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Myself: Mr. Turpin, I appreciate your taking the time for this interview. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?
Turpin: When I was very young! I remember producing a village newspaper on my dad’s typewriter when I was probably eight or nine years old. I always enjoyed reading fiction and spent a lot of time in Grantham town library hunting down my next book. After university I became a journalist, eventually specializing in business and finance reporting for The Scotsman newspaper. I then worked in communications/media relations with large energy companies and continued to enjoy the odd opportunity to write, for example, op-ed articles for national newspapers about energy issues under the chief executive’s name. However, writing fiction has always been something at the back of my mind, although it took me until the age of 52 to get my first book, “The Last Nazi”, into print.
Myself: You got off to an early start as a journalist. What is your academic and work background?
Turpin: I studied history at Loughborough University in the UK and then went on to become a journalist for various publications, including The Scotsman newspaper, where I was Deputy City Editor. After 14 years as a journalist, I left in 2002 to move into corporate communications, specializing in media relations with three different energy companies — Centrica, Essar Energy, and Iberdrola. I had begun writing a couple of novels several years ago, but never found the time to really make headway. However, I took the opportunity to really knuckle down and take my writing seriously after my last job with Iberdrola disappeared in a corporate reshuffle.
Myself: What part of the world do you live in?
Turpin: I live in St Albans, which is an old Roman town about 20 miles north of London, UK.
Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?
Turpin: I enjoy reading thrillers. I love cricket, which is a sport I played quite seriously when younger and still play at a much more social level these days. I love traveling when possible, listening to music, walking and keeping fit at the gym or through running. I enjoy doing anything with my two teenage children, including watching films, walking the dog, watching sport, going on holidays, or just going for a coffee.
Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?
Turpin: I once hitchhiked across the Sahara, from Algeria to Niger, with a friend in 1990. It was a fascinating trip, but it’s probably too dangerous to attempt these days. I also spent several months living, working and traveling in Australia and the US after finishing university, which was a great experience.
Myself: That sounds like quite a trip. What’s the first book you remember reading for yourself?
Turpin: I can’t remember the first book specifically, but my earliest reading memories are of enjoying the Biggles series by WE Johns, the Jennings school series by Anthony Buckeridge, and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series.
Myself: Did you read much growing up?
Turpin: I read a huge number of books from age six onward.
Myself: What have you read recently?
Turpin: I’ve been trying to read as many books in the same thriller genre that I write in, as I learn something from every book. I’m currently reading Daniel Silva’s “The Fallen Angel”.
Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?
Turpin: I enjoy reading thrillers, especially those set in a real-world situation. For that reason, I’ve enjoyed some of the books written by authors such as Frederick Forsyth and Robert Harris, both former journalists. Forsyth’s books “The Odessa File” and “The Day of the Jackal” are both favorites, and Harris’s “Enigma” and “Fatherland”. Favorite character? That’s a tricky one, but I liked Peter Miller, the reporter in “The Odessa File”, whose characterization gave me some inspiration for my own books.
Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?
Turpin: In an armchair with a cup of coffee.
Myself: That is how I do much of my reading too. Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?
Turpin: I have no preference for paper or ebooks and read both. I haven’t used audiobooks previously but having just gone through the production of my first three books as audiobooks for Audible, I am thinking they would be a great way to pass long car journeys. I’ve downloaded a couple and will give them a try.
Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?
Turpin: I love researching and finding out about people, places, conspiracies, and history, so I guess it is that passion and my love for creating stories and writing that gives me my inspiration to produce books.
Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Turpin: I would like to continue my series of Joe Johnson books for as long as I can—as a medium-term ambition I have a vision of ten books in the series sitting on my shelf, all selling well and allowing me to work as a self-employed writer, earning a decent living. Longer term I’d like to be seen as the creator of great thrillers that not only entertain people but inform them too.
Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?
Turpin: The writers who have influenced me include Frederick Forsyth because he was also a journalist and uses real-life situations and themes as a backdrop for his fictional stories, which is something I also love to do. I like the way Robert Harris draws on historical situations for his plots. Daniel Silva and his thriller series about Gabriel Allon, the Israeli agent, has also been a strong influence, as have other thriller writers such as John Le Carré, Jason Matthews, Charles Cumming, Ken Follett, Ben Coes, Gerald Seymour and many more.
Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?
Turpin: I just picked the genres that I like to read and which allow me to weave in history, politics and international locations — thrillers fits the bill perfectly!
Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?
Turpin: From research, reading, thinking “what if?” questions to myself.
Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
Turpin: I very much like to build a good detailed outline before I start, with all the key plot points established. I’d be useless and unproductive if I just let my writing wander. I do tweak the plot as I go along if I realize there is a way of improving it—it is not completely set in stone—but generally, I do follow the roadmap I’ve drawn up.
Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?
Turpin: My main writing software is Scrivener, which is great for laying out a plot, scene by scene, as well as then subsequently writing it. It is much more user-friendly when writing such long involved manuscripts than Microsoft Word, although I also use the latter a lot when editing, as most editors work in Word. For formatting my books prior to publication I use Vellum.
Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?
Turpin: The hardest thing is working out a plot which is compelling and has dramatic moments occurring at the key points, while also remaining believable and “real life.” I also find I need to work very hard at my dialogue, as it doesn’t come naturally. One of the easiest things is to motivate myself to sit in my chair every day and get down to the task at hand—I enjoy it, so it doesn’t seem like work!
Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Turpin: I would advise any author not to just sit down and write, but first to read as many best-selling books in the genre in which they are interested and work out what are the key elements that make them successful. Then try and formulate a novel plan that is out of the same mold. I would also read as many books on story structure and plotting and outlining as possible. There is definitely a science behind the art when it comes to planning a story that works!
Myself: What novels/works have you published?
Turpin: I have published three books so far in the Joe Johnson series of thrillers—it is a war crime investigation series. They are “The Last Nazi”, “The Old Bridge”, and “Bandit Country”. I also sell a box set of these three books, and they are also all available as audiobooks, which are proving popular.
Myself: What are you currently working on?
Turpin: I have just sent a draft of the fourth book in the Joe Johnson series to my editor, so that is in the pipeline for publication in due course.
Myself: What else would you like to share?
Turpin: Being an independently published author is as much about marketing the books as writing them, and that is an entirely different skill that has to be learned. It is quite enjoyable, however, and provides an antidote and a break from writing, and also acts as a great way to learn about the industry.
Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?
Turpin: I very much enjoy hearing from readers—the feedback on my books helps me learn what works and doesn’t work. The key routes are as follows: