Fridays with Friends: Steve Turner on imagination, inspiration, and information overload

Steve Turner began his journalistic career as a features editor of the British rock monthly Beat Instrumental where, during a two year period, he interviewed many of the key figures of early 1970s rock, including John Lennon. Turning freelance, he wrote for numerous rock publications during which time his first book, Conversations with Eric Clapton, was published. In 1988, Bono invited him to write the book for the U2 movie Rattle and Hum. He then published biographies of British pop phenomenon Cliff Richard, Irish rock star Van Morrison, and soul legend Marvin Gaye.

Throughout his career Steve has maintained a special interest in the relationship between spirituality and popular culture as his two most recent books, Imagine: A Vision for Christians and the Arts, and Amazing Grace: The Story of America’s Most Beloved Song, illustrate.

Kevin Belmonte recently interviewed Steve for this week’s Fridays with Friends.

Image courtesy Steve Turner
Image courtesy Steve Turner

Kevin Belmonte: What/who/where are your consistent sources of inspiration?

Steve Turner: I look for inspiration anywhere and everywhere. Of course, what inspires a poem won’t necessarily inspire a newspaper feature or a biography. They are very different. It’s harder to stay inspired as you get older because experiences aren’t as fresh as they once were. At 17 or 18 everything seems to be the potential subject for a poem but you have to work harder at it when you’re older. With poetry books I like to set myself a challenge and it’s working with that challenge – whether it’s to do with style or subject matter that produces good stuff. When I started I just waited for inspiration to strike! I think reading, travelling and talking to people are a constant source for other ideas. I read everything I can – free newspapers, adverts, foreign press – you never know where a good idea might emerge. If people mention websites, books, films, etc., I take care to write the names down and then look them up. Facebook itself is a good place for tip offs if you build a creative network. The job now is to filter ideas because we are all subjected to so many streams of information and can’t always tell their worthiness or reliability.

KB: What artists (musicians, poets, painters, photographers, filmmakers, etc.) have shaped and enriched your life journey?

ST: So many artists have enriched me. Bob Dylan by what he writes, how he sounds and for the integrity he displays. The Beatles because i grew up with them and learned about the creative process from hearing them talk about their recordings Playwright Samuel Beckett and painter Francis Bacon for daring to look into the abyss. Flannery O’Connor not only for her fiction but her comments on Christianity and literature. Same for T S Eliot and C S Lewis. Larry Norman for being my bother and buddy and talking music and art with me over so many years. T-Bone Burnett for the same. Norman Stone my film maker fiend for his life, art and integrity. John Newton for reaching over the centuries and being my 18th century buddy. The theology books of Francis Schaeffer, Hans Rookmaaker. Martyn Lloyd Jones (particularly his series of books on Romans, Jim Eliot missionary to the Aucas for his notebooks, Harry Blamires for “The Christian Mind”, poet Jack Clemo for his memoir “The Invading Gospel” and for his Calvinist poems, Os Guinness for the talks I heard him give at L’Abri in 1970 that became “The Dust of Death” (and for so much more). Sixties musician Richard Farina for being ahead of his time, all of the time. Woody Allen for making theology funny. George Carlin for being as honest as he knew how to be. Tom Stoppard for bringing big ideas to the theatre. Shakespeare for just being Bill. William Herbert for his poems. The Liverpool poets for theirs. Jack Kerouac for going on the road and writing about it. Allen Ginsberg for taking poetry out of the library and putting it on the street.

Image courtesy Steve Turner
Image courtesy Steve Turner

KB: How can readers of All Nine get involved in what you’re doing?

ST: I don’t have a website so the best way to buy me is to go to



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