Interested in Creating and Naming Your Own Book Character?

Bestselling novelist JAMES HOUSTON TURNER announces a creative writing project for teenagers across America to name and create their own book characters for his Aleksandr Talanov series of thrillers. Winners to receive worldwide acknowledgment.
By: Derek Cooper
March 5, 2012 - PRLog -- It's not often teenagers get to take part in the creation of a novel. Bestselling author JAMES HOUSTON TURNER knows this as well as anyone, which is why he created the "Team Talanov" project to encourage young writers to name and develop their own book characters.  Those whose work is chosen will not only have their characters appear in at least one book in his Aleksandr Talanov series of thrillers, but received worldwide recognition in the acknowledgments section of that and each book in the series where those characters appear. There is also an additional prize for the overall winner, with guidelines and consent forms available on his website: The project is free to enter, and will run during the month of March, 2012.

Turner knows how hard it is to get published, and he hopes his Team Talanov project inspires excellence and perseverance in young writers and students of today. This message of hope and inspiration is important to Turner, who had to overcome many obstacles himself to become a published author. His 2011 promotional tour was called the "Too Ugly Tour" in dedication to the moment when he was rejected for a customer service job because he was too ugly. It was a reference to the facial scars he still carries from his successful 1991 battle against cancer. "At the time it was a kick in the guts," he recalls, "because my writing was going nowhere and we needed money and I was on the verge of quitting. So I applied for a customer service job with a large company. I was rejected, not because I lacked skills, but because I was too ugly."

During his Too Ugly Tour, Turner spoke to thousands of students about the values of perseverance and hope.

"We need hope," he explains, "and we need to believe in ourselves. But we also need what I call 'sticktoitiveness' -- perseverance -- to carry us through those tough times when life kicks you in the guts and says you're too ugly, too fat, too old, too young, too dumb, too poor, too...whatever. That's why I'm running this contest: to both inspire and reward excellence in the young people of today. Having a "too ugly" experience is also one of the features of this project. Each of the characters must have been bullied or laughed at for some reason. It's no fun being on the receiving end of that stick, so I want participants to write some kind of a "too ugly" experience into the backgrounds of their characters."

Turner also says that writing books is the easy part, which is why, after taking four months last year to write his book, he spent more than three months traveling, with another three months spent in preparation. "I had to organize my own speaking schedule, make hundreds of phone calls and send hundreds of emails. I arranged sponsorships of wine and cheese. I arranged my own transportation and lodging. It was a mammoth task. There's a romantic, unrealistic notion of authors churning out books that millions of people then flock out to buy. The fact is, for most of us it is a lot of hard work to build name recognition. I drove over 4500 miles across America last year promoting my thrillers. Yes, Department Thirteen (Comfort Publishing) hit bestseller status, but that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been out there doing the hard yards. By the same token, no matter how hard you work at promotion, you can't be out there selling a bad product, which is why publishers play an important part in this process. As actor Sam Worthington told me last year at G'day USA, 'it all begins with the writer'  -- with the book -- and it had better be a good one."

Turner goes on to elaborate about excellence, citing the dozens of times he rewrites and edits his manuscripts before they become published books. His "Ludlumesque" thriller, Department Thirteen, illustrated the importance of good editing when it won the coveted USA Book News "Best Thriller of 2011" award. The book was inspired not only by his years as a smuggler behind the old Iron Curtain, but by the actual KGB agent who leaked word out of Moscow in the 1980s that he was on a KGB watchlist and being followed in San Diego, where he was living at the time.

So while Turner draws on experience to write what he knows, he also knows his limitations. "Who better to help me create a cast of teenage characters than some teenagers themselves? Could I do it myself? Yes. But I'm looking forward to the fresh ideas they'll bring to the table. I do want to make one thing clear, though: I'm not asking for a lot here. I'm not asking for dialogue or plot developments or anything beyond a name and a basic character profile on the form provided ... some 'skeleton' facts, as it were. My job as the author is to then flesh out personalities, create situations, direct movements and write dialogue for those characters. I'm really excited to see what develops as a result, and I hope some of these young contributors go on to write books of their own."

Originally from Kansas but currently living in Adelaide, South Australia, Turner holds a Bachelor's Degree from Baker University and a Master's Degree from the University of Houston Clear Lake.

Information about his signature protagonist, former KGB informant, Aleksandr Talanov, can be found at
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