Grace and Literary Laughter: An Interview with Author Jen Turano

Today I have the privilege of talking to Inspirational Historical Fiction author, Jen Turano. (Be sure and read all the way through for an exciting giveaway opportunity.) 

On a personal note, I’ve been a fan of Jen’s books for some time now. I first read her novel, A Change of Fortune a year or so after losing my aunt to cancer. My aunt was one of my best friends and had a nutty sense of humor that kept the whole family laughing, no matter what. When she passed, I took comfort in knowing she was with God, but I didn’t have much mirth for a while. When I read A Change of Fortune, with its plot full of crazy antics and witty dialogue, it was one of the first times I found myself uncontrollably laughing out loud in over a year. That book has a special place in my heart.  

But that’s enough of my commentary. 



Jen, thank you for chatting with me on my blog today. I think your readers probably all agree that humor is one of the most prominent aspects of your books. Even though these stories take place in another time and involve situations most of us don’t encounter every day, such as fancy dress balls, your characters’ ability to laugh at themselves and see the absurdity in their own situations gives them an authenticity that is very appealing. How do you go about infusing so much humor into your work? Is that something that comes naturally? Do you ever draw from reality?

Thank you so much for having me today and thank you as well for your kind words about my books. And now – why I write madcap adventures, filled with amusing situations. That all goes back to your comment about finding yourself laughing after you’d experienced a loss in your life. Before I wrote A Change of Fortune I had actually decided that it was time for me to move away from trying to get published and return to the career I’d had before I took time off to be a stay-at-home mom. God soon made it clear that He apparently had different plans for me. As I was cleaning the bathroom one day, and right after I’d spoken with a friend of mine about an opportunity in fashion, I suddenly got this flash of a story – and I mean, I got everything. I knew who the characters were, the setting, everything – and…it was a crazy story. So, I told God that I was going to give it one more go, but then, if that book didn’t sell, I was putting away my keyboard forever. I wrote that story and then my agent kindly sold it to Bethany House, and the rest is history. But, the madcap adventure did bring me a ton of scathing reviews and less than friendly emails, which had me a bit put out with God for steering me back to an industry I’d been sure I was ready to abandon – until I got my first letter from an ALS patient. She’d become confined to her room, her world shrinking day by day, but she’d found herself laughing while reading  A Change of Fortune – something she’d not enjoyed in quite some time. That’s when I realized why I was writing what I was writing and decided that madcap adventures were going to be my signature stories from that point forward because, clearly, that's what God wanted me to do with my writing. 

As for how I go about infusing humor in my books – I think that’s all due to the fact I’m rather weird and see the world a bit differently than most people. I’ve always had a strange sense of humor, and yes, many of the situations I write about are reality-based – drawn from the peculiarities of my everyday life.   

I love the Gilded Age settings of your books. What attracted you to that era and prompted you to use it as a backdrop for your novels?

I had gone to see one of the authors who’d written To Marry an English Lord (which was one of the books that inspired Downton Abbey) and she talked a lot about Consuelo Vanderbilt and her ill-fated marriage to a duke. Well, that got me curious about Consuelo’s mother, Alva, and after reading Alva’s history, and finding some riveting articles about Alva’s famous ball of March 1883, I soon became slightly obsessed with the Gilded Age. That right there is why I decided to set my historical romances in that era. There’s so much fodder for story it’s almost overwhelming, but that does mean I’ll have plenty to write about for years and years to come.   
Readers definitely get a tantalizing glimpse of Gilded Era pomp and circumstance with your books, yet at the same time, many of your characters, particularly the female ones, find themselves contradicting cultural expectations with their actions. They are reporters or private detectives, and they spend time with people who aren’t in the elite class. They seem to accept the excesses of their society, without being corrupted by them. What are a few lessons readers can take away from your convention-defying heroines?

I try to create characters readers can relate to – each with their own faults and curious habits. The one thing I always want readers to take away is that it’s okay to be yourself – to defy the conventions that other people think you should embrace, and to live a life that’s filled with kindness, humor, and a bit of the absurd.   

I love the “Wallflowers” characters from your latest series. Permilia and Gertrude from the first two books really make the most of their positions slightly on the fringe of society. At some point, most of us have felt like outsiders or like we only partly belonged. Can you talk a little bit about the unique role of these characters? Is there anything you hope the reader takes away from reading about this situation?

Everyone always wants to fit in – but the majority of us have times in our lives when we simply don’t fit the mold we’re expected to fit. Before I wrote the proposal to send to my editor for the Wallflower Series, and I’m just going to admit I really couldn’t decide what type of series I wanted to write next, I stocked up on all different types of historical romances to see if something would inspire me. Well, nothing did. The books I’d chosen were filled with heroines who were all diamonds of the first water if you will, and I found myself unable to really embrace those characters because there’s not much conflict to be found when your life is moving along so perfectly. That’s when I thought it would be amusing to create a series around a group of wallflowers – but not have them embrace the tried and true troupe of being timid, mousey sorts. 

By creating characters who certainly weren’t diamonds of the first water, but who had their own sense of charm just the same, I hoped that readers would take away the idea that everyone has a place in the world, it just sometimes turns out that the world and people we occasionally surround ourselves with is not always the world we’re meant to inhabit. And, sometimes we need to trust those whispers we get from God and trust that He knows exactly where we fit into the world.

Permilia and Gertrude were certainly written as outcasts, but they’re two completely different young ladies. Permilia has a strong independent streak, and by having her take up a position as an anonymous gossip columnist, it really set her apart from any of the other ladies in society. I wanted readers to see Permilia as a bit of a Cinderella figure, but one who could survive on her own terms even though she did win her own Prince Charming in the end.

Gertrude was a more difficult character to develop. I always knew she had secrets from her past, a burden so to speak, but I didn’t know what that was when I introduced her in the prequel novella and then first book, Behind the Scenes. It wasn’t until I began to develop her relationship with Mrs. Davenport that I realized she wasn’t merely going along with her employer’s outlandish behavior because she was a kind and gentle soul, but because she was trying to find redemption from what she saw as sins from her past. After I figured that out, I was then able to give her more depth and allow her to grow in her spiritual and personal journey, which then allowed her to accept that she was worthy of love as well as a happily-ever-after.   
What is the name of your next book, and when will it be released (not that we’re impatient or anything)?

Caught by Surprise comes out July 2018 – and then…my next new series will begin releasing in 2019. I have a title for the first book but can’t share – although it might have the word Flights in it, and the series revolves around three great American heiresses – all of whom will (because this is a Jen Turano series after all) balk at the expectations demanded of grand heiresses and go just a bit…rogue.   

In closing, I always ask my guests, is there anything you’d like for me and my readers to pray for you about?

That’s so kind of you. I always appreciate prayers for good health, and for God to watch over my family and friends.



You can read about Jen's books on her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY:
Jen Turano has graciously agreed to give away a signed copy of her novel, Out of the Ordinary. To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment below. Share your thoughts on this discussion, tell me which Turano book you love or would love to read, or just say, "Hi." 

The giveaway will last from today until March 29. I will randomly select one winner from the comments. Please provide your email address so I can contact you if you win.

Comments

  1. I have really enjoyed Jen Turano's books, especially when I need a book that is fun and will make me laugh! I love her quirky characters and her fun book covers, AND I love that they are historical fiction, so I feel like I learn little tidbits of history. I loved Behind the Scenes, so I am looking forward to reading this one.

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  2. Thank you for the post! I haven’t started this series yet but am looking forward to it!

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    1. It’s a great series. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. "Everyone has a place in this world" thank you

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  4. Hi! I love all of Jen Turano's books! I found her about 2 years ago on my library website and since then I have read all her books! I love that I literally laugh out loud when reading them! Keep writing!!

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    1. “Literally laugh out loud,” I guess that would be “llol.” haha

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  5. I have only read about 3 of Jen turanos books but I would love to read them all,they are so fun and easy to read I just can't put it down after I start. Would love to win one too. lisaboesehaems(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for commenting. I have a hard time putting them down too when I read them.

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  6. I really enjoyed Permilia's story and would love to read about Gertrude! The Gilded Age is one of my favorite era's to read and learn about!

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  7. I enjoy books that make you laugh, as laughter is the best medicine in these troubled times. Thank you for sharing. Have a blessed day.

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  8. I think that all avid readers go through periods of reading when a humorous story is exactly what they need. Life has enough sadness, enough drama, enough hardtimes so why read about them? Thanks Jen for the enjoyment that you offer.
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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  9. Hi....I have just started reading books by Jen. Have bought 2 already and would love to read this one. So far love the 2 I have read.

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    1. Thanks for reading. I’m sure you’ll love the two you’ve bought so far!

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  10. It’s always fun to read a Jen Turano Book. Thank you for a small glimpse into your life and for offering one of your stories.
    ttmom42 at gmail dot com

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  11. I love Jen's books. So fun to have laugh out loud moments in her books! I enjoyed what you shared about finding Jen's books after your aunt died. They sure are a fun get-away from every day life. Thank you for the interview and for the chance to win! This book is on my wish list! jcrea (at) comcast (dot) net

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    1. Thank you for reading the interview. Yes, her books are definitely a blessing.

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  12. I have quite a few of her books. I like the lightheartedness and humor in them. The first one I read was the one with a pig. Match was in the title.
    catbooks72(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I believe that was “A Match of Wits.” I loved the pig!

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  13. I adore Jen's books! And she's even more fun and amazing in person! Hugs, sweet friend! Thanks for the wonderful interview.

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  14. A Change of Fortune was the first book of Jen Turano's that I ever read. I think it is still my most favorite! :-)
    Recently though, I read Finding Margo and am now Dying to read the rest of the series...

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    1. Finding Margo was a lot of fun. I liked the animal antics.

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  15. Jen is a fun writer and I love all of her madcap adventures! I really enjoyed this interview and would love to read her new book. The cover is fabulous.
    perrianne.askew@me.com
    Perrianne

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  16. Sounds romantic and funny and takes place in one of my favorite time periods๐Ÿ˜Š

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  17. I love her books. They always make me laugh out loud!
    Hannahweber500@yahoo.com

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    1. Me too! In fact, I startle my cats with my sudden bursts of laughter when I’m reading!

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  18. Hey Jen, I loved reading both your books "A Change Of Fortune" and " A Talent For Trouble" and look forward to reading many more of your books!
    sarahrichmond.12@gmail.com

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    1. Thank you for stopping by to read the interview!

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  19. Hi! I love reading historical fiction books and the above sounds real good. I look forward to reading your books Jen. energregarious7@gmail.com

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    1. Thanks for commenting. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres.

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  20. I love all of Jen's books! They're so much fun!

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    1. I agree. Reading her books are more entertaining than going to a movie. (Less crowded too.)

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  21. Thanks for this blog. My first time here but I really enjoyed this and I have signed up. Jen Turano is my favorite author and I do have several Christian Romance Authors that I like to read. Her books and parts of them are ones I will go back and re-read. If you were to ask me which is my favorite, I would have to say the one I am reading right now. ; )

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Sandra! I like to re-read the books too, especially A Change of Fortune, although I've re-read parts of Out of the Ordinary also.

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  22. Sorry Chloe, you asked for our email and I forgot. Just in case you need it sandralb@mchsi.com, thanks.

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  23. I also have a strange since of humor. While not a fan of sitcoms, I often find humor in my children's honesty, my own clumsiness, and social media satire.

    My fellow book bloggers always have wonderful things to say about Jen's books. I'm sure I would enjoy this or her upcoming series.

    Blessings,
    Amanda G.
    geaneymail at gmail

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Amanda. Based on how you’ve described your sense of humor, it sounds like you would like these books.

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  24. I love Jen's writing!!! I can not get enough of her writing and her humor brightens my day.

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    1. Oops, just in case: irishniff (at) yahoo (dot) com

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    2. Thank you for taking time to read the interview!

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  25. Not read one yet, but I have heard such fun things about them!! They say it's always best to start at the beginning, so whatever book is first, that's the one I would read ๐Ÿ˜Š Followed shortly by the rest, I'm sure!

    Thank you for the giveaway chance!

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    1. In case you need this
      teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    2. Thanks for stopping by, Trixi. The novella that is a prequel to Jen’s first gilded age series is free to read on Amazon Kindle. It’s titled, Gentlemen of Her Dreams. It’s an excellent introduction to her books.

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  26. I have read Jen's book Playing the Part. I love her writing style and would love to read Out Of The Ordinary.
    marypopmom (at) yahoo (dot) com
    Merry

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    1. Playing the Part is a great one. It had one of my favorite settings.

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  27. I'm so glad that you decided to listen to God and stick it out, Jen! I love books full of humor because real life is serious enough! Lol

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    1. “Real life is serious enough.” Good point!

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  28. I have not read any of her books and I am always looking for new authors to try so would love to read any of her books!

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    1. It’s fun to discover a “new to you” author, isn’t it?

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  29. I've read a couple of Jen's books that were good but can't remember the titles. I know I'm a bit forgetful; comes with age.

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    1. Or brain overload. That’s my problem. Thanks for reading the interview.

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  30. I love how open and frank Jen was in this interview! I also liked what she said about wanting readers to be OK with being themselves ♥.
    Late last summer I started reading Christian fictional, so I just discovered Jen this past fall through 'After a Fashion'. It was so comical I bought the rest of that series. I've been wanting to read the 'Apart from the crowd' series, I can only speculate the awesome humor in these books. Thank you for the opportunity! God bless!!

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    1. Thanks so much for reading, Jessy. After a Fashion is definitely entertaining.

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  31. My email address!! Forgetful much ๐Ÿ˜
    Txjessy1@gmail.com

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