Monday, May 18, 2009

Interview with CK Kelly Martin!

Welcome to another author interview at Writer Musings! Today, we've got the fabulous CK Kelly Martin, author of I KNOW IT'S OVER and ONE LONELY DEGREE. Now, let's get to it!

Tell us about ONE LONELY DEGREE.
One Lonely Degree is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Finn who has always felt like an outsider at school, a feeling which has been exacerbated by something that happened to her at a party. Coping with it is an ongoing problem and the only person who even knows about what happened is her best friend, Audrey, the one person she really trusts. Then Jersy, this guy Finn used to be friends with when she was really young, moves back to town. She has feelings for him but can’t deal with them or even admit to them so Audrey, who also likes him, starts going out with him. That’s fine for awhile because it means Finn can at least be friends with him but then Audrey goes away for the summer, just when Finn is having lots of family issues (and still trying to cope with her other problem), leaving Jersy as the closest person to her…and she still has those feelings for him.

Where were you when the idea fell into your head?
Usually I’m lying in bed at night and if I’m not too tired and am on the lookout to start a new book I begin hearing the voice of the central character in my head, talking about his or her situation. I can’t clearly remember this with Finn because I wrote One Lonely Degree back in 2004 and have written several books since then but it probably evolved that way. I do recall that I wanted to write a book about best friends set during summer vacation but that the idea morphed once I learned more about Finn.

How long did it take to get from the initial idea to a completed novel?
The manuscript itself took about six months but I usually think about a book for at least several weeks (scribbling down notes here and there and trying to get to know the character and what they’re dealing with) before I sit in front of the computer and really get down to it.

How did you come up with the title?
I was with my mom in the car and the DJ on the radio said it was one lonely degree out there. I think this was around about the time I was starting to think about Finn and I guess it seemed to fit with her emotional state. Whenever I hear something that sounds like a good title I jot it down because I can’t actually start writing a book unless I have a title for it that I’m crazy about. That’s probably backwards from the way lots of people of write. The other day I was checking something out on my website stats and I noticed that someone had arrived there by searching for “jasper fox gray I can’t see you anymore.” I assumed it was a YA novel, although I hadn’t heard of it before, and thought the title was intriguing so did my own search but no solid matches came up. My website was top of the list! So I don’t know, maybe I’m supposed to write a book called “Jasper Fox Gray I Can’t See You Anymore.” I am curious about the story behind that.

How much editing did your editor go through with you?
She told me both One Lonely Degree and I Know It’s Over were pretty clean so I don’t think it was really that much but it still felt intense at the time because I’m a very slow writer. There was some tightening of scenes, evening up of tones, and fleshing out of relationships and characters. The one thing I remember as being particularly difficult was the ending, which was entirely different in the draft I originally sent her – a bit darker. My editor didn’t think it felt right and once I’d really considered it, agonized over what direction to take it in, I decided she was right. I think part of the reason the original ending wasn’t more positive (not that it was negative!) was because I envisioned One Lonely Degree as being the first book in a trilogy and was going to continue dealing with some things in the second and third book. But I have another trilogy that I’d written previously which I’m still trying to sell so even before my editor saw One Lonely Degree I’d put aside the idea of continuing 1LD as a trilogy – in my experience trilogies have been a tough sell!

For your first book, how long did it take to find your editor?
I finished I Know It’s Over in May, 2003 and then promptly lost my agent, who didn’t like it, so had to start looking for representation again. I finally found a new agent in early 2006 and I Know It’s Over sold about six months after that. My agent is fantastic – she loved the book and when she couldn’t sell it in England (she’s in London) she hooked up with a NY agent to sell it on this side of the pond. So I if I start counting from when I finished the book it was three years before it found a home.

For your second book, did your editor automatically take it or was there a fear it would be rejected?
The deal was only for I Know It’s Over so the second book could’ve been rejected. I had two other YA novels (aside from the trilogy) finished when my editor bought I Know It’s Over and sent those for her to look at not long after I Know It’s Over sold. Luckily she wanted them both.

What was your favorite part of writing this book?
I loved writing the Finn and Jersy scenes. I thought they had such a nice vibe between them and I was just so fond of both of them.

Least favorite?
Rewriting that last chapter. I started to write towards a certain outcome and then realized I was forcing it – working against what Finn would actually do so I had to backtrack to the last point that felt true to her and work from there. I’m happy about the way it turned out but initially I had so much uncertainty about it and even later I struggled to get the chapter (especially the final couple scenes) exactly how I wanted. So in the end it was really rewarding but it was a hard slog to get there.

How does it feel to have your second book on the shelves? How is it different from your first book?
I’m so excited about it because I really love the Finn character (I feel quite protective of her too) and I know it’s a better book since my editor got a hold of it. Random House did such an amazing job with the cover that I feel like that alone could sell copies.

So I’m both every bit as excited and nervous about One Lonely Degree being on shelves as I was about I Know It’s Over but the sort of nerves attached to the book are a little different this time around because I’m conscious of the weight of readers’ expectations. A lot of the people that read I Know It’s Over seemed to like it and it received good reviews. I think there will be people who will automatically want to compare the two but One Lonely Degree is its own book.

How did you get in to writing for kids?
I’d wanted to write for a long, long time but just didn’t feel ready to get serious about it until I was preparing to leave Ireland to move back to Canada. Around that time I got hooked on Party of Five, which inspired me to try to write something for young people. As soon as I’d finished that first YA novel I couldn’t imagine writing for any other age group. Adolescence is both a scary and exciting time. There’s so much stuff to figure out and so many experiences you’re having for the first time and sometimes you’re out of your depth, not possessing the experience and maturity to deal with things in the way you’d like. There are so many basic things that aren’t within your control. It’s a challenging time but it can be really great too – the best of times, the worst of times.

What are you working on now?
I just finished revisions for my third book, The Lighter Side of Life and Death which is mainly about a sixteen year old guy’s love life (with his best friend Kat and then a twenty-three year old woman who is sort of a friend of the family). There’s something else in the works which I shouldn’t talk about yet as the paperwork is in progress but I do have yet another idea that I want to get started on which would also be YA but different than the ones I’ve done so far. I made a few notes on it before I had to switch my thoughts back to The Lighter Side so I need to read those over and get back into the main character’s mind.

Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
I’m really bad at multitasking and when I’m working on a book I get totally obsessed with it so I can’t imagine working on more than one project at a time. Having said that, obviously there are times I have to stop what I’m doing with the current project and revise a previous book or look at copy edits.

What does your writing space look like?
It’s a small den with a little computer desk and there’s a futon behind me, which I never actually sit on but just tend to pile stuff onto. There’s a bookshelf full of YA novels next to it and I have a file folder that I stick interesting newspaper articles in. Actually, there are clippings all over the apartment because it can take me awhile to get around to filing them. Anyway, I’ve divided this file folder by topic – there are sections on education, movies, music, science, crime, social criticism and more. But the funny thing is that I never really take out the articles to look at them again, I just keep stuffing more in there – in case I need to reference them someday, I guess. About twenty years ago I used to do a similar thing with a huge notebook I’d bought. I’d staple in whatever articles I found interesting.

There are also some posters up and a framed lobby card of The Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night. I have a Jane Austen action figure hanging up quite close to the desk. She comes with a writing desk and quill pen but the package is still sealed so that she’ll stay in mint condition forever. I just love that there’s a Jane Austen action figure – had to have one.

How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
I normally read a couple of YA novels a week, if I’m not dealing with a deadline, but if I’m reading an adult novel it will take me a little longer because they’re generally lengthier. I have tons of books on my to read list and have fallen really far behind but at the moment I’m taking a break from YA. I finished The Retreat by Canadian author David Bergen a couple of days ago and now I’m reading Roddy Doyle’s collection of short stories, The Deportees. I’ve read several of his novels (most recently, Paula Spencer) but this collection would’ve probably interested me even if it didn’t have his name on it because it’s filled with stories about the immigrant experience in Ireland and I lived there during a time when there was hardly any immigration but much emigration. That began to change in my later years there but the majority of the change occurred after I was gone. I’m still very attached to Ireland (I became a citizen in 2001) and like to try to keep up with what’s happening over there as best I can. The story I’m in the middle of at the moment is about Jimmy Rabbitte, a character from The Commitments, now thirty-six and forming a new band to manage. One of the unusual things about these stories is that because they were originally written for a magazine they’re all in 800-word chapters.

Thanks so much for answering all these questions! So informative, and great to hear from an author with more than one book on the shelf. :)

If you want to see more of what Ms. Martin is doing, check out her website at For a chance to win a copy of these books, go here and leave a comment. Also, here's the book trailer for ONE LONELY DEGREE.


Bish Denham said...

Great interview! I look forward to reading these books.

Mary said...

The book sounds great! I love to hear about the writing process.


Danyelle L. said...

Great interview and awesome questions!

Ronald L. Smith said...

Thanks so much for this interview. You sure know how to ask good questions, Tabitha. The books sound wonderful. I'll have to check them out.

Keri Mikulski said...

Great interview!! Very inspiring and I always love picturing an author's writing space and comparing to my own. :)

C.R. Evers said...

awesome interview! I don't know why, but I found it fun to hear about her writing space! :0) Great question.


Mary Witzl said...

I love it that Kelly can't get on with writing unless she's a got a title and the title alone can inspire her to write a book. I feel the same: a good title can conjure up an entire story.

These books sound great -- the reading list grows...

courtney said...

Fantastic interview! Loved the questions and the answers. I adored I Know It's Over and am eager to crack open One Lonely Degree.

I was with my mom in the car and the DJ on the radio said it was one lonely degree out there.^ That's fantastic. Like a lightning bolt of inspiration. :)