👤 This week’s INF interview is with Katherine Turner. In her own words...
Katherine is an author of contemporary romantic women's fiction that explores the power of love and human resilience in the wake of trauma and abuse. She grew up in foster care from the age of eight and is passionate about improving the world through literature, empathy, and understanding. She also uses her voice to blog about mental health, trauma, and ways we can be more compassionate as a society. Katherine lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two children. When she's not writing, she's likely reading or exploring nature with her family.
🎧 We followed this interview up with a conversation -> listen here.
It’s nice to meet you, Katherine. So can we start this interview by finding out where in the world you currently reside? Is this also where you grew up?
I currently live in Northern Virginia, about 45 minutes from Washington DC. I grew up in Virginia, but about an hour-and-a-half further out in a rural community in the Shenandoah Valley.
Do you remember what you were like as a child?
As a young child, I was curious. About everything. I just loved to learn. I found it fascinating how much there was to know in the world and was endlessly intrigued by how things worked. I also already had developed my love of reading and writing and was frequently found doing both. I didn’t have a television for my formative years and then once I did, I still preferred a book to the screen. My earlier childhood was riddled with trauma before I landed in foster care and my life settled down to some extent; I think I first found a love of reading because of the escape it provided me from the harsh reality I lived in.
What was school like for you? And how were your teenage years as a whole?As a child who loved to learn, I always enjoyed school from the academic perspective. Because of my earlier childhood and my natural introverted tendencies, making friends was sometimes really difficult, so school could be a challenge in that respect. Ultimately, I learned to project a more extroverted personality, but many of the friendships and connections were more shallow in nature.
My teenage years is more of a challenge to talk about, and I’m not sure I’ll go into that much detail in here. If you’re wondering from an academic perspective, nothing really changed from my childhood school years; my enjoyment of learning never really waned and in part thanks to that and in part thanks to a lot of external pressure to perform exceedingly well, I always did.
It’s interesting to hear what things were like for you, I can really relate to the love of learning. I actually enjoyed school more before we had to make subject choices and narrow down. I still love to learn as an adult, too.
What words, or phrases, would you use to describe your current self?
Curious, compassionate, passionate, accepting, reflective
And when did you first realise that you were an introvert? How did this happen?
I think I kind of always knew in some respect. While I wouldn’t have called myself an introvert because I had this extroverted persona I wore to fit in with the expectations around me, I craved the time I got alone and needed to recharge after being in public places or with groups of people. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I really became comfortable using the word introvert in reference to myself.
Are you an INFP or an INFJ?
When did you first do the Myers-Briggs test and realise you were an INFJ?
I first did the Myers-Briggs test in my late twenties and it helped me to understand that I was introverted and that it was okay. However, I didn’t overall put a lot of stock in personality tests and quickly sort of forgot about it until I came across Lauren Sapala’s website online. After reading about how understanding personality type makes such a big difference in your life, I decided to take the test again, just to see if I got the same thing. Sure enough, I did - INFJ.
That’s interesting. So, I’m curious to know more about how (re)discovering you were an INFJ has impacted you in any way…
Absolutely. I’m at a stage in my life where I’ve started accepting who I am, but more quietly, I suppose. But understanding the ways my personality type manifests itself has made me more comfortable with that acceptance; I’ve lost quite a bit of the embarrassment and shame I harbored previously.
There was also another unintended impact from discovering my personality type. I mentioned earlier in the interview that I have a history of childhood trauma and abuse and I’m working to unravel the impact that has had on me for decades. Learning about my personality type helped me to understand that some of the “weird” traits I have may actually just be my personality rather than a manifestation of past trauma. If you look at characteristics of adults who experienced significant childhood trauma and characteristics of the INFJ personality type, you’ll see there are definitely some overlaps. Understanding that was a light-bulb moment for me, because I realized that some things I’m trying to unravel might not. And that wouldn’t mean I was failing, it would just be because it’s part of my basic personality. That realization brought an unimaginable sense of relief with it.
So, yeah, the discovery has impacted me in quite a few ways.
Wow, that sounds pretty significant. And that is a really pertinent point there… the overlap that you mention. I have often wondered about this sort of stuff, too, and where INFJ/P personality type is ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’...
What qualities do you think you share with other INFJs, or INF-types in general?
I haven’t done a ton of research on INF-types in general (I’ve really just focused on INFJ), but from what I understand, aside from the introverted aspect that’s part of the acronym, I think all INFs tend to really absorb the energy of people around them and internalize it.
And what were your favourite subjects at school? (If applicable) what did you study at university/college?
I liked just about everything except my history class, but that was because that class was focused on rote memorization of dates and names and I function much better with understanding the connections between things. I also wasn’t a big fan of my high school lit class because the only things we read were the tried-and-true classics; I wanted something more interesting, that made you think outside the box.
When I first went to college, I took mostly literature, philosophy, communications, and language courses. After a several-year hiatus, I went back and studied business, getting an undergraduate and graduate degree in accounting.
I’m interested to hear about what made you go back? How was it that you came to choose business, and then accounting?
I had always intended to double-major when I went to college: Math would be the one I could rely on for income, and then either literature or languages or something like that because I enjoyed it. After a brutal first semester with multivariable calculus teaching me I was a visual learner and making it apparent that I would NOT be majoring in math, I was a little lost. I decided to take a year off, that unintentionally turned into several years before I was financially able to return to college. My family strongly encouraged me, I guess you could say, to choose accounting because it practically guaranteed a well-paid job right out of school as well as job security and stability, so that’s what I decided to do. As long as it didn’t involve multivariable calculus, I was sure I could manage to be at least moderately successful in whatever I chose because of my natural interest in learning combined with my intense fear of failure, which was compounded after I flirted with the possibility of following the path my biological parents had followed during my hiatus.
Thank you for sharing all of this. I can really relate to taking the ‘safe’ route back when I was at school. I went to a grammar school, too, and I felt the expectations of my environment on top of the high expectations I had for myself.
What are you spending your time on at the moment? (Whether studying, working, or other focusing your attention… it can be more than just one thing!)
I work full time for an accounting firm, supporting our audit practice. But I also spend as much time every day as I can manage to find writing, which was always my true passion. Long term, I’d like to devote myself full time to a writing career, which would include some editing services for other indie authors and possibly an indie publishing company.
That sounds really exciting (: Was there a moment in your life when you made a drastic change?
There was more than one. There was the moment I decided to take a year off college after my freshman year and ended up out of school for several years. Then there was the moment when I was going back to school and had to decide what to study and instead of choosing the topics I was really passionate about (literature and writing), I decided to pursue business to provide myself with job security. And, most recently, I decided to start writing again shortly after the new year started in 2018. That was probably the scariest change yet. It was something that had been incubating for years and I finally had this moment of clarity that I could no longer deny it’s what I wanted to do with my life. I say scary because writing is a very vulnerable career (or hobby, as it may be for some). You are baring your soul on the paper, regardless of what you’re writing, and opening yourself up to all manner of criticism. Terrifying.
I can so relate to choosing subjects out of security. I did this myself at school. I only started writing (again) in 2015, and the fear you describe is relatable. I’m getting better at putting myself out there, but this is still no easy thing.
Okay, so given your last answer I have a good guess as to your answer for this next one… Do you have a preferred creative/artistic outlet? Can you tell us a bit about this?
Definitely writing, though it isn’t the only one I enjoy. I like painting, though I’m terrible at it, so I don’t do it often. I also play the flute, knit, and love finding (or creating) random crafts to do with my kids.
Would you describe yourself as a 'highly sensitive person', or an empath?
Do you have a personal definition of 'success'? What does being 'successful' look like to you?
I’m so glad you’ve asked this question! My definition of success has changed over time and I think I’ve finally found the last one I’ll ever need - the one I wish I’d discovered many years ago. Like many, I used to have a very specific definition of success. “I’ll be successful when I pass the CPA exam.” And then I passed the CPA exam, but it wasn’t enough, there were still things missing in my life. “I’ll be successful when I make X dollars.” That was one I’d had since I was a very young child. I reached that goal several years ago, but realized I still didn’t feel successful. “I’ll be successful when I have X kind of house in Y kind of neighborhood.” My husband and I built what is basically our dream house in a great neighborhood for our children a few years ago, but something was still missing.
When I made the decision to start writing again, I first lamented that my husband and I, because we built our dream house in this dream neighborhood and had all these other “dream” things, couldn’t afford for me to leave my job to focus on writing. We debated for months whether we needed to make a radical change in our lives, give up all these things we’d just accomplished. And one day, we might; we’ll revisit in a few years. But instead of doing that right away, we worked together to find a schedule that, more often than not (let’s be realistic - I have two young kids, no routine is ever going to work all the time!) would allow me to spend up to two hours per day (sometimes more on the weekends) devoted to my writing career. Whether that’s writing, editing, research, blogging, etc.
Is it hard? Hell yes. I get up between 4 and 4:30 in the morning every single day because if I don’t, I don’t get to write. Sometimes I’m tired and I just want to sleep. I just want things to be easier. But what I realized after talking with my husband is even if I only sell a single copy of every book I write and make a difference in only one person’s life, it’s all worth it to me. Spending that two hours per day on my writing has made me happier and more fulfilled than I’ve ever felt from an occupational perspective. And at the same time, my husband and I have these things we dreamed about as children desperate to escape the circumstances we had no control over. And I’m still giving to my children the life I never had. And that, to me, is success.
Whether I’m following this same routine in 10 years from now or we’ve sold this house and moved to a cottage in the woods, I’m successful because I’m spending time on the things that fulfill me and make me happy. On things that make a difference. That is my new definition of success.
Wow, I so enjoyed reading that. I’d love to dig into this a little more during our podcast conversation, if I may. Kudos to you for absolutely knowing what you want, and putting the framework in place - however challenging - to make it happen. I am inspired.
Aw, thank you!
What about 'happiness' - do you have a personal recipe for that?
This really goes hand-in-hand with what I said about my definition of success.
Do you like to plan things, or are you more of a go-with-the-flow type of person?
Mostly a planner. I’d love to go-with-the-flow, but I have anxiety that demands I plan everything.
And what does your 'perfect Sunday' (or Saturday) look like?
Getting up early and having coffee while working on one of my books. The kids sleep in a bit and don’t get up until it’s bright outside. We have breakfast together as a family and, weather permitting, go out for a family bike ride or hike or trail run or something along those lines. We have lunch and then I work on my books some more while the kids take a nap or just have some quiet time. And then we spend the afternoon playing games my kids make up and doing crafts before I cook dinner while listening to the sounds of my kids playing happily together and my husband working on his latest carpentry project in his workshop.
This all sounds lovely.
Is there anything you've read, watch or listened to recently, that you've loved?
Where to begin! I don’t watch television and don’t often watch movies that aren’t geared towards young children, but I’ve been reading a lot of impactful books recently. I’ve been on a bit of a non-fiction kick, reading works by indie authors like America DeFleur and Joshua Crowley. However, two books that I’ve absolutely loved, for different reasons, are INFJ Revolution by Lauren Sapala and Beads by Rachael Brooks.
I think I’ve been on a non-fiction kick for the best part of a decade!
Do you have any favourite blogs or podcasts?
Tough question, and it changes because I’m always discovering new blogs, but right now, I think Kathy Parker’s blog This Girl Unravelled has the number one spot in my heart.
I know you don’t watch TV much, but any shows or movies to recommend?
Again, I don’t really watch television or movies much. I did a few months ago watch a Netflix mini-series called The Mind, Explained that was fascinating. When I used to watch some television, I really enjoyed Modern Family, This is Us, and Lucifer. I also had a love affair with Parenthood when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter.
I like Modern Family, too!
If you could go back in time and meet "you" back in 2010, is there any advice that you'd give this younger self?
I’d tell myself to pay more attention to my personality type and to stop trying to suppress the things I really wanted to do in life.
That sounds like great advice.
And if you could one or two pieces of advice to your follow INFs, what would they be?
Trust yourself. And realize that your personality “quirks” aren’t a detriment - they’re a gift.
Hear, hear :) What does 'self-care' mean for you? How do you practise it?
I struggle with anxiety disorders, so I have a pretty hefty self-care list in order to manage it. I practice yoga and some meditation daily, at least 30 minutes of walking in nature by myself, some amount of writing or journaling, and seeing a therapist on a regular basis.
Wow, it looks like you do a lot to prioritise your self-care. I’ve done a combination of all of the above at different times, but I’ve been lax recently… I ought to be doing more of those same things.
Do you have a favourite quote?
Many, and it changes depending on what’s going on in my life. But one that I often come back to is “Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope” by Robert Kennedy.
That’s a beautiful quote, Katherine. This has been really enjoyable. Where can others find and connect with you online?
They can visit my site https://kturnerwrites.com/
Sign up for my newsletter http://eepurl.com/gyXa11
Jas + Katherine
Published: April 12th, 2020
Subscribe to INF Club
Subscribe to the newsletter and unlock access to member-only content.