Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

Are you okay Elliot Hart interview

Sabitha: Kate Martin joins us today to talk to us about her novel Are you Okay, Elliot Hart? We always like to start by learning a bit about the book, so Kate, can you give us an introduction?

Kate: Fifteen-year-old Elliot ‘Matchstick’ Hart spends his days caring for his mum and hiding from the school bully.

Fifteen-year-old Josh McBride spends his days tormenting Elliot and avoiding his abusive stepdad.

Inspired by a picture in an old newspaper, Elliot embarks on an adventure to the city. Little does he know that Josh has decided to join him. On their journey, strangers and surprises force them to look at each other in a different light. As secrets are uncovered, can the boys bury their differences or will it tear them further apart?

Sabitha: This book has a lot of heart. What inspired you to write it?

Kate: I started writing Are you Okay, Elliot Hart? in my late thirties. My mum had poor health since I was a teenager and I was still struggling with the emotions this created—the feelings of helplessness, hurt, and anger. I created the character of Elliot Hart to highlight the daily struggles of being a young carer. I then created the character of Josh McBride to explore the themes of bullying and why teenagers might hurt others. This was mainly inspired by my job as a high school teacher and the pupils I encounter. 

Sabitha: What was your favourite thing to write in the book?

Kate: I actually enjoyed writing a scene where Elliot sings with a busker. I love singing but I am terrible at it! Maybe this was me channeling my dreams! 

Sabitha: My writing voice is also much better than my singing voice! We have a lot of writers in our community, Kate. What’s your writing process?

Kate: Messy and chaotic! I handwrite really bad first drafts. There are lots of notepads scattered around my house. I scribble the first draft down, not concerning myself with whether it is any good. Then I type it up and look at what plot I have. Once I’ve decided on the plot, I type it all up and edit for what feels like forever! I actually like the editing process, making the messy first draft look somewhat coherent and engaging. 

Sabitha: One of the hardest parts of writing a novel is picking the title. How did you choose?

Kate: I had a few ideas at first. I had Matchstick because that was Elliot’s nickname at school. Then I thought of Step Outside because his mum is agoraphobic and Josh bullies him, but I ended up with Are you Okay, Elliot Hart? because really, both Josh and Elliot just need someone to ask them if they are okay. Like we all do!

Sabitha:  If you could pick any author to read your book, who would you want to read it? Why them?

Kate: Maybe Fiona Scarlett? I have recently read her book Boys Don’t Cry and I thought it was so well written. The voices are incredible. I would hope she could give me some tips. She is a teacher as well, so we can talk about the highs and lows of that occupation too!

Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your emotional, heartfelt story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Kate: You can buy my book from any of the stores here. I’m on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and you can also find me at my website.  

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

the one woman cover

Zilla: Zilla here! A quick note for our readers. There’s a pre-order giveaway contest for this book, so make sure you read to the end of the interview to find out how to enter!

Sabitha: Laura May joins us to talk about her LGBTQ+ romance novel, The One Woman. Laura, we’re delighted to have you! Can you tell us a bit about your book?

Laura: The One Woman is a story of a girl meets a girl. But what if the girl is already in a steady relationship with a long-term boyfriend? 

The main character, Julie, a graphic designer, is in a mundane relationship with her boyfriend Mark. Until she meets Ann. Ann is successful, beautiful, and charismatic. Julie can’t deny the spark during their chance meeting. When their present entwines once again in Barcelona the spark is impossible to extinguish. When tragedy strikes, Julie must decide between her devotion to Mark and her love for Ann. Can true love survive when the timing is all wrong?

Sabitha: Okay, I’m intrigued! So what inspired you to write this book?

Laura: The dedication to this book says, ‘To all the books that came before.’ All the books that I’ve read before were my inspiration. From my childhood I always found friends in books—later, they managed to evoke such a magnitude of feelings that I sat stunned, dreaming of one day writing something as remotely emotional as the book I was holding in my hands at that moment.

When the pandemic struck, and we all were confined to our homes with no way to travel, instead of looking out, I started to look in.

The One Woman started in my head as a woman walks into a bar…

Sabitha: What was your favourite thing to write in the book?

Laura: It was not a thing, but a character, Ann. I loved everything about her, and meeting her and writing about her was my favourite thing.

Sabitha: Falling in love with a character is such a magical feeling. But writing isn’t all high points. What advice would you give to someone who’s writing or querying?

Laura: Writing requires just showing on the page, so if you do show regularly, something wonderful will be on that page. You cannot edit the empty page, as they say.

With querying I have only one piece of advice, which I constantly say to myself: don’t stop. In the end, you need only one yes.

Sabitha: How did you choose the title?

Laura: It’s kind of a funny story, or a strange one. I wrote The One Woman by hand and it took two and a half notebooks. The first notebook had a floral cover, with two words: The One. So these two words were with the story from the beginning. Later I added Woman. Because it’s a story of two women, and I hope the readers will find something to relate to in each of them.

Sabitha:  If you could pick any author to read your book, who would you want to read it? Why them?

Laura: I’d be honored if one day TJ Klune, Leigh Bardugo and Taylor Jenkins Reid could read my book. They broke my heart and healed it back with their books, I cried, pressing their books to my chest. Their ideas and stories are so beautifully written, that I would love them to read this, or any of my future books.

Sabitha: This book sounds like a great read. When can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Laura: Thanks for the interview!  You can find The One Woman here and on Amazon here. You can find out more about me at my website, Instagram and Facebook.

We’re running a pre-order giveaway! Anyone who completes this form and uploads proof of a preorder will be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card. The prize will be announced at my launch party in August. 

Cascade: Writing the Apocalypse

Cascade was never meant to be a work of climate fiction.

My meandering novel of magic, monsters, and machinations grew its themes organically. Not everything, even in a novel about politics, needs to be a political allegory. Sometimes the tentacle of a long-dead god emerging from the bottom of the ocean is just a tentacle of a long-dead god emerging from the bottom of the ocean. But the further I wrote, and the more IPCC reports were released to resounding global silence and inaction, the more it became obvious that the apocalypse that threatened the world of Cascade was a one not dissimilar to the one that imperils our own.

This led to one of my many bouts of soul searching while writing the novel. Could I even finish the book, let alone the series, before reality rendered it irrelevant? Was it selfish to care about that? Was it even ethical to write a book—which, for all its topicality, is a work of entertainment—when our planet is on fire? Surely my time was better spent at a pipeline blockade or, at the very least, marching in the street.

It may disappoint you, gentle reader, that I don’t have those answers. But I have done a fair bit of thinking about the role of artists, and other creators, during a climate apocalypse.

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Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

Sabitha:  Pulkit Khanna joins us today to talk about his novel The Other Side of it. Pulkit, can you introduce us to your book?

Pulkit: A hundred-year-old bridge connects an isolated village of Punjab to the rest of the world & the villagers have lived their entire lives without finding the need to walk on to the other side. But there are always some people whose idea of a life well lived is non conformity. Two such little boys, Jeet and Sabr, embark on a journey to find what lies on the other side of the bridge, and in their quest to find the unknown, they discover some secrets about the villagers that not many knew of. Thus begins a story of love, loss, friendship, belief and most of all—hope.

Sabitha: That’s a fascinating premise for a novel. Which of those characters do you relate to the most and why?

Pulkit: I relate to the boy ‘Sabr’. He’s a little boy who is full of emotions but can also be very mature when the situation requires him to. He believes that kindness is the most important virtue; knowing when to stop being kind is important too.

Sabitha: What was your favourite thing to write in the book?

Pulkit: The ending was my favourite thing to write in the book. I had multiple endings planned but I wanted to leave the readers with the perfect aftertaste. I wanted to blur the line between the last page of the book and their real life that lied on the other side of it.

Sabitha: What advice would you give to someone who’s writing or querying?

Pulkit: There’s a story about a pottery teacher who splits her class into two groups. The first group is tasked with making a single, perfect pot. The other group is tasked with making as many unique pots as possible. At the end, even though the first group had pooled their resources and spent all their time researching, the second group had the best pot. This is because, at the end of the day, your first pot is always going to suck. So, keep writing. Write a dozen stories, a hundred stories, a thousand stories. Eventually, one of them will be a winner.

Sabitha: That’s such a motivational way to think about writing. Has being published changed your feelings about writing?

Pulkit:  As a writer, self-doubt is something that always stays with you. But after I got published, people started talking about my characters like they were real people. It was the kind of acceptance that I was looking for. It was like they gave life to my characters.

Sabitha: What do you most want your readers to take away from reading your book?

Pulkit: Life isn’t easy, grief is omnipresent, and things will almost never go as you want them to. I want them to know that you have to just hold on and just keep on trying. Hold on to hope, hold on to the people that love you, and most importantly hold on to yourself. Eventually, one day, you will most definitely move to the other side of it. And you’ll know it was all worth it.

Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your writing motivation and your story. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Pulkit: You can buy the book on Amazon. You can find me on my website, Twitter and Instagram (@pulkitkhanna30 & @moonlightissunshinetoo).

The Music of Cascade

I didn’t set out to do it, but music is woven through Cascade like a spell. From Lucy’s opera to Ian’s fiddle, music is the backdrop of my characters’ lives—and of my own writing process.

I went from always listening to music when I wrote, to never listening to it, to a particular ritual during the pandemic where most of my drafting happened while listening to The Friday Night Parkdale Special. (At least the ending of Cascade was written to Motown, Tipper Gore’s Filthy 15, and hair metal. FNPS—and I— contain musical multitudes.) 

But there’s also the songs that I listen to when I’m imagining my world and my characters and the soundtrack to their story, and those are the songs I’m going to talk about in this post. I’ve put the whole playlist on Spotify, but I’ll share some highlights below.

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Last-minute Cascade pre-order promotion

Do you want weird mail from a weird author? Pre-order the ebook edition of Cascade before June 15 and you too can have something strange show up in your snail mailbox. Just DM Rachel on Instagram or the Night Beats Twitter with the receipt (and your favourite astrological sign—doesn’t need to be yours), and we’ll send you a personalized postcard by Rachel and stickers from After Hours in Toronto.

Get Cascade from your favourite online bookstore here!

The ebook version of Cascade sitting on the paperback version of Cascade, surrounded by fairy lights and various swag and objects.

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

The Magic Circle cover

Sabitha: This Tuesday we’re talking fantasy—we’re talking to Barry Ryerson about The Magic Circle. Barry, tell us a bit about your book!

Barry: The Magic Circle is set over a hundred years in our future and forty years after the world fired most of its nuclear arsenal at each other. In this time, countries that survived have been rebuilding and, in an attempt to prevent such a war ever happening again, major superpowers signed the World Peace Accords. This prevents the superpowers from having contact with each other, on the premise that if they never even speak, they’ll never need to fight.

In this backdrop we meet three strangers. Bethany Roberts is an 18 year old art student in Paris. She’s fun, quirky, and utterly hopeless with guys. Wikus de Klerk is a South African programmer who is old enough to remember the bombs falling. And Yevgeny Arafyev works for the Russian Church as a spy, secretly crossing borders in order to recruit or kill those like him.

Because, since those bombs went off, magic has returned to Earth.

Not everyone has magic. In fact, it’s very rare and most people don’t know it exists. Bethany discovers it when she tries to flirt. Yevgeny had it as a child and uses it on his missions. Wikus is aware of it, and is desperate to have that power himself.

Yet powers outside their understanding threaten all life on Earth. How will they use this power?

Sabitha: What inspired you to write this book?

Barry: I’ve long loved fantasy and sci-fi, but very rarely do you get anything that truly blends the two. I’ve been wanting to read a book like this for years and so, now, I’ve made one. True magic and guns.

Sabitha: I love that—when you can’t find what you want to read, you write it yourself! What was your favourite thing to write in the book?

Barry: Midway through there is a battle scene where we see the fight unfold from each of the main character’s perspectives. I really enjoyed that, as it builds and shows the limits of what the characters know in a tense environment.

Sabitha: Your cast sounds really fun. Which character do you relate to the most and why?

Barry: I’d say Bethany. She’s creative, very self-conscious, and is trying to find her way in the world. Being half-Jamaican, she’s often seen as half-Jamaican by Europeans, but half-Scottish by Jamaicans. I’m half-Irish myself and feel that, too. She also has an innocence that gradually gets rubbed away throughout the book.

Sabitha: How did you choose the title?

Barry:  I love double entendres and The Magic Circle means so many things. A group of stage magicians. The core group that Bethany joins. The linking of magic-users. The meaning develops and changes as the book progresses.

Sabitha: If you could pick any author to read your book, who would you want to read it? Why them?

Barry: Brent Weeks! His Lightbringer series was hugely inspirational for me on this book.

Sabitha: We love when genres collide, and we’re looking forward to reading. Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Barry: You can buy the book on Amazon or get signed copies from my website (shipped from UK but worldwide shipping available). You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram.