Thursday, May 28, 2009
Interview with C.K. Kelly Martin!
Today with us is the wonderful C.K. Kelly Martin, the author of I Know It's Over and One Lonely Degree. =)
When did you realize you wanted to be an author?
I started writing and illustrating stories for myself when I was seven and kept that up throughout my childhood so there’s no single moment of realization I can point to. By my late teens/early twenties I knew fiction writing was something I wanted to tackle eventually but that (aside from the odd short story here and there) I wasn’t ready to dedicate myself to yet. It was this thing inside me waiting to be explored and I felt like it would always be there for me, waiting around for a time when I was ready. It wasn’t until I’d graduated from university and had been living in Ireland for several years that I got the itch to write a YA novel in particular and that was because I’d discovered Party of Five.
What was your inspiration for I Know It’s Over? For One Lonely Degree?
I’d just finished writing a trilogy with a female central character and was looking to write something from a guy’s point of view when I was inspired by the Third Eye Blind song Ten Days Late. Initially I wrote a short story called Happy Families (which is now essentially chapter one of I Know It’s Over) about a guy finding out his ex-girlfriend is pregnant on Christmas Eve. When I couldn’t get it published as a short story rather than abandoning it I decided to keep writing and find out what happened to Nick.
With One Lonely Degree I honestly don’t know what triggered the novel – mostly I don’t. I do remember wanting to write a book about two best friends in summer but as it turned out the best friends in One Lonely Degree are separated for the entire summer.
What is your writing process like?
There doesn’t seem to be any clear system to it. If I’m ready to start a new book I usually end up spending a lot of time lying awake in bed at night with the voice of the main character talking in my head. When I feel like I have a decent grasp of who they are and the situation they’re dealing with I begin to make notes and eventually I have enough for a whole book, a kind of loose outline based on the info I’ve learned. At that point I actually start sitting at the computer and typing it all out, fleshing out individual scenes. Sometimes the notes I made early on turn out to be wrong and by the time I get to a certain chapter I realize a character wouldn’t react to event(s) the way I imagined. I basically always let myself be guided by the characters.
Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, what kind of music? Is it a certain playlist?
When I’m writing I need quiet but I often listen to music before I start writing for the day or when I’m taking a break. Sometimes it’s stuff that helps me get into the right headspace for the book and other times it’s just stuff I like that doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m writing. But there are definitely certain sets of songs that I associate with each of my books. Some of them actually appear in the books but others are just ones that capture the mood of various scenes. I have the playlists for One Lonely Degree and I Know It’s Over posted on my website. For I Know It’s Over the first song is Ten Days Late (Third Eye Blind) and for One Lonely Degree the opening song is Innocent (Our Lady Peace) which is one of the songs Finn is listening to in bed at the beginning of chapter one.
What is one thing about yourself that readers probably do not know about you?
I have a really bad cat allergy (worse than Nick’s in I Know It’s Over) but my allergy to rabbits is so awful that I break into hives if I’m within six feet of them. It’s a shame because I think they’re adorable. I’m actually allergic to tons of things but rabbits are probably my cutest allergy.
What is a normal day in your life like?
It usually starts with reading yesterday’s Toronto Star in the morning (I’m always a day behind). Some days I go to the library and run errands or meet a friend and hang out. A couple of times a week I try to keep up with blogs I like and the writers’ message board I go to. There are also emails and my own blog and web updates to keep up with. If I’m in the middle of writing or revising I usually spend a good part of the day doing that because I’m a really slow writer. In the evening I have dinner with my husband and then do a little more work afterwards before stopping to hang out with him. Lately we’ve been watching a lot of season 2 of In Treatment in the evenings because season 1 was one of the best things I saw on TV last year. Gabriel Byrne’s amazing in it.
If you could have any exotic animal as a pet, what would it be and why?
It’s not really exotic but when I spent a weekend in Kerry, Ireland years ago the B & B owners had a donkey and when you came out of the house it would walk over to the fence to greet you and want to be petted. Ever since then I’ve had this image in my head of retiring to some rural area of Ireland in the future and having a donkey. I would probably be allergic to it but as it would be staying in the backyard hopefully that wouldn’t matter!
What was your favorite subject in high school? Least favorite?
I loved English as a subject but I think my favourite class was probably art because it was so relaxed – there were long tables instead of desks and we all just sat there drawing, talking and listening to the radio. We still got stuff done but there was just no boredom or tension associated with the class. It was so much less regimented than the other classes.
My least favourite subject was physics. I really sucked at math too and in twelfth grade I was signed up for chemistry but after two classes I realized I was in way over my head and switched to geography. So physics wins. I ended up with a 66% and I don’t even know how that happened because my understanding of the subject was probably more like 46%. My friends in the class had a much better grasp of the material than me, which helped when we had to do group assignments but when it came to homework and tests I was a disaster. The subject bored me so much that it was like I couldn’t even force my brain to focus on it.
What is your advice to aspiring teen authors?
I think the main thing is not to be discouraged by other people who may, even in a well-meaning way, try to put you off a career in writing by talking about how unlikely it is you’ll get published. There’s no question that it’s hard but I honestly think that if you’re willing to put in the time and effort that the odds you’ll get published (eventually) are fairly good. I’ve seen so, so many people at the writers’ message board I go to get publishing contracts over the past few years. When I first started hanging out there not many of the people on the board were published but lots and lots of the people who kept at it have landed agents and/or book deals since.
Ask yourself a question and answer it. (:
Here’s my question: name one movie you wish you had written.
My all-time favourite movie’s an Australian film from 1988 called The Year My Voice Broke so I like to spread the word about it. It’s a coming of age movie about two teenagers growing up in small-town Australia in the early 60’s. They were childhood friends and clearly still have a deep bond but while Danny has developed romantic feelings for Freya she doesn’t feel the same and gets involved with one of the town bad boys. But none of the characters are stereotypes, Freya’s a free spirit but she’s not self-destructive. Danny is picked on at school but he’s not a cliché geek – he’s an individual. Even the bad boy boyfriend is a three dimensional character who shows sensitivity for Danny’s feelings about Freya at times. By the end of the movie some events have occurred that will never allow things to be the same.
The arid landscape makes a wonderfully atmospheric background to the action. There are intriguing questions surrounding the main story too – questions about Freya’s birth parents and the real essence of life, whether it survives beyond the grave. Freya and Danny both think so. This movie is one of the most bittersweet things I’ve ever seen. Every time I watch it Freya and Danny absolutely feel like real people to me and I’m filled with empathy for them. There was a sequel about Danny (Flirting) which was also very good but I read years ago that this was originally conceived of as a trilogy and I always wish John Duigan (the writer and director) had made that third movie.
Check back tomorrow for a review of One Lonely Degree and a contest!