❉ ‘Dinnusos Rises’ is an urban fantasy by Cardiff-based writer Tej Turner.
Tej Turner is a writer of fantasy and science fiction. His debut novel The Janus Cycle was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015 and its sequel Dinnusos Rises is available now in ebook format, with a paperback edition to follow in July. He has also had short stories featured in a few anthologies, including Impossible Spaces (Hic Dragones Press) and The Bestiarum Vocabulum (Western Legends).
RisingShadow has described both books as “contemporary fantasy …that is in equal parts speculative fiction, literary fiction and surrealism.”
Hi Tej, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
By day I am a vegetarian chef and by night I am an author of fantasy and science fiction. That is a fairly busy schedule, so I don’t have too much time for much else these days! I read as much as I can, and I like to squeeze in the odd day trip to see historic sites and the countryside too.
I also like cider.
What were you like at school? Were you good at English?
English was one of the subjects I was better at, but as far as my general performance at school went I wasn’t a very good pupil to be honest. I didn’t have a good time there – I found it quite a hostile and insular place, and I was bullied. I also (to be fair) misbehaved. It just generally wasn’t a very good environment for me…
It was only really when I went to college and later on to university – places which were more progressive and where I was given freedom – that I began to flourish both academically and creatively.
What were your earliest creative influences?
I started my voyage into the world of fantasy when I was quite young, with authors like CS Lewis and Tamora Pierce, and then when I got older I discovered the likes of Maggie Furey, Freda Warrington, Juliet Marilier and many others. I also loved Jean M Auel’s Earth’s Children series, which I have since re-read again many times as an adult.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To write as many books as I can, I guess. And if that means making a little money from it too – so I don’t have to work so much and can have more time to write – then so be it! 😉
So, what have you written so far?
I have had two novels published so far. My debut was The Janus Cycle which was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015. And I have just published an indirect sequel, Dinnusos Rises.
I have also had several stories published in anthologies, and I have a travelblog online from when I kept an account of my adventures while I was backpacking around Asia a couple of years ago. I might revive it if I end up going on another voyage someday.
Can you tell us a little about your novels; are they part of a series?
The Janus Cycle was a semibiographical novel, and the process of writing it was cathartic for me. I didn’t even realise it was a novel at first – as some of its chapters were originally short stories – but eventually I saw the potential and decided to join all the threads together.
Dinnusos Rises also contains some echoes from my past, but it’s where I let the characters I created in The Janus Cycle come into their own, and live out their own stories. I think it is a more mature novel, as it wasn’t just the characters who got older, but I did too.
Dinnusos Rises is technically a sequel to The Janus Cycle. They both take place in the same universe – a quirky and more surreal version of our own present-day world – and they have many of the same characters, but they are both completely readable as standalone novels. It is perfectly possible to just jump straight into Dinnusos Rises without reading its predecessor.
Does your book feature a central protagonist?
There is no particular character in either book who can be deemed as the ‘main’ protagonist. Both The Janus Cycle and Dinnusos Rises are what they call ‘mosaic novels’. Each chapter is narrated by a different character, but in both books there is a linear, overarching story which joins all the threads together.
I guess in a sense the main character of both novels is actually a location rather than a person. The Janus Cycle takes place in a nightclub called ‘Janus’, and it is in this setting that most of the pivotal events take place. It is also where the characters who narrate the different chapters all cross paths during the story.
Janus is a subcultural hub – a locale which draws outsiders and weird people – but it is not just a place of transgressive societal norms; the very rules of reality are warped and distorted there too, and lots of surreal things happen to the characters who venture there. As a place, it also – just like the characters – goes on an evolutionary journey (but I won’t go into too much detail about that on here, because it is better for people to discover that for themselves if they read it).
Dinnusos Rises is a similar premise. Just as The Janus Cycle takes place in a club called ‘Janus’, Dinnusos Rises takes place in a bar called ‘Dinnusos’. In this sequel some of the characters from The Janus Cycle return again as narrators, but the rest of the stories are told through new voices who I decided to bring into the foreground.
What genre are your books?
‘Urban fantasy’ is probably the most fitting, but it is one which can be a little misleading as most of the material from that genre which people are familiar these days are TV series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and books by authors such as Laurell K Hamilton. The flare of urban fantasy which I write is a little more traditional to the origins of the subgenre, and the supernatural elements are subtler. There are vampires or werewolves, but there are lots of ghosts, magic, and other mythical beings.
RisingShadow (an online magazine which has reviewed both of my novels) has described both books as “contemporary fantasy […] that is in equal parts speculative fiction, literary fiction and surrealism.”
What draws you to this genre?
I think what I love about urban fantasy is that it gives you a platform to explore magic and mystery in a present-day setting, and thus the issues the characters face are more contemporary and relatable to the here and now.
I have also always been very drawn to magic and folklore, so they have a tendency to leak into my stories no matter what genre or time-period I am writing in. In my personal life I am and have been involved in various forms of mysticism (including witchcraft, neopaganism, tarot, reiki, and other traditions) so even when I write fiction which is realistic to me, many people would probably see it as fantasy anyway…
Tell us about the covers and how they came about.
I am very happy with what Elsewhen Press did with my covers. They are both very fitting and go well together.
Because The Janus Cycle is based in a nightclub, they decided to go for a neon design depicting the god Janus. If you look closely at the cover, you will see that there is a wall in the background too. When I finished Dinnusos Rises it only made sense to go for a similar design, but this time with a depiction of Dionysus.
Who designed your book covers?
Alison Buck, who is one of the owners and editors of Elsewhen Press.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
I am not too sure, to be honest. I don’t know too much about that stuff. My brain just doesn’t work that way and I am lucky enough to have a publisher to do those things for me. I guess if it is eye-catching and iconic in some way it is more likely to draw attention and be memorable.
When did you decide to become a writer? What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I decided I wanted to be a writer at a very young age, and as a child I had a very active imagination. I loved reading books, so it was also just natural to me to want to write them. While my brothers would often ask for consoles and games as presents when we were kids, I more often requested things such as books, typewriters, and (later on, when I was older and it became a thing) word processors and computers.
I guess it was when I went to University that I began to take it more seriously and knuckle down on writing things which I intended to be printed.
What has your journey as a writer been like? How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
It took me a while to get published initially. Partly because I kept doing off on trips gallivanting around Asia, but also because when you’re first starting out I think it takes a while for your writing to reach a level where it becomes polished enough to be properly enjoyed by others. For most people, becoming a writer is not a process which happens overnight. It takes time, practice and dedication. Another thing which people often don’t realise is that you actually spend more time redrafting and improving your material than you do creating.
I guess that as you get older it is not just your writing which becomes more polished, but the content becomes more mature too.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Most of my reading is done on Kindle these days. They are especially handy if you travel a lot! I do still love to collect hardbacks for my favourite authors though.
What book are you reading at present?
Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan. It is the sixth book in his Wheel of Time series. There are fourteen in all, so I am not sure I will get through all of them, but I will see how far I get!
What drives you to write?
It is compulsive for me. Whenever I have had periods in my life where I haven’t been able to write I have begun to feel strange and unsettled, so it is something which seems to be essential to my wellbeing. This is the case for me, at least. It may be different for other writers.
I think what I love the most important thing about literature (and what I love about it the most) is that it gives you chances to glimpse the world through other people’s eyes (and in the case of writing, a chance to show people the world through yours or ones you’ve imagined). Books teach you to empathise and understand people from times, places, and situations to which are different to yourself.
How are you publishing this book and why?
I am published by Elsewhen Press, who are an independent publisher. When I finished The Janus Cycle I went straight to the smaller presses because it was quite an experimental novel and I felt like it was only fitting that it was printed with an indie press.
Where can we find your book?
You can find both books on Amazon, or through Elsewhen Press’s website.
In what formats is your book available?
Dinnusos Rises is only available as an ebook at the moment (on Amazon, Kobo, Apple iBook, and GooglePlay) because Elsewhen Press have a tradition of releasing the paperback version three months after the digital. Those of you who prefer something you can hold in your hands you will need to wait till July.
I will be holding a book launch in Cardiff, which can be found as an event on Facebook for those who are interested.
How do you plan to promote your book?
Mostly by getting reviews and doing interviews such as this one. I have a few other things tucked under my sleeve over the next few months 😉
Do you have any upcoming projects? How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I am currently working on an epic fantasy series (which I will reveal more about if and when I sign to a publisher for it) and I can be found online at the following places:
❉ Website: http://tejturner.wordpress.com
❉ Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tejturner
❉ Twitter: @tejturner
❉ Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tej-Turner/e/B00H57IMBK/
❉ Dinnusos Rises Book Launch takes place at MILGI, Cardiff, 8 July from 14:30–17:00: https://www.facebook.com/events/1273285002786422/