Charles Martin: Florida State alum turned bestselling author

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By: Art Myers
December 22, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- You might not have heard the name Charles Martin before, but lots of people around the world have. They love his work and can’t wait for his next creation to come out.

The Florida State University graduate started his career with another goal in sight. The goal at the end of the football field.

Living the dream. That’s what Charles Martin was doing at Georgia Tech in 1989. His dream of playing college football was coming true.

“The only thing I was good at was hitting people,” Martin said.

Martin was a defensive back, throwing himself at opponents and risking his body on every play. One day, the dream ended with a painful wakeup call.

“I got hurt, broke a vertebrae in my back. Thank the Lord I can still walk,” he says. After the accident, Martin transferred to Florida State, and started tackling an identity crisis.

“I was a football player, then you take that away and I’m left asking the question ‘who am I?’”

Martin says sometimes he’d come back to Doak Campbell Stadium at night and run the steps as the Seminoles were on the field practicing.

“I always thought ‘maybe If I did this enough, Coach Bowden would call me’ and that never happened.”

But Martin says there was a part of him that got dealt with running those steps.

“I needed to deal with my idol of football, and it was a huge idol.”

Martin says he had to unlink himself from football and it wasn’t easy. The lessons learned at FSU helped Martin turn pro– not player– but writer.

“I finally ended up here in the English program.”

He’d write stories at night and they helped answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up? All I knew was I liked to write, and it’s what, it’s like breathing.”

Flash forward to the present, and you’ll see Martin’s novels on the shelves of stores all across the country-- stores like Books-A-Million in Tallahassee. One of his books, “The Mountain Between Us” is being made into a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet.

The theme of many of Martin’s books is redemption.

“The art of character that goes from broken to not broken,” Martin says.

He says his readers sometimes experience that same transformation, like the woman who approached him at a book signing.

“She said, ‘I just want you to know, on the days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and they days when I didn’t want to live, I read your book and your book talked me out of suicide,” Martin says.

Martin says he's gotten similar letters from guys in prison.

"Those to me mean more than a New York Times bestseller or USA Today national bestseller," Martin says.

Martin and Christy, his wife of 23 years, live in Jacksonville.

Their three boys have helped inspire his books... and they do something else.

"They keep me laughing, 'cause I can be intense," Martin says.

Martin says he's trying to lead his sons by example.

"I hope they see a guy humble before the lord, who has some idea of what my gifting is, and says ‘I want to offer my gift to the king,’" Martin says.

Martin's most recent book, "Long Way Gone” is sort of a modern day story of the prodigal son.

So what's his next book about? A Vietnam veteran with a wounded heart, finding his way back to life and love.

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