I’m keeping the children’s theme going. Today’s guest is C. T. Markee and he’s chatting with me about his new middle grade (MG) novel, Maria’s Beads.
Charles coordinates Sonoma County Society meetings for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). He has published three middle-grade novels, short works in four literary anthologies and the Santa Rosa Pressdemocrat newspaper. He is also an active member of Redwood Writers a branch of the California Writer's Club (CWC).
Welcome, Charles. Please tell us about your current release, Maria’s Beads.
In this story of magical realism, a mysterious old woman gives María Cortez some strange, very pretty beads. She has no idea they came from mara’akame Spirits. When her best friend, Hannah, becomes deathly ill and Hannah’s parents refuse medical treatment, María desperately tries to save her friend. Adults won’t intercede, so she turns to the magic beads, but they can’t do it alone. María must find and use her own inner strength, passed down to her through her ancestral Huichol culture . . . or watch Hannah die.
What inspired you to write this book?
At age 13, my wife lived next door to her best friend in Salinas, California. The friend contracted kidney disease. When her family refused medical intervention, she died (not so in my story). I believe this event resulted in my wife’s career as a health professional. This story was so powerful; I had to write it to influence children today.
Excerpt from Maria’s Beads:
Ahead at the corner of Hebbron Street, two older boys stand with their hands in baggy pockets next to a little old woman, leaning on a cane, waiting to cross. She’s dressed all in black with a shawl over her head. I hang back so the boys can’t tease me. When the light turns green, they slouch across, but the old woman waits, shifting her purple bag with a bead picture of a deer to the other shoulder.
When I reach her, I ask if I can help, “¿Puedo ayudarle en algo?”
She greets me with her eyes like she knows me. “¡Ay, aquí estás! Te estába esperando.”
How could she be waiting for me? Maybe she has Alzheimers and is confused. I’m sure I’ve never seen her before. She has high cheekbones like Mamá, but her skin is a darker brown, and her neck has lots of wrinkles. I say, “Do you know me?”
“Los espíritus te conocen.”
The Spirits know me? Her dark eyes pierce mine like she is looking straight inside me, and the back of my neck tingles as if ants are walking there. I get a cold feeling in my stomach because, as weird as this is, she doesn’t seem crazy. I want to ask her what’s she talking about, but the light turns green. She slips her arm in mine. “Vamos.”
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m close to publishing the third book of my “Otherworld Tales” trilogy. Its subtitle, “The Ultimate Battle,” suggests that our three heroes, Irish, Streak, and Frost (a girl), may be on the verge of ridding us of Abaddon, the most evil being in existence. BUT, don’t be too sure. Irish, their leader, is vulnerable to Abaddon’s evil powers.
The story begins when our three friends on a family vacation in Hawaii, wake up on a beach, one thousand years in the past. According to a sacred prophecy, they must defeat Abaddon in a Ultimate Battle in order to go home.
Irish and his friends vanquished Abaddon in the first two books, Irish the Demon Slayer and Demon Invasion. If they can defeat him a third time, he’s gone forever and he knows it.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was a writer before I knew it. Family, friends, employees and peers recognized my talent and encouraged me. When I finally escaped my day job, I returned to school where I focused on creative writing. It became my second love. It was almost, but not quite, a replacement for ballet class, my first love, which I had to quit at age 49 – too many injuries.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Writing days are four hours long starting at 8 am. I have to fight for those days against myriad interruptions, many of them my own doing. We have a huge extended family, so add birthdays, graduations, medical trips, visits, reunions, then mix in home maintenance projects, meals and shopping. Finally, I beat my internal critic into submission and go to work.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
No quirks. Just an author with a passion for kid’s books.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was very happy being a child and had no interest in growing up. A significant portion of my brain is still twelve-years-old. My characters and I go on these dangerous and exciting adventures together. It’s like the Tao of writing. I go there and don’t want to come back.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Maria’s Beads received a 2nd place award in the category junior fiction in the prestigious Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA) 22nd annual contest.
Thanks for being here today, Charles.