I am so excited to *finally* be able to share this blog post with you all in celebration of today’s release of Aftermath by Clara Kensie! I was lucky enough to be able to read and review Clara’s new novel early, and it is easily one of my favorite reads of 2016. Aftermath caught my attention after Mary Kubica posted to social media that she was reading it and couldn’t put it down. I went into the book expecting a twisting YA thriller, but found so much more.
Book blurb from the publisher: Charlotte survived four long years as a prisoner in the attic of her kidnapper, sustained only by dreams of her loving family. The chance to escape suddenly arrives, and Charlotte fights her way to freedom. But an answered prayer turns into heartbreak. Losing her has torn her family apart. Her parents have divorced: Dad’s a glutton for fame, Mom drinks too much, and Charlotte’s twin is a zoned-out druggie. Her father wants Charlotte write a book and go on a lecture tour, and her mom wants to keep her safe, a virtual prisoner in her own home. But Charlotte is obsessed with the other girl who was kidnapped, who never got a second chance at life–the girl who nobody but Charlotte believes really existed. Until she can get justice for that girl, even if she has to do it on her own, whatever the danger, Charlotte will never be free.
This book is an incredible read, and I had NO idea what I was in for when I picked it up. When I finished reading, I could not stop thinking about it. Clara Kensie wrote an addicting read filled with suspense, questions, and intense emotion.
After being kidnapped and abused for four years, Charlotte has been found. This novel is about what comes next… what happened during those four years and how Charlotte, her family, friends, and community have changed. I honestly am not sure I can put into words how much this book made me think and how much I loved reading it. Even though the novel is told from Charlotte’s point of view, each character was so well written … their actions, feelings, struggles, their hopes and fears. There were moments I hated characters and then moments I forgave them. And I’m not sure how she did it, but Clara continually kept me on my toes throughout this entire story. Seriously. Just when I thought nothing else could throw me, my jaw would drop from something new.
I highly recommend this read. Add this one to your must reads list.
*However, I will warn that it should be considered a mature YA read because it does deal with some sensitive topics.*
Clara agreed to do an exclusive Q&A for our Midwest Ladies Who Lit readers! She gave us insight into her writing, what she enjoys reading, and why she wrote Aftermath.
Q: Aftermath is an extremely intense read for many reasons, but also, I feel, an important read. I know you have said the idea for this novel came from a news story from when you were younger. Can you tell us why you felt you had to write Charlotte’s story?
A: When I was twelve, a girl my age, from my neighborhood, disappeared on her way home from school. I knew about stranger danger and all that, but until then, I never really believed bad things could happen in my safe, suburban town to girls like me. It was the first time I truly felt unsafe and vulnerable. But I knew that the fear I was feeling was nothing compared to the terror the missing girl must be feeling.
Fortunately, she was found a few days later. She’d been kidnapped by a man who lived a few blocks away, and he kept her locked in a corner of his crawlspace. Following a lead, the police had searched the man’s house, even going into the crawlspace, but the girl’s captor had terrorized her so much that she was too scared to call for help, and the police didn’t see her. They came back later to search the crawlspace again, and she finally found the courage to cry out to them.
The girl and her family moved away soon after her rescue, and I never learned what became of her. But I never forgot about her. I made up a story about her recovery, and that story became Aftermath. I’ve thought of her often over the years. I want to know how she survived, how she recovered, what kind of impact the experience had on her and her family. I became fascinated with the subject of recovery from traumatic events – so much so that in college, I majored in psychology, sociology, and social services, with a minor in criminal justice. Triumph over tragedy is a frequent theme in the books I write.
Although that girl’s experience inspired Aftermath, the book isn’t her story. Aftermath is Charlotte’s story. Charlotte is kidnapped just before her twelfth birthday and escapes when she’s sixteen. The book starts with her escape and follows her journey to recovery, as well as her family’s.
Q: While reading Aftermath, I was constantly thrown off guard. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen next, there was a curve ball. Did you know what twists Aftermath was going to contain before writing or did the plot develop as you wrote?
A: Nice! I’m glad you were thrown off guard. *evil laughter.* Some of the twists developed as I was writing it, but I had the basic premise and theme in my head for thirty years before I wrote the story. The BIG twist I knew from the beginning.
Wow. It just hit me that the story I had in my head for three decades is now printed in a book that you can hold in your hands. It’s been brought to life. People are reading it and loving it. That’s amazing. I’m humbled.
Q: Who was your favorite character to write in Aftermath?
A: Gosh. I don’t know. I love all of the characters, even the flawed ones, like the dad. Well, I don’t love The Keeper. He’s truly terrifying. I guess my favorite character has to be a tie between Charlotte and her twin sister, Alexa. Both sisters are so complicated and so damaged, yet so strong. Some readers have asked me to write a sequel, the same story, but from Alexa’s point of view.
Q: One of my favorite things about YA authors are that they are so supportive of other YA authors. Who are some authors/books you would recommend to our readers?
A: Aaahhhh, where do I start. It makes me really sad that only a small handful of books capture the attention of the industry, when there are so many books that are just as good that don’t get the exposure they deserve. So I’m going to recommend some excellent young adult books that need more love.
Scars and Stained by Cheryl Rainfield, two books that are powerful and raw and redeeming. Cheryl is one of the most amazing people I know.
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. I read this book about a year after I wrote Aftermath. Living Dead Girl could almost be a prequel to Aftermath.
Bleeding Earth by Kaitlin Ward. Wow, this book gripped me. I read it in one sitting. I read it when it came out in February 2016 and I still think about it a lot.
I’m also really excited about a book coming out in February 2017 called Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot.
Q: Which authors are on your bucket list to meet?
A: Total pipe dream: J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. Although, if I met them in person, I would probably start bawling and blubbering and lose all composure and in general make a total fool out of myself. But I don’t care. I want to meet them anyway.
Q: November is NaNoWrMo, which I know a lot of our readers participate in. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A: Aftermath is a NaNo book! Yep, I wrote Aftermath for my very first NaNoWriMo in 2011. When I was done, I felt so connected to it that I didn’t want to share it with anyone, so I put it away. I know that may be strange, but that’s how I felt. I wasn’t ready to let go of it yet. But then a few years later I took it out, revised it a little, sent it to my agent, and she sold it to Merit Press. It released in November 2016, exactly five years after I wrote the first draft.
All this to say: it is entirely possible to write and publish a NaNoWriMo book! If I can do it, so can you! I still do NaNo. I don’t get too involved with the online social aspect of it – I just quietly write my manuscript and record my word count every day on the NaNo site. It’s motivating to know that if you write only 1667 words a day, you’ll have a 50,000 word story, almost a full manuscript, in a month. NaNo frees me from my perfectionism. I follow my outline, but I just write – I don’t edit. I’m always moving forward.
I signed up to do NaNo this year, but I’m very behind. The Aftermath release is taking up all of my usual writing time! I’m going to have to lock myself away for a weekend before the month is over and catch up. I really want to meet that 50K goal. But if I don’t make it this year, I have a great reason. *grin*
Q: What is your current work in progress? Will you continue to write YA?
A: I’m currently working on two manuscripts. One is another dark, ripped-from-the-headlines YA contemporary about grief, forgiveness, and self-forgiveness. There’s also a romance in it. My other WIP is my NaNo manuscript. It’s a dual-timeline, dual-romance YA paranormal mystery-thriller.
I also recently got my rights back to my first two books, the RITA© Award-winning, super-romantic YA psychic thriller Run to You series. Readers have been asking where to find them, but they’re currently not on the market. The Run to You series won’t be unavailable forever, I promise you. It’ll be back. Follow me on social media to find out when.
When all of the above is done, I will continue to write YA. Sometimes I think about trying to write for another audience, but in all honesty, every time I think of a cool character, or a theme, or a plot, it works better for YA. YA is my heart! I’ll never give it up.
You truly don’t want to miss out on Aftermath… this book will change you, move you, and make you think. You can purchase a copy (hardcover or e-book) many places, but here are some links to make it easy 😉
Barnes & Noble: Aftermath
Merit Press (AdamsMediaStore): Aftermath
While you’re shopping, I encourage you to check out Blu Bear Bazaar, a shop that specializes in fandom apparel, accessories and goodies. Molly, the owner, created a design for Aftermath that is absolute perfection, and she is donating a portion of each sale to RAINN.org or MISSINGKIDS.org . Check it out here and give to an amazing cause while getting the perfect new book tote!
Oh, and did I mention that Clara is letting us host a giveaway for a *signed* hardcover copy of Aftermath to one of our followers?! To enter to win, find the giveaway post on our Instagram feed and do the following:
-Make sure you’re following MWLWL and like the post
-Comment with a title of one of the books Clara Kensie recommended that you’d like to read (1 entry)
-Tag up to three friends (1 entry per tag)
That’s it! Giveaway ends Tuesday, November 22nd at 11:59 PM CST. Winner will be announced on Instagram. Giveaway is not sponsored/endorsed by Instagram.
Thank you all so much for helping us celebrate Aftermath’s release! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments (and I’m sure Clara would too!).
Happy reading! -Holly