Title: Burn Baby, Burn Baby
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary Romance
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent, since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago. Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby. The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars. If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions. Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted. Francis is in turmoil, as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.
Kevin T. Craig, Author
International Author on Cheryl Holloway’s Blog
CH: Today’s Guest Author is Kevin T. Craig, a Canadian author, poet and playwright. Welcome to my blog, Kevin.
CH: Can you sum up your book in 20 words or less?
KTC: Sure, I’ll give it a shot. Francis Fripp is badly scarred by fire. He attempts to navigate school life, while being bullied and falling in love.
CH: The topic is unique. Where did you get the idea for this book?
KTC: I often write about abuse and bullying. For this book, I wanted to give the main character a noticeable, undeniable physical scar. I often have characters flawed on the inside, with no noticeable scars but plenty of unseen ones in their souls. The idea just took off from there. I knew that if Francis had to deal with heavy scarring from an abusive incident (his father set him on fire in his childhood), he would be set up for the less sympathetic kids in high school to make fun of him and cast him aside. I have this thing with flawed characters scraping their way through life attempting to survive. This story, with a visibly scarred hero, was just a natural progression.
CH: Why did you decide to write this book?
KTC: I am always attempting to write young adult books that would have somehow saved me, were the teen me to pick them up. Teen-life is a struggle at the best of times. When you’re struggling with not fitting in, feeling like a freak or a cast out, it feels like it will never get better. I like to put characters into the thick of horrendous circumstances and give them a glimmer of hope, either in a love interest, a friend, or their own perseverance. I want to show readers that challenges, destruction and despair can be overcome, if they just hold on to that one shining glimmer of hope. I decided to write this book, in particular, because I wanted to see if I could give one of the most marginalized people—the deformed, scarred cast-out—a good life. I wanted to try to write my main character into happiness.
CH: A few of your books are about fires. Is there a reason this topic is high priority on your writing list?
KTC: This is actually the only one with an actual burn victim, but fire played a huge role in my first novel, Summer on Fire. A barn fire was the impetus to the whole novel, but the kids escaped burning…although, one of them ended up with an awful leg break. I do, however, tend to discover themes in my novels. Usually, at times like this, when they are pointed out to me. Most of my novels have twins. Something, I didn’t even realize.
CH: The main character had low self-esteem due to burn scars and was being bullied at school. Was it hard creating believable situations and issues or did you take them from real life and elaborate?
KTC: I was bullied my entire school life. The bully just has to see one thing out of place on his victim in order to zone in on them and choose them as the object of their scorn. It was easy writing about bullying, coming from the place I came from. What I worried about was people thinking the bully would consider someone like Francis off-limits because his deformity was so horrendous that the reader couldn’t imagine a bully choosing Francis as his victim. But I knew, a bully would declare open season on such a deformity…because they are often incapable of empathy. Making Francis a target was both difficult and easy.
CH: Where do you get inspiration for your characters?
KTC: They kind of just appear. Whoever speaks the loudest is heard. They are probably all amalgamations of people I have known. I think most writers do that, borrow from real life. My supporting character, Trig, was modeled after one of my own childhood friends. He was a guy who could move between the hierarchy of school cliques with ease. I always admired the magic of people like that. I wanted to honor that by creating a character with the same trait. The cliques, camaraderie and detestable behavior of high school figures inspire my characters. High school is like a microcosm of the people you will meet in life.
CH: Which character was hardest to write?
KTC: In this novel, the bully—Brandon. I sometimes think, I could have explored him more, explained the impetus surrounding his anger. But I held back from doing that on purpose. I found it difficult to hold back, but I was afraid in doing so, that I would put him in too much of a position to be empathized with. I didn’t want the reader to feel empathy towards him. I wanted it all to take place from Francis’s viewpoint. He wasn’t getting insight into Brandon’s anger and hateful behavior, so I felt the reader shouldn’t get insight either. But it was difficult for me not to elaborate on Brandon’s character.
CH: Which character was your favorite to write?
KTC: Trig was my favorite to write. Basically, because of what I said earlier about him. He was one of those magical beings who either don’t see the constructs of the high school hierarchy or don’t care about them. He was heroic, but oblivious. He was there for Francis at every turn and managed to be the one person in his life, who shined and refused to acknowledge his deformity in a negative way. I just loved Trig for being able to accept people for who they were. There ARE people in the world like him.
CH: Where are you from? Does your background have any influence on this book?
KTC: That seems like it could be a loaded question, where are you from? Geographically, I am from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I’m also ‘from’ the 80s. Being born in the mid-60s, my coming-of-age occurred in the 80s. Those were times of blatant bullying and ostracizing anything and everything that was different, whether that be intentionally different, or different in ways like Francis, who had to carry the burden of his scars for everyone to see. I suppose growing up struggling to fit in and then, later, being okay with not fitting in, has given me a context from which to write the books I write. So, I write for the young adult who struggles in the miasma of their own blistering zeitgeist. I tend to believe that, although, on the surface, things seem to change, but they don’t really. Teens still struggle with the hierarchy that existed 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago. The Breakfast Club…it’s as relevant today, as it was when it came out. The nerd, the punk, the jock, the cast-out, the beauty queen…these groups still exist. They still influence my writing. I like to explore the belief that LIFE GETS BETTER after high school.
CH: How long did it take you to write this book?
KTC: Actually, I wrote it over the course of a three-day weekend. Every year I take part in the Muskoka Novel Marathon. It’s a three day novel writing marathon. 40 writers are put into the same room for 72-hours. We each attempt to write a novel in that time. We break bread together, we laugh, we talk, we cry, we write frantically into the night, into the morning, and into the night…We also collect money in the form of sponsorships for literacy programs in the community in Northern Ontario, Canada, in which it takes place. This year, we collected $36,000.00. Of course, I tweak my books after the weekend, expand upon what I come out with, edit, edit, edit…but the most of the novel is written in the 72-hours. I finished Burn Baby, Burn Baby at the marathon, actually. I didn’t add to it after the weekend…it was edited, but it came out completed.
CH: This book is a couple of years old. What kind of feedback are you getting from readers?
KTC: For the most part, the reviews have been incredible! I’ve received a lot of positive feedback. I’m thrilled with most of what I’ve heard. It actually was awarded a place of honor on the American Library Services for Youth in Custody’s 2016 In The Margins Book Award List. Titles are chosen for this list that are by, for, and about kids living in the margins.
CH: Wow, that is a nice award/honor. This book starts with him making a movie of his life. What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your writing style?
KTC: I started the book that way because I wanted to show that Francis dreams of being a director. He sort of held the camera and took us through the opening scenes that way. I wanted my writing style for this particular book to be as close to the POV character, as possible. I wanted the reader to slip into Francis’s body and feel his pain. The fade-out at the end of the book is written in this same style, as Francis imagines the end of the movie of his life. I wanted that style to frame the story, and I wanted to attempt to remain tight in the camera’s eye throughout…without depending too much on the movie metaphor. I suppose I was attempting a cinematic viewpoint for the reader. I hope it worked!
CH: You have won several awards for your writing and briefly told us about one award. Can you tell us a little about your writing journey?
KTC: I wrote when I was a child. But somewhere along the road, I came to believe that I didn’t deserve to write, that I wasn’t a ‘writer.’ I didn’t have the schooling to be a writer, or the wherewithal. I put myself into this box of Not-Writer and disallowed myself the joy. But I kept writing lines of poetry on cash register receipts, slips of paper, notepads. It bled through and eventually I couldn’t contain it any longer. In 2003, I began to write things. I found a local writing group and I joined it and then I feared attending their meetings for several months, knowing that they would discover I was a fraud…that I was not a card-carrying member of the writing elite. When I finally cracked and attended a meeting, my real writing journey took off. The first real piece I wrote, a memoir, was accepted for Canada’s National newspaper, the Globe & Mail. That gave me confidence to chase the dream of writing. I have since had 10 short plays produced for the stage, poetry published internationally, 5 novels published, articles, and the memoir published. The passion stuck.
CH: How to find Kevin T. Craig:
CH: Can you tell my audience where your book is sold?
KTC: Burn Baby, Burn Baby can be found at Amazon, both as a paperback and as a Kindle. It’s also at Barnes & Noble, and Chapters here in Canada. It’s basically found wherever books are sold…but they might have to order in the paperback.
CH: Any closing remarks?
KTC: I just want to thank you so much for inviting me to blather on about my book and my writing. I really appreciate it! If any of your readers happen to pick up a copy of Burn Baby, Burn Baby, or any other of my books, I certainly hope they enjoy it! Thank you!
CH: Thank you so much, Kevin T. Craig, for taking time out of your very busy writing schedule to join me and my blog followers. It has been a real pleasure discussing your book with my audience. And readers, if you’re like me and would enjoy this book. I suggest you pick up a copy at your earliest convenience.
Note: Photos/Clip art are compliments of the Internet and Kevin T. Craig.
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