When author Jack Turley was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease similar to Crohn’s, he didn’t lose hope or curse his fate. Instead, he turned an evidently painful episode to one that is now bringing him name and fame from right across the globe. ‘Writing only started getting significant time and attention in 2018 after I was diagnosed with the disease. Incapacitated and in and out of hospital, I couldn’t go to work, exercise, or socialise. Throughout the last two years of illness-imposed isolation, writing was my escape,’ begins the twenty-four-year-young author, speaking to the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction. He, nonetheless, makes it clear that his first book of sorts was written when he was around ten years old. ‘It was called “The Alien on Mars”. I handwrote, illustrated and self-published one copy, which my mum must have stored away somewhere,’ he says.
Nothing Shitty in Here!
Talking about his published works, the author, who dwells in St Albans, a city in the commuter belt north of London, tells us that Sh*t Happens, sometimes also known as Around the World in 80 Dumps a Day, was published chapter by chapter on his website (jeturleywriting.co.uk) throughout 2019-20. ‘Season one details my struggles obtaining a diagnosis for ulcerative colitis up until surgery to fit a stoma bag in place of my large intestine. The response was great, so I’m currently writing season two, and I’ve since produced an audiobook edition of the first season,’ shares Mr Turley, who also works full-time as a Science teacher.
Causing Causa to Happen
On the question of whether he tends to plot out his stories beforehand, Mr Turley says that as far as his first novel entitled “Causa” is concerned, he did have the idea for the triggering moment of a plot: ‘What if your mother was gone, and two seconds of your time would have saved her?’.
He lets us know that after writing a few chapters, setting the scene, and getting to know the characters, the perfect ending soon emerged and that guided the rest of the unfolding action. ‘I finished writing Causa in early 2019. Despite plenty of positive feedback, I’m still trying to find an agent or independent publisher to take it on,’ he lets us know.
Inspired and Inspiring
The author, who tends to write during school holidays but who has also written large parts of his works from a hospital bed, self-isolating in his flat, and even on his phone Google Docs while travelling, says that he derives inspiration from English novelist David Stephen Mitchell.
‘While reading Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas and Bone Clocks, I found myself noting down a couple of sentences on every page because of their utter brilliance,’ he states, adding that American novelist and poet Alice Walker’s ability to maintain an uplifting tone while displaying shocking brutality in books like The Color Purple and Possessing the Secret of Joy is something that helped him improve Causa. ‘And Aldous Huxley’s vision in Brave New World led me to my current work in progress, Billions and One. Tracey Warr, who has written great books like Almodis the Peaceweaver and Conquest Trilogy, is also the only author who can get me reading historical fiction,’ he says with a smile.
‘Writing a Coping Mechanism’
With a first-class degree in Physics from Durham University besides a post-graduate science teaching qualification, Mr Turley avers that becoming a writer was not a conscious decision but a coping mechanism. ‘I’d gone from a very busy life as a young teacher to being incapable of doing any of the work and sporting activities I love. Writing got me through some extremely hard times and continues to be a passion today. My dream is to find an agent who wants to work with me to bring my novels to a wider audience,’ the author tells us, letting on that he does have plans to study further.
Talking about his work in progress, Mr Turley, who underscores that he is fortunate enough to be working as a teacher as he manages to get generous holiday periods, lets on that season two of Sh*t Happens is freely available at https://jeturleywriting.co.uk/sht-happens/. ‘If it gets as much attention as the previous series, then I may once again produce an audiobook edition,’ he states, adding that if he happened to be in another profession, he could not have come up with the books he has written so far. ‘I’m also working on my second novel Billions and One,’ he tells us. ‘Set across near-future China, it explores the idea that many nation-states could fragment into smaller, billionaire-led sovereignties if the populism caused by social media influence spirals out of control,’ he explains.
The Final Word
Having fought many a battle in life with grit and determination, Mr Turley has a couple of things to tell budding authors, who often tend to lose motivation if their works don’t do well. ‘Writing is the best form of escape. The mental health benefits are countless, just as good as many forms of therapy I’m sure. I attended a lecture series in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and tons of the professionally suggested activities are standard for a writing enthusiast,’ he says, adding, ‘Getting published is bloody difficult, at least in my experience, but the writing process alone is worthwhile.’
As the conversation draws to a close, the inspiring author gives us a glimpse of his personal life. He says that besides English, he knows French since he learnt the language at school. He also learnt Portuguese while travelling in Brazil, which is where Causa is primarily set. ‘Sadly, I didn’t grasp nearly as much of the language when I spent a summer teaching English in China. Both my novels interweave accessible phrases of the local language with English. Obviously, this was a lot easier with the Portuguese in Causa than the Chinese in Billions and One!’ he tells us with a guffaw, adding that he is learning Russian from an app called Duolingo because his girlfriend speaks the language. ‘And she still has to correct my pronunciation of every other word, so I think I’ve got a way to go…’ he laughs.
Be that as it may, is there something that he would definitely see changed in the world? ‘Removing the populist, climate-change-denying boneheads running many of the world’s most powerful nations,’ Mr Turley responds, bringing the conversation to an end.
‘Writing got me through some extremely hard times and continues to be a passion today.’Jack Turley
PS: Feel free to follow Jack Turley on Twitter and Instagram. If you like any of his work, leave a comment on his website. You can also get in touch with him if you’d like to be a beta-reader for any of his novels.