Monday, December 18, 2017

Author Interview - C.K. Kelly Martin

I'm very happy to share with my readers this exclusive interview with author C.K. Kelly Martin here at Stellar Book Blog!

You can read my review of Just Like You Said It Would Be here.

Q #1 - How did you come up with the idea for Just Like You Said It Would Be?

A - The very first young adult book I started writing in 1999 was an attempt at writing the novel that would much later become Just Like You Said It Would Be and was largely inspired by my relationship with Dublin (I fell head over heels for it when I first landed there in 1990 and will never, ever be over it), my excitement for YA fiction and more generally by the incredible feeling of falling in love with someone for the first time, which is so powerful that it almost feels like a revolution.

This picture is from C.Ks trip to Dublin in 1991

Q #2  - Amira, the main character is mixed raced: Egyptian, Irish and Canadian. Some of her best friends are mixed race too. How important was this to you? And why?

A - I’ve written and rewritten so many versions of this story over the years but one thing that never changed was who Amira is. She was always Canadian by birth but of Egyptian and Irish background. From the beginning I thought of her as a typical Toronto girl. In 2016 the BBC declared Toronto the most diverse city in the world (made up of 230 different nationalities and with 51% of residents born outside Canada) but it’s been enormously diverse for quite awhile now and that’s how Amira character came to me, with an Egyptian mother and an Irish father. It’s like I didn’t invent her; she already was who she was. Having living in Ireland and being of Irish ancestry myself that part of Amira’s background was more familiar; I had to do a lot more research into her Egyptian heritage, but also the experience of being mixed race in general. On the one hand, Amira’s mixed background was very important to me because she represents the changing face of both Canada and Ireland. On the other hand, it’s just one aspect of her larger personality and countless different experiences and variables make her who she is. Another aspect of her that struck me as integral from the start was that she was a huge movie fan who wants to go to film school to become a screenwriter.

Q #3  - Music is a huge part of your novel. Does music play a big role in your personal life? What's on your playlist now? Did music help you write Just Like You Said It Would Be?

A - I’m listening to the Niall Horan album, Flicker, as I type this (his song This Town kills me in the best way); but I actually can’t listen to music while I’m writing fiction, I need quiet. Often I listen to music before I get down to writing for the day, though, and there are tons of songs that I associate with this book. Some of the songs or various bands/artists directly referenced in the book include The Kills, Wolf Alice, Sinead O’Connor (who the novel’s title comes from), Radiohead, The National, Bat for Lashes, The Vaccines, I could go on and on. I have a playlist of a whopping 37 songs for this book up at my website here: I think one of the songs that best sum up the overall tone of the book is New Song by Warpaint – those lines “you're a new song baby, you're a new song to me” and “dancing to you all night long.” This is what it feels like to fall in love! Every little thing about the person you’re in love with feels like a wondrous revelation. Their very existence seems to alter reality. 

Q #4 - Do you have any writing rituals or habits? Anything that helps you write that you count on each time?

A - I spend a lot of time thinking about the main character(s) before I get down to writing. Because I usually write in first person I absolutely need a good grasp of who the main character(s) are deep down, what drives them crazy and the things that scare them or things they may secretly want. But I don’t really have any formal process or rituals. I start by just getting lost in my head thinking about the characters and their situations. Then, once I know enough, I start making notes and researching to flesh out the character. The characters seem to have a life of their own and sometimes will do different things than I expect as a book unfolds.

Q #5  - How long did it take you to write Just Like You Said It Would Be?

A - Longer than I’ll likely ever spend writing a single book again! Eighteen years from the very first draft (when it was actually a trilogy and very different than it is now) to when I decided to publish it myself. I rewrote the book on and off between writing other YA books for literally decades; it was the story I kept returning to time again and couldn’t ever permanently put aside. Then, in 2013, I applied for and received a Canada Council grant to work on an entirely new vision of the book from scratch. Having that vote of confidence from the Canada Council meant the world to me, and it’s what led me to the decision to self-publish. It seemed that for Just Like You Said It Would Be to find a home with a traditional publisher it would have to transform from a character-driven coming of age tale wrapped around a love story to something more high concept and hooky. After spending eighteen years with this book (during which I became a much stronger writer) it was of the utmost importance to me to stay true to it, more important than getting a traditional publishing deal. 

Q #6  - When you were growing up, was writing where you thought your life would take you?

A - I started writing and drawing picture books for fun when I was seven years old so the desire to write has always been a part of me but honestly, when I was a teenager I couldn’t envision being a bonafide adult so I didn’t have any practical vision of what I’d do. Back then I was always dreaming of moving to London, England. It’s where I imagined all the real action was happening (in part because so many of my favourite bands growing up were English and I was obsessed). Towards the end of high school I decided to steer towards an English degree because it was my best subject, but around second year at university I was knocked off course by a pull towards film studies courses. For a time I vaguely thought I might write film reviews for a living (my degree is in film studies) but as much as I love thinking about movies my real passion is for writing fiction.   

Q #7 - Do you have a favourite character from Just Like You Said It Would Be? If so, who? Why?

A - I love Darragh to death (he’s sort of a composite of the type of guy me and my friends would’ve been enamoured with in the early 90s in Dublin – picture) but my favourite character has to be Amira. She’s such a loyal friend and it tears her up that she has to go to Dublin during a tough time for her best friend, Jocelyn. I love the relationship Amira has with her sister, Rana, (who died before Amira was old enough to even remember her but who is still with her in a manner of speaking), and I admire Amira’s strength, her creativity, and how much she learns about people and the nature of life in this book because it’s really not just a book about love but of how your understanding of it changes through experience. Amira made Just Like You Said It Would Be such a pleasure for me to write.  

Q #8 - When you aren't writing, what would we find you doing?

A - If I’m not writing I’m usually reading or at the movies. Recently Lady Bird blew me away – it’s so rare to see a coming of age film that staggeringly genuine – and this week I’m hoping to catch Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing Missouri. But I also got a laugh out of Thor: Ragnarok. I’m a big Loki fan and a huge Doctor Who fan. I’m so excited to see Jodie Whittaker as the new incarnation of the Doctor.

Well, that's all for now! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions for me C.K. Kelly Martin. It's always so interesting to come up with these questions and read the answers! Quite fun!

How do you make something feel finished?

On New Year’s Eve seventeen-year-old Amira texts the Irish ex-boyfriend she’s been missing desperately since they broke up at the end of summer, when she returned to Canada. They agreed they wouldn’t be friends, that it would never be enough. But that was then—back when Amira’s separated parents had shipped her off to relatives in Dublin for the summer so they could test-drive the idea of getting back together on a long haul cruise. Back when Amira was torn away from a friend in need in Toronto only to fall in love with a Dublin screenwriting class and take a step closer to her dream career. And only to fall for cousin Zoey’s bandmate, Darragh, the guy who is first her friend, then her enemy and later something much more complicated—the guy she can say anything to, the guy who makes every inch of her feel wide awake in a way she hadn’t known was possible. The guy she confides in about the dead sister she has no living memories of but who has remained with Amira nonetheless. The guy she might never see again. Or is there, despite the distance, somehow still a chance for them?

Chock-full of movie references and giddy love for Dublin, Ireland, Just Like You Said It Would Be is a frank exploration of the extraordinary highs and shattering lows of first love that will appeal to fans of Jennifer Echols, Tara Kelly, Sarra Manning, Trish Doller, and Kirsty Eagar. 


C. K. Kelly Martin said...

Thank you for having me over, Krystal. It was a pleasure! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.

Krystal said...

Thanks again! It was great having you :) I hope you had a Merry Christmas as well. All the best in 2018!

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