C.K. Kelly Martin’s YA writing is the kind you want to give the teens in your life. It’s written for them, not adult crossover readers, and it meets teens where they live.
Quill & Quire


 

Eleven years ago I spent a lot more time blogging than I do these days. MySpace had just lost its place as the largest social networking site in the world, Barack Obama was the President of the United States, Lady Gaga and The Black-Eyed Peas had the highest selling tunes of the year, and Avatar was the highest grossing movie. 2009 is also the year my second young adult book, One Lonely Degree, hit shelves. It all feels like a very long time ago now. Uber and Airbnb were in their infancy. The #MeToo movement hadn’t happened yet, Instagram wouldn’t spring to life for another year and Donald Trump was still just a C-list celebrity with an epic comb-over and a string of business failures behind him. Billie Eilish was eight years old and Netflix had a mere three million users (by October 2019 they’d reached 158 million).

Back in 2009 I posted a blog entry about the kind of books I was interested in writing, exploring my thoughts on penning character-driven contemporary young adult fiction that centres on people carrying some pretty heavy emotional baggage. I’m still drawn to those types of novels, both as a reader and a writer. “What I hope I'm doing, what I'm striving for, is to write books that reflect the reality of teen lives,” I wrote back then. But since shortly after posting that blog entry I’ve actually been writing outside of the boundaries of contemporary fiction as often as I’ve stayed within them. Of the fifteen manuscripts I’ve completed (twelve of those novels have been published so far) only seven sit solidly in the contemporary fiction camp. Interestingly, even two of those books feature presences that could be described as ghosts. The most recent manuscripts I’ve worked on are a young adult horror (Shantallow, published under the name Cara Martin), a speculative YA, a middle grade sci-fi and a middle grade horror. Since 2011 I’ve also had two young adult science fiction novels, a middle grade sci-fi, and a book told in the alternating points of view of a living teenage boy and a dead-but-not-gone teen girl published. 
 
 My venturing away from contemporary fiction doesn’t have a lot to do with the differences between 2009 and 2020 society that I described above; it doesn’t have much to do with contemporary YA not being a hot sell right now either. There are chiefly two reasons that I’ve gone from writing mostly YA contemporary to expanding my horizons. 1) At the start of my writing career I tackled the contemporary stories and situations that were calling to me and now those stories are out in the world, mission accomplished. 2) The pull I’ve felt towards science fiction, horror and stories featuring other fantastical elements is lifelong. I was the kid curled up on the couch reading ghostly tales and devouring Choose Your Own Adventure books about aliens, time travel, and spirited adventures set in places half a world away from the sleepy Toronto suburb I grew up in. In grade two I wrote and illustrated my first two picture books—one about time travel and the other about outer space. No one except my family and my grade two class (where they were placed in the classroom book carousel for anyone to enjoy) ever had the chance to read them, but at seven years old I was only writing for myself.

I still primarily write for myself and you will never hear me say that I’m done with contemporary fiction because I know in my bones that’s not true. I have more contemporary stories in me—maybe about teenagers, maybe about kids or maybe about adults. But for the moment, the stories I’m drawn to are ones about things that lie beyond our known realm. “Now, the stuff each writer is dying to tell you is going to vary,” I wrote eleven years ago. Basically, between 2009 and 2020 the scope of things I’m dying to tell you has widened considerably.

However, there are certain things from my 2009 post that remain true. “The character is king in my books. You or I may not like some of the things he or she do or say during the course of a novel but, to the best of my ability, they are the things a given character would say and do, according to their nature.” For example, Shantallow is probably one of the most character-driven horror novels you’ll ever read, Misha’s struggle to avoid his inner demons and become the person he longs to be is at the heart of the book. It also happens to include a  a possession and a malevolent house intent on hurting both the kidnappers and victims of kidnapping that end up within its threadbare remains.


Some of my books, new and old, are fairly open-ended not because I’m out here planning sequels galore but because, as I wrote back in 2009, “Life is long and there are seldom neat resolutions to complicated situations.” With certain exceptions (a main character dies or all of humanity faces its demise), the end of the story isn’t really the end of the story, it’s just the moment we close the book, and walk away, leaving the characters to get on with things.

Probably the largest difference between my fiction then and now is that the following statement regarding my writing is no longer accurate: “there aren’t a lot of Jack Bauer trying to save L.A. from a terrorist attack type moments.” Some of my books do and will focus mainly on a character’s emotional life, and others (like the Yesterday books) contain their fair share of scenes that wouldn’t feel out of place in an action movie. The possibilities are thrillingly endless. 

Christmas is a time when you get homesick - even when you're home.
— Carol Nelson

Yuletide decorations and festive lights are going up everywhere, the air's turned cold, Charlie Brown, Frosty the Snowman and the Grinch are popping up on the TV, and Santa Claus is back patiently posing for pictures in shopping malls. There's no turning back now, Christmas is on the way! Personally, I never get through the month of December without thinking intermittently of Nick Severson, the main character of my first published book, I Know It's Over. It's not just that the novel begins on Christmas Eve but that I was actually writing the opening chapters of I Know It's Over during the Christmas/New Year's Eve season. Nick's point of view felt so raw and intense that it's never fully left me.

Two of my other novels also either begin or end around the Christmas season. Just Like You Said It Would Be starts on New Year's Eve before jumping back to the previous summer in Chapter Two. Two-thirds of the way into the novel we return, along with main character Amira, to New Year's Day. The last few chapters of my adult book, Come See About Me, occur around Christmas with the final action occurring just before New Year's. 

During the month of December you can pick up e-copies of any of these books for $1.99 (or equivalent foreign currencies) at Amazon outlets, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Apple Books. Click on the book titles to learn more about the novels.


Wishing you peace, health, happiness and snowflakes that feel like kisses!



“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”
Larry Sabato

So see you at the polls tomorrow, fellow Canadians! This has been one tough & stressful election. My plan is to follow my vote with a piece of sugar pie from St. Hubert tomorrow to sweeten the process.



On September 23, 2008 my first book, a contemporary YA novel called I Know It’s Over was released in the U.S.A. and Canada. Today, eleven books, eleven years and one day later, my first horror novel (and twelfth book) comes out in the United States. You’ll find it under my new horror pen name, Cara Martin. Shantallow is very dark and exceedingly creepy. If it keeps you awake at night, don't say I didn't warn you! Shantallow's on blog tour this week so if you want to check out what people are saying about the book you can drop in here during the week:  http://xpressobooktours.com/2019/07/05/tour-sign-up-shantallow-by-cara-martin/

Shantallow's heavy on atmosphere and full of many things that scare me personally including an old abandoned house in the process of being swallowed by the forest that surrounds it, inanimate objects moving, whispering when there’s no one there, creatures scurrying around in the darkness, possession, not knowing if you'll make it through the night alive . . .

But you don’t have to take my word that it’s scary, Booklist calls Shantallow “serious, literary and very scary” and Kirkus says it’s “gut-wrenching on various levels.” One of my favourite things about this novel is the sinister looking black and white images you find within that up the ante on the eeriness.

You can enter to win a copy of Shantallow during this week's tour with Xpresso Reads. 

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While waiting to see a doctor at the U of Ottawa walk-in clinic early yesterday afternoon an older woman with a Caribbean accent touched my shoulder, leaned over me and said, "It's an excellent thing you're doing." Having no idea what she meant I nevertheless smiled back (she was grinning and full of good vibes), then asked, "What am I doing?" She pointed to my paperback and said that everybody else in the room was on their electronic toys.

Honestly, I do a lot of reading on my tablet too, but I still think there's something very special about a paper book. I like to have physical copies of my favourites, when possible. They'll outlast any of the current e-book file formats out there.

I seldom reread novels as there are so many new books I want to experience. But for the record, I was rereading Thea Lim's An Ocean of Minutes at the walk-in today. It's a stunner.

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim


Yes, I borrowed the title of this post from the great Leonard Cohen. I miss him terribly but we were so lucky to have him among us for a time. If you want to read more about my Leonard Cohen awe, here are two of my short blog posts on the topic from 2008: Leonard Cohen  and The Lord of Song.

But mainly this blog entry is to say, psst, I write horror too.You'll find it under the name Cara Martin and my first horror novel, Shantallow, is out in Canada now and will be released in the U.S. next month. If any of my contemporary YA readers also happen to be fans of malevolent abandoned houses, creepy dark shadows, eerie whispering when there's no one around and other goosebump-inducing things, Shantallow might be up your alley. I'm excited to report that Booklist and Kirkus liked it!



Now please give your soul a treat and enjoy Leonard Cohen singing 'Take This Waltz':

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