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Author Interview: C K Martin Chats about Dirty Little War

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Get ready to learn more about the book Dirty Little War in this discussion with sapphic author C K Martin.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz C K Martin about Dirty Little War, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Forbidden Relationship category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write Dirty Little War?

I wanted to write a novel where romance was key. Until Dirty Little War, I’d been more genre-driven and although the main characters were always queer, it was almost incidental to the plot. With Evie and Carmen, desire and attraction were the key drivers and although there is still a heavy emphasis on gritty events, the romance was at front and centre for the first time.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

Evie was meant to be the secondary character, but became the lead. As most of my books have a romantic interest but I don’t necessarily want to write alternating points of view, the romantic leads start in my mind as simply Character A and Character B. Carmen was such as obvious character, she practically came into my head fully formed as Character A. But as I worked through, Evie was someone I could more easily relate to, coming from a far more ordinary working class background. Even though she wasn’t born into the best circumstances, I was rooting for her to find a way out. The underdog perspective is always much more interesting.

What inspired the idea for Dirty Little War?

It was 31st October and I had nothing planned for Nanowrimo. I’d got a couple of stories plotted, but nothing was lighting that fire you need if you intend to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I remember dropping my then girlfriend (now wife) off at the train station and finding a grimy pub that didn’t feel entirely safe, but did free coffee refills. This was in England many years ago, where they like to charge for the coffee – even the really terrible stuff. I pulled out a notebook – a Field Notes book I can still picture clearly – and, inspired by that place, I came up with the entire plot in about an hour. To this day, I’m not sure if it was the muse or fear of being mugged that sped up the process.

What part of Dirty Little War was the most fun to write?

The first scene when Evie and Carmen meet. Any writer will tell you that the first thing you write usually gets heavily re-written or sent to trash. But that opening scene was possibly the only time I’ve kept something almost completely in its original form. It was like I could feel their chemistry, and it propelled me to write the rest of the book. Bonus fact, I did in fact complete the entire manuscript of more than 60,000 words in less than 30 days for Nanowrimo.

What is your writing process like?

I’m a plotter. I like to have at least a high level view of each scene before I start drafting. It can be as little as a single line, but it usually has the key story beat of the scene and the point of view. This means I always have something to cling to when I am struggling to keep going – a common occurrence for most writers during the first draft when you question why you ever thought you could do this in the first place.

What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

I have no snack loyalty when it comes to writing. Drinks are a different matter. Morning writing has always required coffee by the bucket load. Evening or night writing is for red wine… and those spicier scenes that are easier to write when it is dark outside.

When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?

A hotel usually works the best, but if I’m at my usual desk, then I need to ensure that I disconnect the laptop from the internet and keep my phone far away. I also need to have a completely clear day ahead of me. Even the threat of interruption will make me procrastinate on a tough scene, so I have to make sure that once I start I have the mental and physical space to keep going until it is done. I only take breaks for drinks.

Have you ever cried when writing an emotional scene?

Anything involving death or losing something deeply sentimental. So at least once a book. I have no idea why I do it to myself.

What books did you grow up reading?

All the books. Anything I could get my hands on and there are very few genres I haven’t read at least one book in. One of my earliest character memories was of wanting to be like George from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. A girl who could climb a tree as well as any boy. Who was just as independent and capable. I only ever wanted to rescue the damsel in distress, never be her. Until I was fourteen I didn’t understand what that meant, but every protagonist I’d written up to that point – and every one since – has been a representation of that ideal heroine from my childhood.

Have you ever thought you’d hate a book, but ended up loving it?

Okay, stick with me on this one. I really thought Hayley Kiyoko’s Girls Like Girls would be a piece of ghost-written crap. Bonus alarm bells because it was recommended by a male friend, rather than a sapphic-leaning woman. I gave in and found myself staying up late to finish it. I really related to that sense of time and place in my own coming out journey, even though I was never cool as a teenager like her characters were.

Meet C K Martin

C K Martin lives in England (for now) with her wife and children. For two decades she has traveled the world for both the day job and the fiction writing, inspiring book settings from Spain to America and back to England again. There is usually a darker, grittier element to her novels, another side-effect of the day job.


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Author Interview