I recently enthusiastically reviewed Wayne’s novel “Acre’s Bastard”. I read so much historical fiction that I cheekily sneaked my review of the book in the mystery section of this blog, but I should not keep him from the historical Saturday readers, so here he is with an interview.
I was born in Canada, and moved to the US in 1991. I spent nearly 18 years as a working, touring professional comedian until the wife and child (The Duchess and Her Serene Highness) insisted on eating and I had to run away from the circus. Now I’m in the corporate training world. I’ve written my whole life, from jokes for my act, to screenplays, to professional business books for my grown-up job. At 50 I decided to check something off my bucket list and writing a novel (The Count of the Sahara) seemed less risky than sky diving. Now I’m hooked, and even though I continue to write for my day job, short stories and novels are my passion, and I’m indulging myself.
Why did you choose to write historical fiction?
I don’t know that I consciously chose it, but they are the stories that appeal to me. Growing up in small town Canada, the books I loved were always adventures happening in another time and place. One of my mottoes is “swords are cooler than guns.” First it was Classic Illustrated comics, and then Dumas, Kipling, Stevenson all told wonderful stories I couldn’t get enough of. So when I think of stories, particularly adventure tales, they always take place somewhere (and somewhen?) else.
Oh good grief, everything, and most of it inappropriate. One of the most rewarding things for me is to find the humour in an otherwise life or death situation. I am a slave to an egregious pun, but the best laughs come from recognition that no matter the time period, people are people, and they will find the humour just as a survival mechanism if nothing else. I think people are surprised at the number of good chuckles in my books, even though the tale of a self-destructive archaeologist or a boy caught up in the horror of religious war don’t seem like laugh-a-minute romps. Something is always funny.
Who would you like to invite for dinner?
My wife and I play this game all the time, and it constantly changes. I have a really strange fascination with Victorian era explorers, and I think two of the most fascinating people to have would be Sir Richard Francis Burton and Lady Florence Baker (who would hate each other, which would make it great!) and then invite Byron de Prorok (the focus of Count of the Sahara) and let Burton and Byron just continue to out-BS each other. I think I’d have to invite Kate Warne (the first female Pinkerton detective) just so poor Florence would have someone to talk to and get a word in edgewise.
What are you working on now?
With my usual impeccable business sense, I’m working on a sequel to Acre’s Bastard, because nothing enhances your writing career like writing a second book in a series that’s had disappointing sales. I’m just not done with Lucca yet. But I’m working on outlines for a bunch of other work and submitting short stories, which are a lot of fun.
Is there anything you would like us to know about yourself and your books?
I think the most rewarding feedback I’ve gotten are from people who don’t normally read historical fiction because they think it’s slow or they won’t relate to the characters. In particular, I was concerned that I was writing for a bunch of old white men, but women seem to really identify with the characters in both books, which is both a pleasant surprise and a huge relief. (I generally care about women’s opinion more than men… it’s a deep character flaw)
Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?
When I was about 10 I was hospitalized for a minor ailment, and the hospital administrator, a wonderful man named Neville Cox, stopped by to chat. I told him then I wanted to be a writer and he gave me a paperback thesaurus, which I still have on my shelf. I like to say that I’m the bastard child of Alexandre Dumas and Hunter S Thompson, which is just an insane thing to say but I think makes me sound very writer-ly, don’t you? I have always read widely across a number of genres and I always think, “yeah, but what if they did this or that?” and take the stories in my own direction. At some point you have to just do it for yourself.
How did you come up with your stories?
Almost inevitably I start with uncovering some historical fact, and asking myself, “what the hell were they thinking?” With Acre’s Bastard, I remember standing at the site of the old Crusader Hospital in Jerusalem, looking at the ruins and (as I do constantly with middle eastern history) asked, “what the #%#@$%@ did they think they were doing?” When I reread one of my favourite books, Kiplilng’s Kim, I imagined Kim set in the Crusades, and that’s when Lucca was born.
With Count of the Sahara, I became obsessed with the character of Byron De Prorok, and he is one of a long line of characters I admire, like Burton, who were brilliant, talented, and couldn’t stay the hell out of their own way, paving the seeds of their own destruction
Who would you cast to play the characters in a movie?
I think if you’re any kind of cinema fan (and I’m a huge movie fan) if you say you aren’t casting the movie in your head while you write it, you’re probably being a little coy. The whole time I wrote Count of the Sahara, I had Benedict Cumberbatch in mind to play Byron, although Tom Hiddleston would have been amazing as well. I think a slightly younger Clive Owen would make a great Brother Marco. For some reason, north Americans always think of past characters as British. Ever notice everyone in the Roman empire spoke like Peter Ustinov? Wouldn’t they have Italian accents? Imagine how much grittier I Claudius would have been with Al Pacino, rather than Derek Jacobi).
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
On my best and worst days, I think there are parts of me in everything I write. Lucca very much has my inquisitive, smart-ass nature, and the narrator in Count of the Sahara, Willy, is a lot like me: eager to get out of his surroundings and see the larger world, while being a bit naïve about his heroes.
Who are your favourite independent writers?
On my blog, www.WayneTurmel.com, I interview historical fiction writers, and most of them are independent. There are too many, and of course I discover new favourites all the time but Peter Darmon and Annie Whitehead are terrific, as is J R Lindermuth.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
Right now I’m reading Beau Geste in kindle…. I’m going through a Foreign Legion phase right now.
Tell us about your other books?
I’ve written 7 other books, mostly on business and leadership communication as part of putting bread on the table. Meet Like You Mean It, A Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings, is actually very good if you’re stuck on conference calls all day. I’ve also published some short fiction, my latest is on the Irish journal Dodging the Rain.
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Wayne-Turmel/e/B00J5PGNWU/
Goodreads author page https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14980039.Wayne_Turmel
The Count of the Sahara https://www.amazon.com/COUNT-SAHARA-Historical-fiction-best-ebook/dp/B01407R2H2/
Wayne Turmel is a writer, speaker and corporate drone who writes historical fiction to save his sanity. Originally from the town of Mission, BC, he moves to the US in 1991 to become a professional standup comedian. Forced to get a real job, he’s written 7 non-fiction titles including “The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership” (co-written with Kevin Eikenberry) that comes out in May. His motto is “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. The rest of us are doomed too, but at least we get to stand there smugly and say ‘told you so.’”.
He’s written two novels, The Count of the Sahara, and Acre’s Bastard. He lives in the Chicago area with his wife, the Duchess, his daughter, Her Serene Highness and Byron, the world’s crankiest cockatiel.