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Do authors live within the pages of their books?

A session with S.S. Turner

Have you ever read a novel and wondered how much of the author resides within the book’s pages? I know I have. I remember after I first read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I then read about Mark Twain’s life for clues as to whether he’d ever run away along the Mississippi River as a youngster. The answer was an emphatic yes… “I ran away twice; once at about 13, & once at 17. There is not much satisfaction in it, even as a recollection. It was a couple of disappointments, particularly the first one. The heroics squish out of such things so promptly¹.” I also discovered Mark Twain worked as a boat captain on the same river for many years when he was a younger man. That’s why his knowledge of river life and speak was so authentic and compelling throughout the novel. For me, that was evidence that Mark Twain’s distinctive character does live on within the pages of his distinctive books. And I think that’s the case for most writers, to a greater or lesser extent.

As my second novel The Connection Game launches, some friends and family members have asked me the same question… Is there part of me residing within any of the characters of the book? After some thought, I realized I can really relate to the novel’s narrator, Belinda Basilworth. She’s the voice of reason in the Basilworth household, while her genius of a husband Benny Basilworth is generally too caught up in being a genius to be reasonable. I’ve been in similar situations throughout my life. When the going gets tough, I’ve often been called upon to bring a calming energy to the table just like Belinda Basilworth. When Benny rants and raves about the unique challenges the Basilworths are up against, Belinda is often the one to bring him back down to earth and to remind him of all the things he’s lucky for at the end of the day. As such, I suppose a part of me is living within the pages of The Connection Game.

So I do think writers live within the pages of their books to varying degrees. What’s really interesting about this idea is that it often takes active thought by writers to understand which parts of them are living within their own books. In other words, the answer may not be obvious to many writers because stories originate within the vast and inexplicable world of the subconscious—this is not a black and white world of obvious answers. Then, there’s also the likelihood that writers may shift between being like different characters in their own books over time. For example, when Mark Twain was a younger man, I’m confident he had more of Huck Finn residing inside him. Then, when he became older I wonder if the Duke or the King ever raised their heads within his real life character. Or maybe they were always there, hidden in the background. The exciting news for readers is if you feel like a conversation with the real Mark Twain, or any other author in history, you just need to pick up one of their books. They’re ready to reveal themselves to you on those precious pages.

SS Turner’s novel, The Connection Game, is now available.

1 Letter to W. D. Howells, 10/3/1902


About the Author…

S.S. TURNER has been an avid reader, writer, and explorer of the natural world throughout his life which has been spent in England, Scotland and Australia. Just like Freddy in his first novel, Secrets of a River Swimmer, he worked in the global fund management sector for many years but realized it didn't align with his values. In recent years, he's been focused on inspiring positive change through his writing as well as trying not to laugh in unfortunate situations. He now lives in Australia with his wife, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and ten chickens.

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