Monday, March 4, 2013

How Do You Make "Taboo", not be "Too Hot?"

My new friend Kelly Martin is an exciting new author recently inducted into the Astraea Press family.  With two thought-provoking young adult novels under her belt, Kelly is no stranger to writing about taboo subjects.  In fact, she kind of specializes in them, doing them the kind of justice only an insightful, fully-plugged in author can do.  I am in awe.  I'm grateful she agreed to talk about writing hot topics on the bloggy, the same week of her new release.  Please welcome the intensely personal Kelly Martin.

Tackling Taboo Subjects in the author Kelly Martin

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a bit of a prudish person (does that sound bad?) The only ‘bad’ thing I do is occasionally cuss (not out loud or around people), and that’s it.

But I’m also a writer… and my characters aren’t like me.

So, that begs the question: how does one tackle taboo subjects in writing… especially when the writer isn’t accustomed to saying/doing it themselves?

In my first book, CROSSING THE DEEP, I had to deal with the subject of the boyfriend of a family member attempting to molest my main male character. It happened in a bit of flashback form, but still… it was really difficult to write. I ended up implying what happened, satisfied it was enough, and sent it out into the world.

A publisher became interested in the novel and asked if I would elaborate on the molestation because she felt it was needed but hard for me to write (she knew me so well). So, I did. It was difficult, but in the end, it really served the book well.

My second novel, SAINT SLOAN, was very difficult to write for me because it deals with sex and a very violent attempted rape of the main character. I was freaked out to write it to say the least… I mean, my mama was going to read it!

Even until it’s release day (last week), I freaked out over it. Would it be too much? Too graphic?
Would audiences turn away? Would it go over well? Etc… So far, it’s been positive. Even my mother loved the book (and swears up and down it’s not because I wrote it ;) )

Will I have more ‘taboo’ subjects in my novels? Probably… and probably some more ‘taboo’ or ‘controversial’ than I have already written. Why? Because life isn’t always sunshine and roses. If a character is going through something, it needs to be on the page. Do you have to put every hit, every thrust, every drug taken, every spell cast? No. But it needs to be enough to keep your readers in the story.

You can write ‘clean’ fiction about taboo or controversial subjects. Be honest. Be respectful. Watch your language. And above all, be true to your story. Don’t put a sex scene in just ‘because’. Make it relevant to your story and true to your characters. Readers are smart… they know when you are trying to get one over on them.

Do you have any thoughts on tackling ‘taboo’ subjects? What have you had to write about that you weren’t particularly thrilled about for a story to work?

My thanks to Samantha for having me on her blog today! I appreciate it so much!

~Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin is a southern girl who lives with her husband and three rowdy, angelic daughters. By day, she is a teacher. By night, she is a crazy-haired, multi-tasker who writes when the kids go to bed. 

She has two young adult novels out now: SAINT SLOAN (about a girl who can’t get away from her past) and CROSSING THE DEEP (a girl’s faith is tested, stranding on a mountain with a guy she barely knows). Both are Amazon bestsellers.

You can find her at any of her two blogs: (author blog) and (daily devotional blog).

Kelly loves God, is addicted to chocolate, and would rather write than sleep.






  1. This is so true. It is HARD to write things that aren't easy and happy, but going outside our comfort box makes the story so much better! My favorite part of your interview, "But I’m also a writer… and my characters aren’t like me." Perfect!

  2. Very good post! I know what you mean. You have to have artistic integrity about what you write. Sometimes the story is hard, but it needs to be told. I write romance in addition to my YAish fantasy stuff and to be real about the relationship between my characters, I knew I had to be truthful about their physical relationship as well. It was tough knowing that people would read it who knew me personally, but I had to stay true to what I feel compelled to say about love and romance -- and sex. Fortunately, they have all loved it and I haven't been kicked out of church choir. Yet. Keep on keeping on, Kelly!!

  3. Thanks for having me here, Samantha (I thought I'd already posted that lol)

    Thanks for the comments ladies :)

  4. Excellent post on addressing taboo subjects, Kelly. They can be tough to write.