Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Kat Carlton - The Changing Face of YA Fiction

It can be said that Ft. Lauderdale writer Kat Carlton has led a double life. For 10 years, she was Karen Kendall, award-winning writer of romantic comedy and light suspense. Flash forward to 2013 and enter alter ego Kat Carlton who describes herself as “a covert creative operative who's content to kick butt from behind a laptop." Carlton is also the author of Two Lies and a Spy, a young adult novel that combines action, romance and mystery with enough thrills and surprises to keep even the most reluctant reader turning the pages.

Carlton started writing at the age of five. She was 12 when she first attempted a novel, hand-writing the story in a spiral notebook. “The plot lines were like kudzu vines and were alarmingly melodramatic,” she recalls, “but it was mine and I was proud of it. I got to page 53 before realizing instinctively that my opus wasn’t going anywhere and needed to be published by Circular File, Inc.”

After graduating from Smith College with a degree in Art History, Carlton did graduate work at the University of Texas. She took jobs at small museums and art galleries, but she never lost the desire to write that book. After three failed attempts, she was offered a publishing contract for a romance novel, “Something about Cecily,” in 2001 and has been a full-time writer ever since. She wrote over 20 novels and novellas and received several awards.

In 2012, Carlton decided to switch genres (and identities) and pen a book for the teenage audience. “I chose YA (Young Adult) because I remember reading voraciously at that age, always looking for great stories that would take me on exciting journeys outside my own experience,” she explains. Although her favorites included fantasies like The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Dragonriders of Pern, Carlton chose to go in a very different direction. “The atmosphere today is darker than it was when I was a teenager dreaming about tomorrow,” she says. “It’s a scarier, more sophisticated world, and everything seems to be documented by technology. I also think the American Dream that my generation grew up with is in jeopardy – the idea that if you work hard and do everything you’re supposed to do, you’ll have a bright and secure future.” 

In Carlton’s book, Two Lies and a Spy, 16-year-old Kari Andrews receives a seemingly innocuous text message from her father that changes her life. Suddenly, her parents go missing, and Kari finds herself up against sinister forces and danger lurking around every corner. With her precocious younger brother and a mismatched group of friends, Kari commits herself to finding her parents – whatever the odds. She soon learns that not everything – or everyone – is what it seems. Carlton says the idea for the story came from her subconscious but Kari “walked into my head almost fully formed.” Carlton describes Kari as “a normal high school girl, dealing with typical teenage issues, who finds herself in extraordinary circumstances that force her to come of age early.” This early coming-of-age theme is what inspired the book.  The way Carlton sees is, “We’re not living in the same Mayberry, USA atmosphere I grew up in. Technology, information and cynicism have transformed this country and the entire world.” But while the world has changed for teenagers, there are some things that remain the same. According to Carlton, “The teen archetypes don’t change. There are still, and probably always will be, the Popular Girls, the Jock Guys, the Smart-But-Not- So-Cute Geek Kids, and the Outsiders.” Kirkus Reviews praised the book as “A spy caper spiced up with teen romance…Goes down easy as popcorn.”

Kari Andrews and her brother, Charlie, return in Sealed With a Lie (20114). Although Kari thinks she and her brother Charlie are safe at Generation Interpol, a training center for spies, she soon learns that this is not the case. When Charlie is kidnapped and his life hangs in the balance, Kari and her friends are forced to race around Europe at the bidding of a mysterious voice on the phone - a voice telling them that to get Charlie back, they'll need to jailbreak a thief, steal something from a high security facility, and deliver the goods during what's sure to be a double-cross exchange. Voya Magazine described the book as "...solid...intereting...and effectuvely executed....There is enough action and plenty of twists to keep the plot moving along at a swift pace."

Along with their suspenseful plots, likable characters, and surprising revelations, Carlton's books show respect for their young readers. “I have huge respect for teens who are growing up today,” Carlton says, “because they have to do it so fast and be so smart about it.”

For more information, visit the author’s website at


  1. Thought I'd throw Kat a hello from Tampa way.

  2. Kat has a wonderfully sharp, humorous voice that brings an edge to these YA thrillers.