Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5 WOW Wednesday: C.K. Kelly Martin on Reconnecting with Your Lost Love of Writing

Today's lovely WOW post is by C. K. Kelly Martin, who began writing her first novel in a flat in Dublin and finished it in a Toronto suburb. By then she was thoroughly hooked on young adult fiction and her fifth published YA novel, Yesterday, hit shelves on September 25th.

Her online home is You can also find her on Twitter @CKKellyMartin and

C.K. is also VERY generously offering up 2 prizes each consisting of a signed hardcover of Yesterday and signed paperback of My Beating Teenage Heart! U.S. and Canadian entries only, please.

Just complete the form below by 6:00 pm, December 13th!

Reconnecting with Your Lost Love


C.K. Kelly Martin

I don’t know what truly turns someone from a writer into an author. Writing something that a publishing house believes they can sell, sure. But on the inside, is there some important change that occurs? Am I a better or markedly different writer now than before I was published?

I’m honestly not so sure. Going through the editing process with my Random House editor has made me more aware of when I need to speed up or slow down action, the times when I have five lines of dialogue in a manuscript but two would do, and the occasions when I’m generally not communicating clearly. Those things aside, though, I think I’m more or less the same writer I was before my first book, I Know It’s Over, was published in 2008.

During the last few years my mom has handed over several short stories I’d forgotten about, ones I’d penned twenty years ago or more. What’s so surprising is just how much they sound like me. I was actually writing YA before I even had an inclining that I wanted to be a YA writer – most of the stories were ones I’d written solely for me and didn’t even submit anywhere for publication. The experience of rereading these stories reminds me of the Simon and Garfunkel lyric, “After changes upon changes. We are more or less the same.”

As a writer I’m repeatedly drawn to particular types of characters (sensitive, smart ones from the ages of thirteen to early twenties) and material (sometimes people refer to it as edgy). I’m not saying I want to write the same thing over and over but it stands to reason that there’s going to be a certain me-ness to everything I tackle. Things that will make a sci-fi book by me (or you!) different from everyone else’s, and I think continually honing your talent while telling your stories in the way only you can tell them is the only thing you can really control as a writer. Publication, book sales, awards, reviews – none of that is really within our power and can seem downright random at times.

So here’s one thing I do know: if you’re at a point in your writing career where you’re feeling stalled (believe me, I know exactly what this feels like because I was in that spot for a long, long time – I finished 6 YA books over 7 years before Random House offered to buy I Know It’s Over), either because you’re still trying to reach for that elusive first publication deal or you’re having a hell of a time trying to get your next book under contract or for whatever reason you’re just not feeling the love anymore, it can help rejuvenate your writer-self to pretend publication doesn’t exist for a while.

It’s easy to get obsessed with the goal posts after staring at them for so long, and lose focus on what drew you to writing in the first place. Let’s face it, if you were in this primarily for the money you’d probably be doing something else. Odds are you love the written word and have a passion for indulging your imagination. But no matter how much we love to write, rejection can take a heavy toll, riddling us with doubt and draining our creative energy.

So if you’re burnt out from the publication chase and wondering whether you should pack it in, first consider writing a secret novel, just for you. Strictly out of a love for writing. This secret novel should be something you look forward to stealing time with whenever you can – whether it’s a guilty pleasure romance, dark thriller or emotionally harrowing drama. Don’t worry about whether the project is something you can ultimately sell (no one can ever really know that anyway!) or what your writing friends would think of it. This is for you. To keep the magic alive.

My fourth book, My Beating Teenage Heart, was a secret novel. After writing several strictly contemporary YA books in a row and feeling at a bit of a loss as to what I should do next, I decided I needed to stretch myself and do something different. What came to me – the story I felt I had to tell – was something that I wasn’t sure a publisher would find marketable. And even if it was I was uncertain whether I wanted to expose it to what can be the harsh light of the publishing world. The story seemed so awfully delicate and raw. My Beating Teenage Heart is centered around such profound sadness – a dead girl acts as a sort of guardian for a teenage boy who holds himself responsible for the death of his young sister to the point that he’s not sure he can survive the loss – that I resolved to write it just for me and think about what to do with the manuscript later. That decision gave me the room to do precisely what I wanted with the story, no holds barred.

When I finished it and ultimately decided to show my editor, she deeply connected with the manuscript. Unfortunately, not everyone did. Barnes and Noble decided not to stock the book. Down the road a ways it was shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association’s Young Adult Book Award 2012 and British Columbia British Columbia's Teen Readers' Choice Award. Regardless, My Beating Teenage Heart is never going to sell like Twilight. But I’m extremely proud of it and I believe something magical can happen when you let go of thoughts of publication. Unencumbered you are free to do some of your best work and reconnect with what started you writing in the first place. That might not turn you from a writer into an author but if you’ve lost that loving feeling your secret novel can restore it in spades.


THEN: The formation of the UNA, the high threat of eco-terrorism, the mammoth rates of unemployment and subsequent escape into a world of virtual reality are things any student can read about in their 21st century textbooks and part of the normal background noise to Freya Kallas's life. Until that world starts to crumble.
NOW: It's 1985. Freya Kallas has just moved across the world and into a new life. On the outside, she fits in at her new high school, but Freya feels nothing but removed. Her mother blames it on the grief over her father's death, but how does that explain the headaches and why do her memories feel so foggy? When Freya lays eyes on Garren Lowe, she can't get him out of her head. She's sure that she knows him, despite his insistence that they've never met. As Freya follows her instincts and pushes towards hidden truths, the two of them unveil a strange and dangerous world where their days may be numbered. Unsure who to trust, Freya and Garren go on the run from powerful forces determined to tear them apart and keep them from discovering the truth about their shared pasts (and futures), her visions, and the time and place they really came from. Yesterday will appeal to fans of James Dashner's The Maze Runner, Veronica Roth's Divergent, Amy Ryan's Glow, Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Ally Condie's Matched.
by C. K. Kelly Martin
Random House, 2012
0375866507 (ISBN13: 9780375866500)
Reading level: Young Adult


Ashlyn Baptiste is falling. One moment she was nothing—no memories, no self—and then suddenly, she's plummeting through a sea of stars. Is she in a coma? She doesn't remember dying, and she has no memories of the life she left behind. All she knows is that she's trapped in a consciousness without a body and she's spending every moment watching a stranger.
Breckon Cody's on the edge. He's being ripped apart by grief so intense it literally hurts to breathe. On the surface, Breckon is trying to hold it together for his family and his girlfriend, but underneath he's barely hanging on.
Even though she didn't know him in life, Ashlyn sees Breckon's pain, and she's determined to find a way help him. As her own distressing memories emerge from the darkness, she struggles to communicate with the boy who can't see her, but whose life is suddenly intertwined with hers. In alternating voices of the main characters, My Beating Teenage Heart paints a devastatingly vivid picture of both the heartbreak and the promise of teenage life—a life Ashlyn would do anything to recover and Breckon seems desperate to destroy.
My Beating Teenage Heart
by C. K. Kelly Martin
Random House, 2011
0375868550 (ISBN13: 9780375868559)
Reading level: Young Adult


  1. Thanks for this post! I am at a place right now where I need to reconnect with my love of writing and what drew me to it in the first place.

  2. This is such a great post!! I think writing is only one thing we need to reconnect with. But it's a great start!! I've been reconnecting with a lot of things lately :)

  3. Great idea to write a secret novel if you're burnt out. Some days I feel like Andrea and need to reconnect with the love of writing, not the feeling of I have to write or I don't have time to. Thanks for sharing your tips on how to reconnect.

  4. Well said! I like the idea of going back to the roots of a writer's remember WHY we write. Easy to forget sometimes, with the push toward publication. Easy to start criticizing a work-in-progress before it has a chance to breathe and open its eyes, too. :)

  5. Boy, Howdy, do I connect with this post. I have been in a writing funk most of this year and would love to find a way out. Maybe this is the way. Thanks so much for posting this.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)