Lynn Turner: From STEM to Romance
Writing is a calling. No matter how circuitous the route you take, life will always find a way to bring you back to it. This is the case with Lynn Turner, author of ballet romance Pas De Deux: A Dance for Two. Her journey took her from retelling Huckleberry Finn’s story in her teens to finding her voice in the beauty and power of dance. Please welcome Author Lynn Turner and enjoy this short trip into a life-long creative journey.
So many authors take circuitous routes to the art. Tell us about your journey to become a published author.
I’ve *always* wanted to be a writer, even before I knew that “author” and “writer” were synonyms! When I was 12, I totally pirated Huckleberry Finn’s story and made it my own, complete with a free-spirited tomboy heroine named “Sketch” who runs away from home and takes a paddle boat downriver with her dog and her best friend (not her dog, lol). The entire story spans about four days, but filled every page of a yellow legal pad (front AND back, thank you very much) and I was SO proud!
The desire to create my own stories persisted through obtaining my STEM degree, which I almost quit Junior year to switch my major to English/ Communications. My adviser convinced me I could do anything with a STEM degree, including write, so I persisted. Fast-forward to 2015, I timidly posted my very first fan fiction one-shot, which became a 130,000-word full-length story because of the amazing readers who encouraged me to keep going. I published my first contemporary romance in 2017 and I’m working on my third.
Congratulations on your progress. So, what sparked the idea for this romance series?
I saw Misty Copeland’s documentary, A Ballerina’s Tale, on Netflix in 2016. I’d known who she was far before that, but she’s just so…so—so beautiful, so talented, so eloquent and humble and freaking sexy—that she almost seemed unreal. On top of that, I don’t have any dance experience, so I felt quite intimidated by the subject matter, and afraid of how readers with knowledge of that world would react if I got it wrong. But when I watched that documentary, I saw the sheer scope of what Misty overcame to make it, and I HAD to write a black ballerina.
For context, as a black ballerina, there are already challenges enough inherent in the world you’re trying to exist in. It’s overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly waif-like, with even your feet needing to look a certain way—a certain shape, width, length—before you ever rise en pointe for the first time. If a girl’s got better ankles than you, hang it up, sister. It’s a very homologous world, so your very existence singles you out. The pressure to be exceptional is there for every ballerina, but it’s magnified when you’re “other.” Misty had that to contend with, but also poverty, lack of access, and people who seemed eager for her to fail.
I wanted to write a story with a heroine as resilient as Misty, who had to overcome such intense beauty standards, as well as personal life challenges, but ended up stronger for it. On a lighter note, The Cutting Edge is one of my favorite movies of all time and the sparring/ sexual chemistry between those characters is everything. I wanted to balance the more poignant/ serious themes with some great chemistry and comedic moments.
It sounds amazing–a perfect mix. Give the Diverse Romance audience five words that best describe this book. What message do you hope they get?
Passionate. Hopeful. Resilient. Inspiring. Art.
I hope readers take away the powerful truth that our unique experiences (life, love, sadness, failure, triumph, hurt, anger, hope) make us extraordinary; that we each bring something invaluable to the table, and there’s room at that table for all of us.”
Every writer crafts a line that sticks in his or her mind. Give us one or two of your favorite lines from Pas De Deux.
“She was like an origami swan, coming apart fold-by-fold to reveal the steps that made her.”
“We were never meant to be perfect, our pieces wouldn’t fit together that way.”
Great lines only make it to the page when we put butt in seats and fingers to the keyboard. Tell us about your writing space and your daily routine.
HAHAHAHAHA!!! ::makes dolphin sounds:: a) I WISH I were so organized! I literally write wherever, whenever I can, b) I’ve accepted that my life is BANANAS (working full time, kids, etcetera) so, some days I’ll write 500 words, and some days I’ll write 4,000, and that’s totally okay so long as I KEEP GOING, and c) I plot everything on Pinterest (the visual stimulates my imagination).
Let’s shift gears. Tell us–what is one of your favorite comments you’ve received about your writing? Who did it come from and how did it impact you?
It’s always lovely to receive compliments about how lyrical/poetic my prose is, or how hot The Sex is, or how smoothly the pacing flows…but my favorite comment to date came to me in an email from a reader in Singapore. She said:
“I’m a reader from Singapore and have been dancing for about 3/4 of my life, most of that in ballet. I’m amazed at your level of attention to detail – I love the way you describe dance, movement, and the mentality required to succeed in ballet. I also was shocked to hear you’re not a dancer yourself – your passion and knowledge is so impressive, it was like a glimpse into the mind of someone who has lived that life.”
Reading that blew me away! For one, writing about music and movement is HARD. It’s so challenging to put that kind of passion and drive into words that don’t fall flat, or that may not resonate with people who’ve never worn pointe shoes. That a dancer said that about my writing proved to me that my research into this fascinating-but-extremely-intimidating art form was worth it. That my gut was right: I HAD to write this story. It just felt…good.
On the other side the praise is the critiques. Those we have to fight through to keep going. What was your worst? And how did you handle it?
I’ve made it my business not to know what my worst critique is, because I’ve learned not to check reviews unless I’m tagged, lol. How’d I learn this gem of wisdom? Well, I checked, of course…and a reader had DNFed the story citing “purple prose.” Initially, it hurt my feelings, because I put my heart and soul into the story and I’m sooo in love with it. But then I realized, so what? One person’s poetry is another’s purple prose. There are plenty of stories out there I couldn’t connect with that others have fallen in love with. I’ve learned to accept CONSTRUCTIVE critique, say “thank you” for compliments, and let anything else go. Once a work is out there, in some ways it’s not mine anymore. It’s for other people to consume however they choose. In other words:
::insert Kermit sipping tea meme here::
That’s none of my business. Lol!
What has been the high point of your career, so far?
Being reviewed in The New York Times. Hands-down.
That’s an incredible high point. What was the low point of your career? And how did you handle it?
Rejections. Soooooo many rejections. I indie-published my gorgeous black ballerina, and worked with a team of close friends to come up with a marketing strategy which HIGHLIGHTED, rather than downplayed her “otherness.” The result was overwhelming support for my unique little story, and for my unapologetically black, temperamental, gifted and sexy ballerina. I came away from this experience with a sense that I’ve found my people. I can’t wait to continue indie publishing!
Now it’s time to pay it forward. Give us the name of a diverse author you’ve read that you would highly recommend to readers.
Kennedy Ryan. Kennedy. Ryan. Kennedy freaking Ryan! Lol!!!
What’s next on your writing journey?
Romantic Comedy! I’m working on my third book, Love At Cruise, featuring a WOC commercial pilot and a hunky teddy bear of a British hero. A meet cute gone wrong evolves into love.
My fourth book will be an enemies-to-lovers story featuring an American heroine of Chinese ancestry, and my fifth book will be a love story between a black American heroine and Ghanaian immigrant hero. I’m keeping busy!
What’s your favorite book on the writing craft or your favorite piece of adviceto writers?
Stephen King’s “On Writing” has some amazing tips! He’s really helped me pare down my writing so it’s descriptive without feeling like a chore to read. My absolute favorite piece of advice isn’t about technique at all, it’s simply, “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” -Toni Morrison
What is something your readers don’t know about you that you wish they would?
I’m not always the most confident person in the world, and anxiety is REAL. My readers are the kindest, most hilarious and thoughtful people in the world. It makes me smile every time they slide in my DMs like, Hey Lynn! Just checking on ya! How’s it going?
It. Means. Everything.
Love you guys!
If your latest book had a soundtrack, what would be the first three songs?
Funny enough, it’s got one! Kind of? I like to make playlists for each story, so Pas De Deux has its own playlist on Spotify. The first three songs on it are “The Greatest” by Sia (ft. Kendrick Lamar), “The Middle” by Zed and Maren Morris, and “Help Me Out” by Maroon 5 and Julia Michaels.
To learn more about Lynn, visit her online at:
Check out Lynn’s current and upcoming romance releases in the Contemporarysection of this site.