Welcome to Awesome Books Week on my blog, where I am celebrating THREE (3!) contemporary, realistic YA novels I’ve recently loved by featuring an interview with each of their authors and hosting a giveaway of their books on my blog. That’s right! It is not enough to just post an interview. I want to give you a chance to OWN these stories because I don’t think your library is complete without them.
Want to know how you can win The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind (Kirstin Cronn-Mills), Harmonic Feedback (Tara Kelly) AND The Lighter Side of Life and Death (C.K. Kelly Martin)? Find out at the bottom of this interview with CK Kelly Martin!
I’ve been lucky enough to have C.K. Kelly Martin stop by my blog for interviews twice before. The first time was when I Know It’s Over was released and the second, when One Lonely Degree hit shelves. I’m absolutely thrilled to have her back a third time to wind up Awesome Books Week by spotlighting her latest release, The Lighter Side of Life and Death.
LOVE that cover!
The Lighter Side of Life and Death is about a sixteen-year-old boy named Mason. He and his best friend, Kat, have sex after a party (first time for both of them) and it’s undeniably awesome… in the moment.
After, Mason, who has long crushed on Kat, wants to take it to the next level. Kat–when she can look Mason in the eye–is adamant about not jeopardizing their friendship. Too bad having sex with your best friend isn’t exactly a moment you can go back from! The only thing Mason can do is wave goodbye to the relationship they might’ve had and watch what’s left of the one they do have deteroriate and deal with the fall out. To make matters worse, he has to contend with a whole new family dynamic: his dad’s fiance has moved in with her cranky 13-year-old daughter and adorable handful of a six-year-old. And a PSYCHO CAT. A distraction is definitely in order.
Luckily (?), distraction comes in the form of Colette, a twenty-three year old woman, and the chemistry between her and Mason is undeniable…
I loved this book. I love all of C.K.’s books. They are so important, I feel everyone should read them. EVERYONE! She touches on so many emotional truths, I feel safe in making the assumption that there’s something in her books all people of the planet earth need and can connect with. She has such respect for her readers and characters. Anyone who wants to write YA definitely needs to read CK’s stuff before they even ATTEMPT it. She is one of the most realistic writers on the scene right now. Nothing is sensationalized, but everything is beautiful and honest and raw, relateable and wonderful. As with all of her books, The Lighter Side of Life and Death is chock full of her trademark honesty and intelligence. This is an absorbing read and you need it in your life. Read my full review here.
(Also: no one ask me what my favourite C.K. Kelly Martin book is or I will just curl up in a ball and cry because I won’t be able to pick and the idea of being forced to choose is very upsetting. I guess if you HATE ME, you could ask, but.)
And now, presenting…
Congratulations on the release of The Lighter Side of Life and Death. This is your THIRD published novel, which is awesome. What’s it like having three books out there? Do you think you’re getting used to it on some level, or are there always new ways to be surprised?
Thank you! It’s weird because I get so obsessed with writing the books but once they’re out in public for awhile they begin to feel distant from me. Maybe because I’m very much an introvert and not into the idea of doing readings and stuff (I would seriously rather to go to the dentist than ever have a launch party!) the whole publishing thing still doesn’t seem very real to me. So I don’t think I’ve gotten used to it but I have realized that I need to keep the idea of being a writer away from my writing, otherwise I just don’t feel like writing, it becomes a negative thing. So, yeah, it’s strange, it’s like I don’t actually know that I have three books out.
That is seriously a fantastic answer. What I love most about all of your novels (I Know It’s Over, One Lonely Degree, The Lighter Side of Life and Death) is that they are all resoundingly sex and girl-positive. From your blog and knowing you alone, it’s clear these topics are very important to you. What are some stale stereotypes relating to this topic that you’d be happy NEVER to see in young adult fiction again?
I’m very happy to hear this because it’s important to me to be girl-positive–and also boy-positive. We’ve internalized some really negative and restrictive messages about gender in this culture. Even as gender expectations are lifting, there’s a heavy backlash–a desire to push people back into boxes. There’s an unrelenting sexualization of girls and women by popular media and advertising which limits them as people, unhealthy ideas of what it is to be male–that you have to be unemotional, dominant, aggressive–and ridiculous double standards in what society’s expectations of people are.
One of the things I have a problem with in some YA fiction, and in our culture generally, is that it’s considered normal (or at least not a big issue) for a teenage guy to have sex or want to but girls are expected to treat it more gravely and wait for love and/or a serious relationship, otherwise the sex often takes on some cautionary tale aspects. I had a review for One Lonely Degree where the reviewer wrote, “Relationships and romance form a large part of the book’s plot as Finn seems to fall in love with one person after another.” But I thought it was pretty clear that most of that was lust and not love and that at fifteen (and single) there’s nothing wrong with a girl lusting after various people–not even necessarily wanting to sleep with those people in reality but enjoying fantasizing about it. Girls have sexual appetites too; they’re not just romantics.
Another thing I really take issue with is a dynamic that sometimes appears in books with a strong romantic element. Basically it’s when a male character is continually openly hostile to the main female character (sometimes to the point where she fears for safety–or would if she were smart) and this disdain and disrespect the male character shows for the female character is presented as being sexy because the male character is supposed to be hot. It’s pretty disingenuous because if the male character shows contempt for the female main character and wants her anyway in reality that’s not a dynamic that would lead to some great romance; it’s more like a dynamic that would lead to a one night stand or an emotionally or physically abusive relationship.
So when I see this kind of thing and see readers react to it as though this toxicity is indeed romantic it makes me think that we have pretty screwed up ideas about love–and that’s not the kind of thing I want to pass down to a generation of young people.
Here, here! I agree with you on all counts. So well said. Mason marks your second time writing from a guy’s POV. The first time was with Nick from I Know It’s Over. As I read Lighter Side, I never once thought of Nick. Not just because each character is going through markedly different situations, but because they’re such two distinct voices. Did you worry about that? How easy or difficult was it finding Mason’s voice?
This is something that did concern me–Nick and Mason are both sixteen with middle class upbringings (and they’ve even both gone through the breakup of their parents) but Mason is much more easy going. I sort of think of him as being more like Nathan (from I Know It’s Over) than he is like Nick.
But there was really only one occasion when I was working on The Lighter Side of Life and Death that I found myself about to type out something that was in Nick’s voice. I can’t remember which scene it was, just that it was a thought Mason was having rather than an action or a piece of dialogue. It was pretty early in and I caught myself and reminded myself that Mason was a very different person to Nick and never would’ve had that thought. It never happened again.
Overall Mason’s voice came very naturally. Especially in the final three-quarters of the book it felt like second nature.
Tell me about the decision to incorporate a Psycho Cat! I loved those moments so much. A certain showdown had me laughing so hard I was crying.
I’m so glad, I loved the Psycho Cat too! I can’t remember why I gave Brianna and Burke (the future step-siblings that move in with Mason) a cat. I guess I just thought they had one. The showdown between Mason and the cat wasn’t something that I had in mind initially; it just sort of developed over the course of the story. If I think about it now, I suppose the cat serves to reflect Brianna’s feelings of hostility towards Mason. I’m sure she would’ve gotten a good laugh from seeing her cat have a go at Mason!
I can just picture her cackling madly in the background. You are definitely not known for shying away from the issues you write about. Did you have any reservations about how people would respond to or perceive Mason’s relationship with Colette, given the age difference? Or how they would receive Colette, specifically? It would be so easy to characterize her as a dangerous predator type, and you just didn’t go there, which I really appreciated. She was nuanced and human and a little lost.
When I wrote The Lighter Side of Life and Death in 2005 I hadn’t sold any books yet and there’s a certain freedom in that. I don’t think I really considered how other people might react (the idea of having a book published seemed pretty unreal) and I try not to think too much about that now I either because I wouldn’t want those worries to get in way of whatever story I’m telling.
The seven and a half year age difference between Mason and Colette does seem like a big one but in Canada and in a majority of states this wouldn’t be illegal. I remember in high school having teachers that were 23 or 24 and it was obvious that they weren’t all that different to the students; it was much easier to relate to them than it was to the older teachers. So I think it’s not so strange that there can be an attraction between someone of 16 and someone of 23. I never really thought of Colette as a predator–having more experience and maturity she should’ve known better, but she got swept up in things like Mason did.
The Lighter Side really demonstrates your versatility as a writer. It’s a departure in tone for you, but it carries all the hallmarks of a C.K. Kelly Martin book. It’s thoughtful, beautifully written and respects its characters as well as its readers. Was the writing process different compared to I Know It’s Over and One Lonely Degree?
Thank you! I’m glad to hear that. After writing two emotionally tough books in a row I really wanted to tackle something lighter but that wish aside the process wasn’t any different. I wanted to be true to Mason’s reality, which just doesn’t happen to be quite as troubled as Nick’s or Finn’s.
What was your favourite scene to write?
Mason was on such a high for the entire first chapter that it was pure fun to write. But there’s a scene near the end of the book, where Mason and Kat have a conversation on the school bleachers and get real with each other, which I enjoyed just as much. It was kind of painful and awkward to write but also a relief to be able to get things out that you know they’ve been thinking and feeling.
I loved both of those scenes. Name a book, movie or song that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of YA for you.
It’s hard to come up with just one because there are so many different aspects of YA but overall for the kind of stuff I like to write I’d choose the song Lazy Eye by Silversun Pickups from a few years ago.
YA is full of new experiences, longing and anticipation and this song has an amazingly fresh sound. There’s also such a keen feeling of anticipation in Lazy Eye, not just musically but in the opening lines, “I’ve been waiting/I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life/But it’s not quite right.” I love that bit about it being not quite right because if you get close enough to anything it’s never going to be perfect.
Ooh, thank you for the introduction to the Silverspun Pickups! Name three websites that you can’t go a day without checking.
BBC News is my homepage so that’s where I start out every day. I also check out The Toronto Star website (I subscribe to the hard copy of the paper but they update stories online all day long), on a daily basis and Feministing.com to have a look at political and social news from a Feminist slant.
Tell us about what’s next for you!
I just finished a rough draft of my first non-YA book. It’s about a twenty-year-old woman who goes into a state of collapse after the boyfriend she’s been living with dies suddenly. After closing herself off for months she suddenly sleeps with someone else and that sends shockwaves, which may or may not be a good thing, into the rest of her life.
I’m not sure what will become of that novel yet but my editor says a revision letter for My Beating Teenage Heart (my fourth book) will be arriving soon so once that happens I’ll be occupied with revisions until my summer holiday in Dublin. And then I plan to take a bit of a break for awhile and not write much of anything! I need to get reacquainted with my Wii – it’s been way to long.
I LOVE hearing that there are more C.K. Kelly Martin books in the works! I’ll be first in line to get them when they hit shelves. Thank you for stopping by and talking about your books, C.K.!
Thank you so much for having me back, Courtney! I always love to talk to you.
And thus concludes my AWESOME BOOKS WEEK! Thank you so much to Kirstin, Tara and CK for being part of it and thank YOU guys for reading and commenting. Like I said, I love the books I’m featuring on my blog SO MUCH, I have decided to give ALL THREE OF THEM away to ONE lucky winner. If you want to be entered to win the random draw, all you have to do is comment on one or all of the interviews:
If you comment on one interview, you will be entered once. If you comment on two of them, twice. All three interviews? Three times! *NOTE: All entrants are limited to three entries each.
Increase your chances at winning by commenting on them all when they go up (just be consistent in entering your name and email address so I can count the entries accordingly).
Please note this contest is open to residents of the US and Canada only (sorry International readers). A random winner will be selected August 1st, 2010 and contacted via email for their shipping deets. They winner will have 24 hours to claim their prize or there will be a redraw.
Dear FTC, The Lighter Side of Life and Death was bought by me and I was not compensated for this review or interview. I just love talking about the books I love. xo, Courtney