Nancy E. Turner grew up with a divided childhood.
Her father worked as a computer engineer in Northern California’s Silicon Valley. During summers, the family vacationed on a family farm in Texas.
“I had seen plenty of Westerns on TV, and here were my relatives who rode horses and rounded up cattle and churned butter in the kitchen,” Turner, 60, said. “It was a real dichotomy against computers and Disneyland. … I wanted to connect the dots between those folks who lived so long ago and the life I lived now.”
Her grandmother’s life inspired the first chapter of Turner’s first book, “These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901.” From that chapter, she built the rest of the story.
Turner, who moved to Tucson in 1992, used examples from her great-grandmother’s life in this fictionalized diary that vividly details one woman’s struggles with life and love in frontier Arizona.
“My Name Is Resolute,” published last month, is Turner’s fifth historical novel and focuses on a young woman who smuggles clothing and other textiles during the American Revolution.
When Turner stumbled upon orders from British Gen. William Howe commanding soldiers to seize the linen and wool goods from the American opposition, the wheels began turning for “My Name Is Resolute.” The story solidified after Turner discovered a flax spinning wheel in a New England antique shop.
“I touched it and a wheel turned, and I thought, ‘Imagine the hands that touched
this,’ ” Turner said. “That’s when it came together and I knew what a person would do in that moment. It just jelled. I write in a way that is every English teacher’s worst nightmare, because I can’t outline anything.”
Instead, a carefully curated soundtrack sweeps her along — this time, she pounded the keyboard to colonial melodies and crescendos from the soundtrack of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
“When it’s a story that needs to be told, it energizes my creativity,” she said.