Judith Turner-Yamamoto grew up in rural North Carolina in a small mill town where people either worked the land or left the land to work the mills. As an art historian, she first came to writing through learning to appraise what she saw and to describe what moved her. Her work has appeared in StorySOUTH, Mississippi Review, Snake Nation Review, and American Literary Review, among others, and in many anthologies, including Walking the Edge: A Southern Gothic Anthology, Show Us Your Papers, and Gravity Dancers.
Her debut novel and Petrichor Prize finalist, Loving the Dead and Gone, is the 2023 IPPY Awards Gold Medalist in Southern Fiction, was shortlisted for the 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize, and was General Fiction Honorable Mention and finalist for the Hoffer First Horizon Award.
In Loving the Dead and Gone, a freak car crash in rural 1960s North Carolina puts in motion moments of grace that bring redemption to two generations of women and the lives they touch. Compact in setting; and large in emotional scope, this lyrical novel set in the tobacco farms and textile mills of central North Carolina transports readers to a very small place to experience life's biggest emotions. Full of character and common tragedy, fans of unveiled family and community secrets will appreciate this intergenerational story of love, loss, grief, and grace that offers humanity hope for healing.
Judith's other awards include two Virginia Arts Commission fellowships, an Ohio Arts Council fellowship, VCCA and Fundaciön Valparaiso fellowship residencies, the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, the Washington Prize for Fiction, and the Virginia Screenwriting Award.
An inveterate traveler, her article assignments, which include interviews with such luminaries as Frank Gehry, Annie Leibovitz, Alison Krauss, and Lucinda Williams, have taken her all over the world, and she has published more than a thousand cover stories and features on the arts, design, architecture, interiors and gardens, travel, food, fashion, and books in such publications as The Boston Globe Magazine, Elle, Interiors, Art & Antiques, The Los Angeles Times, and Travel & Leisure.
Her on-air interviews were featured on NPR affiliate WVXU. She has taught fiction at the Chautauqua Writers' Center, Chautauqua Institution, the Danville Writer's Conference, and the Writers' Center, Bethesda, Maryland. She lives in Cincinnati, OH with her husband, visual artist Shinji Turner-Yamamoto.
Get your copy of Loving the Dead and Gone at your favorite bookstore or on Amazon at www.amazon.com/Loving-Dead-Gone-Judith-Turner-Yamamoto or support your local bookstore & this podcast by getting your copy of Loving the Dead and Gone at www.bookshop.org/a/90599/9781646032587
We feel it is important to make our podcast transcripts available for accessibility. We use quality artificial intelligence tools to make it possible for us to provide this resource to our audience. We do have human eyes reviewing this, but they will rarely be 100% accurate. We appreciate your patience with the occasional errors you will find in our transcriptions. If you find an error in our transcription, or if you would like to use a quote, or verify what was said, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com.Kathleen Basi [:
Welcome to Author Express. Thanks for checking us out. This is the podcast where you give us 15 minutes of your time, and we give you a chance to hear the voice behind the pages and get to know some of your favorite writers in a new light. I'm one of your hosts, Kathleen Basi. I'm an award-winning musical composer, a feature writer, essayist, and, of course, storyteller. Let me tell you a little bit about today's guest.Kathleen Basi [:
Judith Turner-Yamamoto is the author of Loving the Dead and Gone, Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medalist in Southern Regional Fiction and short-listed for the Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize, finalist for the Eric Hoffer First Horizon Award, and honorable mention in General Fiction. Judith grew up in central North Carolina in a small mill town.Kathleen Basi [: aking engagements include the: Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Oh, I'm thrilled to be here, Kathleen. Thank you for having me.Kathleen Basi [:
Yeah, it's great. That's really, I mean, a Mariel Hemingway Book Club, that's got to feel fantastic.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Incredible. Yes. You know, I keep thinking about that thing that Louis Pasteur said about how chance favors the prepared mind, and when you're prepared and out there, things open up and bloom for you, I think, and that's certainly been my experience this last year.Kathleen Basi [:
Well, I might just have to pick your brain about that, but we might wait until we talk a little bit more about the book. Let's start out by asking what we ask everyone, which is, tell me the most interesting thing about where you are from.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Well, you mentioned that I'm from this small mill town in central North Carolina. The most interesting thing about that is it really was a portal to the past, because it was this moment when the transition from people being on farms to going into the mills and factories after World War II happened. And I belonged to the first generation of my family in ten generations that wasn't intimately connected to the land. My father and his six siblings left the family farm as teenagers for these new mills and factories, but we were back on that land every weekend, and I saw a very different world from the one that I was living in my day-to-day life. My paternal grandmother was still cooking on a wood stove.Kathleen Basi [:
Wow.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
And she used a hand cranked ringer washer that was out in the wash house. You know, she chewed tobacco, she worked in the mills, she milked cows, she churned butter. And, you know, there was an entire room in her house just dedicated to storing all her canned goods. And there was another that had just spent funeral wreaths in it. That's the only thing that room was for was, yes.Kathleen Basi [:
That's really quiet something.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Yes. And then at my maternal grandmother's, her house was like a family museum. The upstairs, she had just crammed everything she'd inherited from everybody who had died. And it was full of steamer trunks and bureaus and wardrobes and all the clothes of the dead.Kathleen Basi [:
Oh, my.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Yeah. And these rooms held this undisturbed papery decay, and there was this pungent smell of rotting wood. I was so terrified, but so titillated because there are these contents and the personalities of these dead relatives were coloring the adult conversations as if they were still alive. So, in all of this, you know, there was this undertow of the past. And as Faulkner says about the south, the past isn't dead, it isn't even past.Kathleen Basi [:
Yeah, I remember that quote. That's really interesting. And you know, I was going to ask you about your earliest memory, but I feel like you've already evoked your whole early childhood for me in that question.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Well, but my earliest memory feeds directly into Loving the Dead and Gone because it was the inspiration for the book. My first memory is of this tragic death of a young uncle and what transpired that day, and the memory of my young aunt locked in the bathroom at my grandparents’ house wailing and this ungodly lament and him in his casket. And all of that flowed into Loving the Dead and Gone. And it melded with later memories of parental perfidies that came later in my own adolescence.Kathleen Basi [:
That's intriguing.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Very personal book.Kathleen Basi [:
Yeah. Well, let's focus on that book a little bit. It's called, Loving the Dead and Gone. Can you give us the one sentence snippet of what we should expect from this book?Judith Turner-Yamamoto [: k, a freak car crash in rural: Kathleen Basi [:
Oh, that sounds amazing. Sounds amazing. So, do you think that this book would have been exactly the same if you'd written it ten years ago or if you had written it ten years from now? I think that's a very interesting question because you're saying that this book came from something that happened in your childhood and you waited a long time to write it.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Well, actually, I first began working on this book 35 years ago.Kathleen Basi [:
So, it's probably been through multiple different,Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
5 rewrites, 3 agents, a couple of publishing deals that tanked. It's a story that I thought was unique to me, but as I have been out in the writing world and connecting with other writers, I realized that more often than not, this is the story of the long and winding path to publication. And of course, I wrote several other novels along the way, but I would just keep returning to this one. So, I'm happy that it's the first one out in the world, because it really is the beginning of everything.Kathleen Basi [:
It's where it all began. That's really neat. So, you've been writing it for a long time. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Well, I really came to writing through my art history studies in graduate school, and I started writing first art criticism and exhibition reviews. So, I came to writing through journalism, and I expanded into writing just lifestyle. You know, everything. Travel, food, books. So, all of that led to a parallel career when I had been a project director at the Smithsonian Institution.Kathleen Basi [:
Oh, wow.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Yeah. Developing traveling exhibitions. And my focus was photography because that was a huge part of my background. But I started taking creative writing courses, and so I had these parallel careers running. The journalism and the fiction, and I would write fiction in the morning while my son was in, you name it like preschool, nursery school, kindergarten, high school, whatever. And then in the afternoons, I would work on the articles and my assignments.Kathleen Basi [:
That's smart. I like that you took, well, maybe I'm just assuming. I'm a morning person. So, for me, the greatest creative energy of the day is in the morning. So, I love that you prioritized the fiction in the morning and then went, okay, in the afternoon, I'll grind out what needs to be ground out.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Right. Well, you know, this. It's like when you're in that phase of life, you have to build your life around your children's needs and their schedule. So, I was a pro.Kathleen Basi [:
Yeah.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
I was a pro. I was the first one in line to book summer camp, believe me.Kathleen Basi [:
Yeah. So, tell me a little bit about the fortune favoring those who have been putting in the effort. Tell me how this Mariel Hemingway came about.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Okay. So, just to give you a general response to chance and prepared minds, another part of my life history, work history, is I spent over 20 years as a publicist. First, as head of public affairs for the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum and then on my own as a consultant working with artists and cultural institutions. So, I knew very well going into this how important it is to, it is never too early to be thinking about how a book is going to be positioned and promoted and delivered to the world. So, actually, I've been very focused in social media. I focused on Facebook. And I was doing all these posts related to my book, and I got a response from the woman who books talent for the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and she said, I got your book. I love your book. I want you to speak at the conference.Kathleen Basi [:
That’s really good.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Yes. And this is Marianne Dougherty. She is an incredibly talented author herself. She has a new novel out called, What We Remember, and she has a deep journalism background herself as well. And she has a nonfiction book that's out right now. But Marianne, you know, it's like one thing calls another, right? And she introduced me to, when I was out in Southern California to the co-host of the Mariel Hemingway, Out Comes the Sun podcast. And we had lunch together, and I shared my book with her, and that's how that came about. It's just one of those wonderful gifts. And it all started with posting on Facebook.Kathleen Basi [:
Yeah. Wow. We are all inspired. So, thank you. As we start to wrap things up, we want to ask you where's the best place for people to find you then? Is Facebook that place.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Facebook is totally the place. On Instagram, it's @JTurnerYamamoto. And, of course, my website, turneryamamoto.com is a portal to my whole world.Kathleen Basi [:
Yes. Very good. Okay. So, in closing, tell us today what book or story inspires you the most?Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
I return again and again to Mary Gordon's title novella in The Liar's Wife. It's four novellas, but it's this first one, and it's this story of how life just kind of throws you a curveball that you can never imagined. I mean, the thing that happens to this woman in her 70s, who's in this very content life, one evening, it's just, you know, I go back to it and it's like, I look at the structure, the exquisite prose, how she creates the physicality of the setting and the sheer capture of this certain moment in a life and this poignancy of this unexpected visit into her deep past. It's masterful.Kathleen Basi [:
That sounds like a great one. Thank you.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Oh, my God.Kathleen Basi [:
Thanks. All right, well, thank you for sharing about your favorite read. About your own book. It sounds wonderful. And thank you for being on the podcast with us today.Judith Turner-Yamamoto [:
Thank you so much for having me. It was a true pleasure.Kathleen Basi [:
Thanks for joining us today. We hope you'll take a second to give us some stars or a review on your favorite podcasting platform. We'll be back next Wednesday. And in the meantime, follow us on Instagram at Author Express podcast to see who's coming next. Don't forget, keep it express, but keep it interesting.