The thing about giving advice is you sometimes end up needing to take it yourself.
For years, Jamie Langston Turner has shared an article with her writing students at Bob Jones University. The gist of the piece is that Christian writers self-impose a ghetto on their work when they congregate in the Christian publishing world.
It was not the way of past generations of great Christian writers, such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
“They used to write for the world at large,” Turner said.
With the publication of her eighth novel, Turner takes a step to join them. Her prior work had been published by Bethany House, an imprint of Baker Publishing. “To See the Moon Again” will be released Sept. 2 by Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
It was a years-long transition, but all that time ended up being productive.
“I think the final book is stronger than it would have been,” Turner said.
Every time she read students the article about the “ghettoizing” of Christian books, she had to take note of the fact that she wasn’t following its advice.
The economic downturn in 2008 affected the entire publishing industry but hit smaller publishers hardest of all. Bethany House started to declare Turner’s books out of print, in quick succession.
When “Winter Birds” met that fate, she knew it was time to act. The novel won a 2007 Christy Award and garnered the best reviews of any of her work.
Turner went to a bookstore and scoured the shelves for a writer whose work was similar to hers but who wrote for a mainstream publisher. She found Jan Karon — and went home to write a stamp-and-envelope letter to Penguin, Karon’s publisher.
“This is all very scientific, you see,” she said.
Eventually, she had a reply and two of her books made the rounds of editors at Penguin. They were interested, but they wanted to see something new. Turner didn’t have a manuscript to send them. So she began to write.
“I had the vaguest germ of an idea stirring around in my mind, but I really hadn’t gotten past a shadowy character,” Turner said.
That character was Julia, an unhappy, introspective creative writing teacher and the heart of “To See the Moon Again.”
Turner has no illusions about the first chapter she sent them, “which was very slow and ponderous and full of extraneous details.”
Those problems were resolved as Turner revised and trimmed and improved. But she did have her way, and wrote a much longer book than the editors first proposed. And it includes a first for her — action outside of South Carolina when Julia takes a trip to New England.
Turner’s son and daughter-in-law lived in Connecticut for a time and she took her first trips to that region to visit them. She was compelled to write about the beauty she found there.
While her new editors don’t yet feel like family, as the Bethany editors did, Turner enjoyed working with the bigger house. She had some pleasant surprises, too: This is only her third novel to be released with her first-choice title. And she had extensive input regarding the cover art, which isn’t always the case.
“To See the Moon Again” was finished in August 2011. The original manuscript was dedicated to her granddaughter, Svana. But in the three years since Turner submitted it, Svana became a big sister to Kjell.
“Because it took so long, it’s now dedicated to my granddaughter and my grandson,” Turner said.
YOU CAN GO
Jamie Langston Turner will sign copies of her eighth novel, “To See the Moon Again,” from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Bob Jones University Campus Store. The book’s official release is Sept. 2.