Writers dream of being published authors. Self-publishing allows this dream to be achieved, but more often than not little comes of it. It takes a stroke of luck to be published by someone else, and then have enough people like your book to warrant the company publishing another. It also takes patience.
Carolyn Turgeon, a professor in UAA’s Creative Writing and Literary Arts Low-Residency MFA program, has that luck and patience, as well as four published fiction novels, and a fifth slated to be released next year. Her fourth novel (and first children’s book), The Next Full Moon, was released in January 2012.
Turgeon lives in New York and Pennsylvania, but visits Alaska every July for the one month intensive portion of the MFA program, which is conducted online for the rest of the year. This March, Turgeon will be in Anchorage and Wasilla for ten days doing a miniature book tour for The Next Full Moon.
“It’s more of a vacation; when she was up here last July, she had expressed a real interest in the Iditarod and that sort of thing. She’s never seen anything like that,” said Mary Grove, a good friend of Turgeon’s and a member of the Anchorage Pulpwood Queens book club. Grove told Turgeon that she should come up and participate in some of the Iditarod festivities during Fur Rondy this year.
“Well it happened that it started coinciding with the release of her children’s book. Basically, it kind of evolved in early January, and she decided to come up but to also turn it into a book tour,” said Grove.
Most of Turgeon’s novels are fairytale re-tellings, which isn’t the direction she originally started out in when she began writing.
“That, it started off as me wanting to write something a bit easier after the first book [Rain Village], you know after how much work that had been,” she said. “It ended up being a lot of work anyway. I didn’t really anticipate writing a bunch of fairytale stuff after that [Godmother]. Then I turned to work on what I thought would be my third book, which was going to be about Dante because I’d studied him a lot during graduate school…But then what happened was, when Godmother was in the final stages of its editing process, the editor from the UK swooped in and bought the UK rights to the book and asked what else I was working on.”
Turgeon explained how she gave the editor a list of her in-progress works, as well as a few ideas she threw together. On the bottom of the list was an idea for a book about a mermaid, which the editor ended up purchasing.
“I then had to put everything else aside and write a book about a mermaid. And my agent strongly suggested that I base it on a fairytale, and I eventually worked out how I wanted to do it and wrote Mermaid,” she said. “I’ve kind of just let things go where they seem to want to go, in terms of writing about fairytales.”
Turgeon’s fifth book, slated to come out sometime next year, also sticks to her fairytale formula; it’s about Rapunzel growing up to be Snow White’s evil stepmother.
The gritty, re-imagined fairytales of Turgeon’s books have gotten the attention of Hollywood. Her second novel, Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, was optioned for film, and her third novel, Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale, made it two steps further when the rights were purchased by Sony Pictures, and “Country Strong” screenwriter/director Shana Feste was assigned to write the script and, potentially, direct the movie as well.
“I got a Google Alert one day; this article had appeared in Variety saying that Sony had auctioned the book, which I knew, but they’d tacked this woman, Shana Feste, who’d written and directed “Country Strong,” was being assigned to write and direct Mermaid,” she said. “No one told me anything directly, because they don’t, well, need to. I’d only become involved again once a movie was green lit and they’d have to give me a bigger check.”
Turgeon found these articles back in May 2011. When she called her film agent to inquire about whether the project had been dropped a few weeks ago, she received some unexpected news.
“He said that I had perfect timing, and that Shana had just turned in the script. But that is all I know; hopefully everything turns out well,” she said.
Despite her joy at Mermaid’s progress, Turgeon remains realistic, stating that there is still a possibility that the movie won’t happen. Grove however, remains hopeful.
“She’s just a super wonderful human being,” she said. “I think it’s well deserved; she’s a hard working woman and a hard working writer, and she puts her heart and soul into everything she’s ever written.”
Turgeon will be conducting a reading and book signing at Barnes and Noble on Nothern Lights Blvd. on March 2nd, one on March 5th at the UAA Campus Bookstore, and one on March 10th at Pandemonium Booksellers Cafe in Wasilla.