journey with historical fiction author Kerri Turner

Having trained as a ballerina from a young age, rhythm is second nature to author Kerri Turner.

Many have said her writing has a lyrical quality to it, something Kerri attributes to her training and love of dance.

She weaves this love of dance, along with her passion for history, into her novels – creating artfully written yet historically accurate adventures that her readers fall in love with.

Focus caught up with Kerri ahead of her upcoming author talk at Baulkham Hills Library to discuss the importance of historical accuracy, dancing and her latest novel.

What can audiences expect from your upcoming author talk at Baulkham Hills Library?

I’ll be chatting about the inspiration behind The Daughter of Victory Lights, giving some insight into how much is fact and how much is fiction, and answering any questions people might have.

You’ve trained as a ballerina and have an Associate Degree in Dance. How does your love for dance filter down into your writing?

My favourite ballets have always been the classic ones like Swan Lake and Giselle, and they have sweeping stories with a great deal of emotion to them. I think the stories I write share these factors. I’ve also been told that my writing has a lyrical quality to it and a sense of rhythm, which I’m sure comes from my dance background.

What’s your writing process?

I’m definitely a planner. Once I have a sense of what the story is going to be about, I spend months researching and outlining. This means by the time I start writing I go quite fast. When I have a completed first draft, I try to put it away for a little before coming back to edit with fresh eyes. There’ll always be multiple rounds of edits as well.

Historical fiction can require a lot of research. How much research goes into ensuring the historical accuracy of your novels?

I’m the kind of writer where I can’t rest until I’ve found the true historical detail or fact! I like my books to be as accurate to the time and events as possible, so I do a lot of research. Often I’m researching right up until the very last minute when the final draft is handed over. Of course, I try to keep that balanced with the story coming first at all times.

What tips do you have for anyone wanting to get involved in writing?

Jump right in! Don’t be afraid of the blank page. You can’t fix a blank page, but you can fix terribly written words – and we all write terrible ones in the first draft! Have fun, play with ideas, learn the craft (there are so many resources now from short courses to podcasts to YouTube channels), and find your voice.

What’s your favourite book of all time? Why?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. There’s something about the way some of the most romantic lines of dialogue ever written are delivered by some of the most despicable characters ever depicted that really tickles me. The writing is bold, brave, dark and poetic. I admire the way Emily Bronte took risks in the book when women weren’t even supposed to be writing novels, let alone taking risks in them.

If your books were turned into a film, who would you choose to play the main characters?

In The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers, I’ve always thought Guy Pearce would make a great Maxim. Then I’d choose Timothee Chalamet as Luka, and Rebecca Ferguson as Valentina.

For The Daughter of Victory Lights, Jessica Brown Findlay as Evie, Oscar Isaac as Flynn, and the burlesque performer Dirty Martini as Bee.

What’s next?

More historical fiction, continuing to explore little-known roles throughout history, with a backdrop of performance arts.

Catch Kerri Turner on Wednesday, March 4, from 11am to 12pm at Baulkham Hills Library.

Tickets are $5.

Book now at www.thehills.nsw.gov.au/Upcoming-Events-Activities/A-Morning-with-Kerri-Turner.

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