Turner credits LL Cool J with some of the inspiration for this project. "We had dinner together in Los Angeles at the end of my 2011 book tour and talked about our mutual love of kids and how to inspire them. I was still riding high from the mountaintop experience of having spoken to several thousand students across America about the struggles I faced during my long writer's journey, which involved surviving cancer and years of rejection and discouragement. So we kicked around some ideas on how to help acknowledge and inspire kids wanting to tackle difficult career paths, whatever they might be. What emerged became my 'Team Talanov' creative writing project, where teenage writers got the chance to create and name their own book characters for my Aleksandr Talanov thriller series of mainstream novels."
Many authors depend on the feedback and expertise of colleagues and friends. Visit the acknowledgments page of nearly any book and you will find a listing of people who have helped the author. James Houston Turner is no different, saying many people have graciously given him assistance over the years, which is why he created this project as a means of inviting feedback from teenagers about the palette of teenage characters he wanted to create for his thrillers. But instead of simply asking a bunch of young people to read some sections of text and reply with suggestions, he came up with a fun way for participants to creatively name and create their own characters.
The project took the form of a competition, with Turner making it easy to enter by asking participants to name and describe some basic character traits by way of an online form. In return for granting him permission to use material from their submitted profiles in his upcoming books, winners would receive acknowledgment for their contribution in his books, with an overall winner receiving a prize. Extra recognition would be given to those participants whose character names were chosen for Talanov's new team.
After the deadline for entries closed on April 15, submissions were whittled down to a finalist shortlist. "The imagination and creativity demonstrated in these profiles was extraordinary,"
But the contest rules and guidelines also specified the announcement of an overall winner, plus extra recognition to the three students whose character names were chosen for Talanov's new team.
The winners credited with having named Talanov's new teenage crime fighting team are Daria Dragicevic, Susan Sullivan, and Taylor Johnson. The characters named by these students will make their debut in Turner's new thriller, which will be published in 2013. "The names jumped out at me," recalls Turner. "I knew a tiny bit of who the characters already were -- age, race, a few basic personality traits -- and when I read the list of names associated with each profile, three of them seemed to say, 'That's me!' It wasn't anywhere near that easy choosing an overall winner, mainly because the quality of work submitted by the students on the finalist list was so high. But after literally hours and hours of reading, I am extremely honored to announce Taylor Doxey as having submitted the best overall profile. Congratulations Taylor Doxey, Daria Dragicevic, Susan Sullivan, and Taylor Johnson, for the exceptional quality of your work. A special thanks also to Juanita Gish Reiter, Karen Sewell, and Amy Wilder."
Adds Turner, "I hope students had as much fun entering this competition as I did reading their work. I look forward to the next project -- and, yes, there is another one in the making!"
Inspired by the actual KGB agent who leaked word out of Moscow in the 1980s that James was on a KGB watchlist for his smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain, Aleksandr Talanov made his debut in Department Thirteen (Comfort Publishing), called "Ludlumesque"
A native of Kansas, James Houston Turner turned to writing fiction as a result of his smuggling experiences behind the Iron Curtain. A former journalist in Los Angeles, he holds a Bachelor's Degree from Baker University and a Master's Degree from the University of Houston - Clear Lake. He and his wife, Wendy, a former triathlon winner, live in Adelaide, South Australia. You may visit him at http://www.jameshoustonturner.com.