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- Signed copy of Stricken by C.K. Kelly Martin (INT)
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Naomi doesn't expect anything unusual from her annual family trip to visit her grandparents in Ireland. What she expects is to celebrate her thirteenth birthday, hang out with her friends Ciara and Shehan, and deal with her gran's Alzheimer's. What she finds is a country hit by an unexpected virus that rapidly infects the majority of the Irish population over the age of twenty-one.
Amnestic-Delirium Syndrome (ADS) starts off with memory loss, but the virus soon turns its victims aggravated, blank, or violent. Naomi and her friends must survive on their own, without lucid adults, cut off from the rest of the world, until a cure is found.
But there are whispers that ADS is not terrestrial, and soon Naomi and her friends learn the frightening truth: we are not alone.
The World of Stricken (World Building)
Decades ago Irish author Roddy Doyle created a fictional working class area of Dublin called Barrytown as a setting for several of his books. Although it’s not an actual place, if you’re familiar with some of the neighborhoods of north Dublin you’ll recognize the feel and details of Barrytown as being highly realistic. Even if you know nothing about Dublin and its various neighborhoods, Doyle gives you a vivid idea of what Barrytown is like: gritty but with ingenuity and strength in spades.
Like Doyle, I created my own fictional corner of Dublin to set Stricken in. It gave me the freedom to envision my own layout while also being able to relish the unique flavor of a Dublin location—the idioms, sense of humor, landscape.
I lived in Dublin for about seven years and continue to visit every year. I have a good mental map of the areas I resided in—Ranelagh, Rathmines, Whitehall. This mental map provided the foundations for the fictional area of Dublin I called Haverhill. I imagined Haverhill being on the south side, not too far from the canal. If it were possible to pull apart Dublin postal codes 6 and 6W and slide another postal district in between the two, that’s approximately where you’d find Haverhill. It’s outside the city center but within walking distance and like most villages that make up Dublin, Haverhill has its own main street where you’d find things like eateries, a supermarket, hair salon. Many of these commercial spaces would also have people living above them. Naomi’s grandparents in Ireland (where she’s spending the summer) live a short walk from Haverhill’s main street, in a more strictly residential area. But when things being to slide towards mayhem, Naomi and her friends must venture away from their homes and the main street is one of the places they end up and where a lot of action breaks out.
The funny thing about world building in a novel that centers around a plague is that a large aspect of that world building involves tearing things down! When the adults in Ireland stop functioning, one by one succumbing to a memory virus, services and infrastructure starts to collapse, slowly at first at then with increasing rapidity. In the first stage there are fires and criminal activity and hospitals are flooded with sick people. Uncertainty is palpable and makes people act unpredictably—even the well ones. Next the phone and electricity goes, making communication difficult. Water stops running and fuel becomes scarce.
How do you survive in a world like that? You scrounge for supplies while keeping your head down because you’re not sure, aside from your friends, who to trust. Things that get broken remain that way. There’s no one to pick up garbage, cars with nothing to fuel them litter roadways, generally everything starts to fall into a neglected state of disrepair quickly. We all know the look of a broken world like that from zombie and/or plague outbreak movies. But one of the differences in Stricken is that the virus-stricken adults are still roaming around, not as zombies but as mobs of suspicious, angry people in some cases or simply bewildered ones in others. A few of them are even downright pleasant. These sick folks are sometimes in the foreground of the action and other times in the background but they’re nearly omnipresent, never allowing Naomi and her friends to forget what they’ve lost. There’s also another eerie presence in Stricken that I don’t want to reveal too much about but which constantly keeps Naomi and her friends off-balance, worrying them even more than the sick do. It and its motives are the most mysterious thing of all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Long before I was an author I was a fan of books about Winnie the Pooh, Babar, Madeline, Anne Shirley and anything by Judy Blume. Throughout high school my favourite class was English. No surprise, then, that most of my time spent at York University in Toronto was as an English major—not the traditional way to graduate with a B.A. (Hons) in film studies but a fine way to get a general arts education.
After getting my film studies degree I headed for Dublin, Ireland and spent the majority of the nineties there in forgettable jobs meeting unforgettable people and enjoying the buzz. I always believed I'd get around to writing in earnest eventually, and I began writing my first novel in a flat in Dublin and finished it in a Toronto suburb. By then I'd discovered that fiction about young people felt the freshest and most exciting to me. You have most of your life to be an adult but you only grow up once.
Currently residing near Toronto with my Dub husband, I'm an aunt to twenty-one nieces and nephews, and a great-aunt to two great-nephews. I became an Irish citizen in 2001 and continue to visit Dublin as often as I can while working on novels about young people.
My first young adult book, I Know It's Over, came out with Random House in September 2008, and was followed by One Lonely Degree, The Lighter Side of Life and Death, My Beating Teenage Heart and sci-fi thriller Yesterday. I released Yesterday's sequel, Tomorrow, in 2013 and put out my first adult novel, Come See About Me, as an ebook in June 2012. My most recent contemporary YA books, The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing and Delicate, were published by Cormorant Books' Dancing Cat Books imprint in 2014 and 2015.