Author Interview with Amber McRee Turner
Get to know Amber…
Amber McRee Turner is the author of SWAY, released by Disney-Hyperion in 2012 and CIRCA NOW, released from Disney-Hyperion in 2014. For more info, visit her website.
What has been one of your most interesting jobs?
The summer after my senior year in high school, I was part of a promotional program for a petroleum company. There were several teams of teenagers who would be stationed at local gas stations, pumping gas and squeegeeing windshields all day, every day. I thought I’d struck it rich at $5 an hour.
If you could have any question answered, what would it be?
Why mosquitos? would certainly be one of them.
If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?
Serve the peanuts. Amber McRee Turner is not a risk-taker.
What is one of the scariest things you’ve ever done?
Have you already forgotten the circus/peanut answer? Amber McRee Turner is NOT a risk taker. Despite being careful though, I did plant my face into the asphalt at high speed once when I was a kid. Knocked out my permanent teeth, cut open my lip, and broke my jaw. Let me tell you…Pureed McDonald’s hamburger from a blender is pretty durn scary.
Who’s your favorite fictional villain?
What vegetable do you most resemble?
My daughter says carrot. I would have said an ear of corn, or on humid days, broccoli.
How long have you gone without sleep?
A whole night here and there, but only to meet a deadline, or when I’m in need of a whopping migraine.
What is the weirdest thing about you?
I’ll pick one. Ever since chemotherapy five years ago, I’ve had a constant super-loud ringing in my ears that sounds an awful lot like Morse Code to me. I’d love to get my ex-soldier husband to decipher it for me someday, but frankly, I’m a little scared of what the message might be.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Oh man, there are so many to choose from. For a person who doesn’t drink, I’ve fallen in front of an awful lot of people. I spit on people a lot. Oh yeah, here’s one…When I was 9 and super shy, I took a running start and jumped on the wrong dad’s back while yelling HI-YA!
Have you ever requested a song on the radio?
Radio, no, but I did gather enough courage to skate up to the carpet-walled DJ area of the roller rink once and ask for some Journey.
What is the last movie you watched? What did ya think?
We just watched the 1959 version of Tom Thumb. It was a delight.
What initially inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
I’ve been writing for fun since I was a kiddo, always dreaming of holding my own book someday. When my daughter was born, I was afforded the opportunity of being a stay-at-home mom. That time, coupled with the fresh inspiration of having a kiddo in the house, made me think why not? What did I have to lose by sending some stories out?
Name someone who supported your writing journey outside of family members.
My college fiction professor, Cary Holladay. She has a brilliant mind. She was beyond encouraging to me in my way-less-polished years.
Was there ever a time in your writing career where you wanted to seriously give up?
I’ve never wanted to give up the writing part. I have taken long breaks from writing due to life circumstances…Bills. Heartache. Cancer. Petty things like that.
What’s your favorite writing quote?
Wait, let me go search one up.
Okay, for now, it’s this:
“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”
I’ve tried to explain this to my family and friends in a far less eloquent way. It’s hard to explain, but writing keeps me sane. (Hey look, I’m a poet too!)
What inspired you to write your first book?
SWAY was largely inspired by my mother’s childhood experience with a runaway parent. And the soaps…I’ve always been fascinated with leftover soap slivers. Oh, and those hundreds of single shoes I’ve seen in the middle of the road. Also, dozens and dozens of road trips all over the Southeast. I could draw inspiration from those roadsides forever.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I tend to do the “Southern Gothic Magical Realism” thing. As far as my life goes, it’s really all I know.
What do you think you do best in your writing? Bragging is encouraged.
Well, I love the music of words, real ones and made-up. In a way, it’s also what I do worst in my writing, because I tend to get more hung up on the words than the actual storytelling.
What books have most influenced your life?
Certainly the Bible far above anything else. Also, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS by Shel Silverstein, WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick, stacks of READER’S DIGEST magazines in my Grandmother’s bathroom. GO DOG GO! by P.D. Eastman.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Oh, of course I would. An author tends to assume that her first published book is going to be her last published book. It makes it tempting to “kitchen sink” that story, to put in all the ideas that might be better suited a little more spread out. If I could go back, I think I’d tell myself to hold back a bit.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in writing? What comes easily?
I’d say, for me, the ideas themselves come pretty easily at this point in my life. I’m inspired by a lot of what I see and hear around me. The challenge will always be the rewrite. The making it better. Revision…in writing, and in living, is hard.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t really have a favorite author, per se. I very much enjoy the wit and genius-turn-of-phrase of Lemony Snicket. I have tremendous respect for Kate DiCamillo and the strong sense of gratitude that pervades her stories. I also love the heart in Shel Silverstein’s work. Oh, and Brian Selznick, he makes me sob. Oliver Jeffers is a big fave around our house too.
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