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