By Midge Pierce
In her intriguing debut novel, The God of Sno Cone Blue, Marcia Coffey Turnquist proves you can go home again.
It’s especially true when you plumb for deep life experiences in an unpretentious corner of SE Portland where your parents are still living in your childhood home.
Many of the memorable characters in her book are drawn from Turnquist’s interactions on a street in Lents that is little changed in 50 years.
“I come from a large family of eccentric characters,” she laughs. A houseful of sisters, a devoted mother and police officer father provided the kind of solid grounding Turnquist draws on for plot twists that pull troubled young Grace through the anger and despair of her mother’s death and father’s deception.
A series of letters left by her mother lead Grace on a journey both life-altering and life-affirming. As Grace unravels family secrets weaving through three generations, the emotional tug makes it an ideal bookclub read. In fact, the success of her book has been largely through word of mouth.
A former KOIN-TV reporter, Turnquist left broadcast to become a mother. “My children were my inspiration. I wondered what kind of letters I might leave behind if I had a life-threatening illness.”
It took Turnquist 10 years to complete her novel. The seasoned journalist pared 1,000 pages to a tight 300 and the result is a story as rich and deep as her Portland roots. The self-published book, has won the IndieBRAG Medallion; the gold standard for independent books.
Her second novel is still in progress. Skipping the Light, ventures beyond Portland to a landscape reminiscent of palisades near Madras where her family vacations. She’s halfway through a plot that time travels to a dystopian society of the future.
Turnquist offers advice for first-time authors – write, write and rewrite. Retrace, edit and rearrange. Find a trusted friend or writer’s group to critique your work.
“Trading chapters is a must. I resisted it at first because it’s such a personal thing, but you have to get over that to get honest feedback.”
Sometimes you also have to turn off your inner editor to let your imagination flow.
“It’s hard,” she admits. “My inner editor is my friend, but if you want to write, writing streams of thought – a lot – helps stories emerge.”
With the new year, Turnquist will release her debut novel through a distributor. This means The God of Sno Cone Blue may one day grace the windows of Powells in her SE hometown.
No need to wait until then though. To order her book now, go to marciacoffeyturnquist.com.