Get Inspired: Kelley Armstrong

Picture of Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers' dismay. Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets.

1. How did you become a writer? Why do you write books for young adults?

I've been writing since childhood. I never grew up intending to be a writer. It was a dream, but in my family, writing was considered a hobby, not a career choice. As I reached my twenties, I began seriously thinking it'd be nice to write part-time. I sold my first novel at 30, and moved into full-time writing a couple of years later.

As for why I began writing YA, it was a couple of things. I had an idea inspired by my second adult novel, Stolen, but it was about supernaturals just coming into their powers, which in my world happens at puberty and which wouldn't work for an adult series. That idea was in the back of my mind as I began receiving an increasing number of emails from readers I considered too young to be reading my other books! So I decided to give my YA idea a try.

2. What's a typical day for you as a writer?

My basic routine is to start when the kids go to school and work (writing, editing, outlining, etc) until they come home, then get things like business done after dinner and on weekends. It's definitely not a regular 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday job!

Cover of Spellbound

3. What's your favourite young adult book?

Some of my faves would include Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange, Holly Black's White Cat and Kristin Cashore's Graceling.

4. Some young adults feel they are forced to read "classics" – Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austen, — that may not speak to them. Is it important for young adults to read "classics"? What would you say to young people who find those books boring or not relevant to their lifestyle?

It's important to read classics to have a good grounding in literary culture--to understand, for example what someone means when they compare a romantic encounter to Romeo and Juliet.

However, it's equally important for students to be encouraged to read for pleasure, with no judgement call made on their choice of material. I hear from adults all the time who grew up equating 'reading' with 'literature,' and as a result, never voluntarily read a book after high school.

5. Today North American young people are constantly bombarded with faster entertainment options such as the internet or TV. Where does reading fit in? Does this idea of "fitting reading in" affect your work as a writer/author?

Reading is another form of entertainment, one that better engages the mind and the imagination. It's a different medium for story-telling than TV or movies and provides a different experience--a more immersive one.

Other, faster-paced forms of entertainment have affected writing in that novelists who write to compete with those markets know they need to provide a fast-paced story. That doesn't mean their characters or plot should be any less intricate, but they can't write five pages describing a sunset.

6. If you could tell your teen self one thing, what would it be?

I saw a great Oscar Wilde quote yesterday—one I've seen many times and think would have been perfect for my past teen self: "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."

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