Creative writing undergrad student sells debut novel

person writing in notebook

Matteo L. Cerilli, a York undergraduate student pursuing a BA honours with a double major in creative writing and professional writing from the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, recently sold his debut novel Lockjaw.

The novel is a multiple-perspective young adult horror novel corresponding to Stephen King’s IT and the hit television show Stranger Things. It is about a small town haunted by a monstrous presence, a group of teens trying to ignore it, and a group of hunting kids on bikes trying to stop it. Underneath the surface, it is a book about community involvement, responsibility, and accountability, and what it means to be different especially as a child.

Matteo Cerili
Matteo Cerilli

“My creative writing courses pushed me out of my over-worn habits and got me to explore a more literary style. I had only written sci-fi, and contemporary was new to me, but it made me think about the frustrating elements of my own suburban gothic life,” said Cerilli, adding that the novel was written at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Growing up as a queer and trans kid in a very suburban city, I never had a sense of community until I came to York University and met my partner and all our friends,” Cerilli said. “Lockjaw is a way to celebrate what I have found and document the struggle. I’m not living in a town with a monster, but I dealt with my share of exclusion.”

Cerilli aims to explore the idea of community care and involvement. He believes that condemning “bad” people to a lifetime of suffering and exclusion after they express a desire to change leaves no room for change and growth. Lockjaw is about accountability, but also about transformative justice and believing in and building towards a better community. Writing Lockjaw helped Cerilli persevere through all the fear.

“Since writing Lockjaw, I’ve gotten more involved in local abolitionist activism and found myself a little more in love with libraries and community centers,” said Cerilli.

The novel will be published in the summer of 2024 by Peter Phillips at Tundra, Penguin Random House Canada. It was pitched as a part of a two-book deal for publication in 2024 and 2025 by Ali McDonald at 5 Otter Literary. Cerilli can be found at his Twitter or Instagram.