The Backstory Behind Turner Books
Ever since I was a baby, my two favourite things have been reading and drawing. I never go anywhere without a sketchbook, and books have always been very important to me. Because everyone in my family loves books, we’ve always enjoyed going to the library, listening to author talks, and going to festivals, and book launches, and things like that.
When I was younger (I can’t remember how old, maybe ten? Eleven?) we went to a few talks with James Foley and Norman Jorgensen. Even back then I always had a sketchbook with me, and I remember I gave James Foley a drawing, which he still has above his desk to this day. Anyway, they were both really nice, and very inspiring, and I decided that in addition to working in a zoo one day, I also wanted to write and illustrate books.
I've been doing art lessons with Cindy Wright for... well, I'm not sure how many years. It feels like forever. I think I started in 2013? Anyway, she is wonderful, and she has taught me so much about art. I have always (and always will) love art of all kinds, especially drawing.
Ever since I was very little, me and my family have always made up stories together, and a few years ago one my mum’s stories for us was published by Aulexic. After showing the publisher (Rebecca Laffar-Smith) some of my art, she said I could illustrate the book, and design the cover, too. That was very exciting!
We had a circus themed book launch for ‘Zany Circus: Paradox’ at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre on World Circus Day in 2017. Pulse Productions did an aerial performance, and we had free fairy floss for everyone. It was so much fun!
I’m not sure why, but not long after that, Aulexic's authors ended up being changed over to other publishers. Nadia L King changed to Serenity Press, and I thought it might be fun to start my own business. So I created Turner Books.
My mum had to help me with some of the business registration paperwork because I was 14 at the time, but when I turn 18 everything will be fully in my name. I made a website, did a lot of research, took a small business course, and acquired the rights to our first book, Zany Circus: Paradox. We re-edited and re-formatted it, and I published it under Turner Books.
We had already started writing the second book when I got an email from an author named Margaret Pearce asking me to illustrate and publish her picture book, Augustus Brown. It was a huge surprise, because I hadn’t planned on publishing other authors, just me and my family! So I said yes, and spent a long time working on that. I’m not sure if she knew at the time that I was only 14 (I’m 15 now, almost 16) but she was very patient with me.
Publishing a picture book was very different to publishing a middle grade novel, so there was a lot I needed to learn. There still is, actually, but the more I do things, the more I learn about what I’m doing.
Turner Books isn't just about books. It's also about art, music, and anything else I want it to be about. We (my family and I) write and record songs about our books, make videos, review books we like...anything we want, really! My brother and sister are my 'employees'. At the moment I pay them with delicious food at our weekly business meetings, but when they are older, I will pay them a proper wage and together, we will build a strong family business that will enable us to spend our time doing what we love.
My little sister, Azalia, and I are starting a group called Creativity Club, which is connected to Turner Books. Our first session is this Friday, and it will be held at The Little Aussie Café.
My main passions will always be books and art, so that is what I will mainly be focusing on. But there are so many great things in the world, I think it would be a mistake to put limits on life... or on Turner Books.
So far I have published five books, but I am working on several more at the moment. We had a Book Launch for ‘Zany Circus: Pythagoras Rules’ a few weeks ago, which was great. We had it at one of our favourite cafés, Jarrah Infusion. Fake Pythagoras came along, and we had a philosophy themed costume competition. Nic from Jarra Infusion made six kinds of cake for everyone to eat, and there was a great turnout, despite how stormy the weather was that day!
‘Augustus Brown’ is available for preorder, but officially comes out on the 19th of August. Over the next year, I will be releasing book 3 of the Zany Circus series, and several picture books that I am writing and illustrating. There might be more, but I’m not sure yet. It was a lot of work releasing two books so close together, so I might need to space things out a bit more in the future.
I realised how much I love creating picture books when I went along to a picture book making course with Cristy Burne and Frané Lessac. I think very visually, and it suits my writing style. I plan on writing and illustrating a lot of picture books!
The best things about having my own business are being able to make my own rules, write whatever I want to write about, draw what I want to draw, and set my own goals.
To any kids reading this who want to start their own business, I want to tell you to go for it.
Starting out might be difficult, and you might feel overwhelmed by how complicated (or time consuming) some things turn out to be. If you persevere, you will be glad you did. You will make mistakes, but that’s okay, because you will learn from them. Don’t give up, and if there are obstacles in your way, find a way to work around them, or even with them.
Don’t compare yourself to other people, just do what you feel inspired to do, and be happy.
By Xanthe Turner
Xanthe Turner loves drawing so much, she has developed callouses on her drawing hand, and is rarely seen without a sketchbook. Her natural habitat is a novel-filled bedroom.
In addition to illustrating (and publishing) books, Xanthe enjoys creating comics, fan art, sculptures, cosplay, and paintings. Xanthe plays guitar and piano (not at the same time) and her life goal is to befriend a sentient robot.
'Just Might Be Zany' is a song about 'Zany Circus: Paradox'.
The above video is my pitch for my upcoming anthology project, 'Mandurian Stories'.