Joanita Wibowo


5 minutes with author Kerri Turner

5 minutes with author Kerri Turner

In 5 minutes with authorOver60 asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Kerri Turner, a historical fiction writer and ballet teacher based in Sydney. Her short stories have appeared in Reflex Fiction, Boolarong Press, Catchfire Press, Stringybark, and Underground Writers. She released her debut novel The Last Days if the Romanov Dancers in January 2019. Her second book, The Daughter of Victory Lights, is out now.

Over60 talked with Turner about classical ballets, happy endings, and the worst writing advice she’s received.

Over60: What is your best writing tip? Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

Kerri Turner: My best writing tip is a quote from Neil Gaiman: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

The worst writing advice is the generic “write what you know”. You should absolutely write what you know if that’s what interests you, but learning what you don’t know so that you can write about it is a fantastic and rewarding process, and one which has resulted in some wonderful and compelling books.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley, and listening to the audiobook of Mythos by Stephen Fry.

You hold a dance degree and teach the art for a living. How has dance influenced the writing of your novels?

My whole life I’ve been drawn to classical ballets such as Swan Lake and Giselle – the ones that tell sweeping stories with a lot of emotion behind the characters and their actions and motivations. They’re generally also the ballets that have endings which move you and feel right for the characters and situation, but aren’t necessarily tied in a perfectly neat and happy bow. Those are the kind of stories I now like to tell. I’ve also been told that my writing has a sense of rhythm and lyricism to it, which I’m sure comes from having spent my life dancing.

What do you think makes for a good historical fiction work?

I love historical fiction that effortlessly yet vividly evokes the time period it’s set in, yet keeps the story and characters at the forefront at all times.

What does your writing routine look like?

I tend to write for a few hours from mid-morning to lunch, then spend the next few hours attending to all the admin of writing – marketing, setting up events, responding to interviews, etc – as well as doing things to refill the creative well. Then I have a couple more hours of writing in the afternoon, finishing up in time to make dinner. Sometimes I’ll do a little more work in the evenings, such as reading research books or catching up on more admin.

What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?

I’m not a big fan of love at first sight – or as it’s more often called these days, instalove. I prefer to see the building of a connection between couples. I do however really enjoy the cliché of an unlikely hero who comes from humble origins. It works in so many forms and stories, from historical fiction like Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, to children’s books like Roald Dahl’s Matilda, to fantasy epics like Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Paperbook, e-book or audiobook?

All of them! Print books are my favourite format, but e-books are fantastic for travel, and I love listening to audiobooks when I’m multitasking.

Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?

Oscar Wilde. He’d be a lot of fun over a dinner, I’m sure!