Kristen Marin has written and published 22 books to date, all of which are available on Amazon. She is working on number 23.
She recently became certified in screenwriting from the US-based Coach John Screenwriting Academy and is working on the script for her first movie – a crime romance based on one of her books, which will begin shooting in February 2024.
The 29-year-old author of these "urban romance" novels says she draws from her own life experiences and goals when writing – experiences that range from racial discrimination to jail time.
When Marin left TT to live in New York at five, she found herself immersed in the predominantly white Staten Island neighbourhood.
The initial culture shock gradually waned, as her schoolmates got over her complexion and "strange accent." Shortly after settling in, however, she was confronted by the ugly spectre of racism. Her best friend randomly greeted her one morning with the news that “my mom said that I can’t play with you because you’re a n----r."
Until then, Marin had no notion the word meant, and only understood when her mother explained. She was bewildered.
But this experience paled in comparison to what she would endure later on in life, when she was charged with bank fraud, sentenced to two years in prison and subsequently repatriated to TT – a country and a culture she barely knew. Her deportation, she said, took a tremendous toll on her mental health, as she had to deal with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts all over again.
From childhood Marin was a high achiever and successfully balanced her A-grade profile with co-curricular performances, “participating in everything; cheerleading, basketball, track, everything.”
By the time she got to middle school she had narrowed her focus to basketball. Maintaining good grades and excelling at basketball in high school eventually led her to a full athletic scholarship at Harcum College in Pennsylvania. She was on the basketball team for two years before being elevated to team captain. And in her final year she won title of Miss Harcum in the institution's pageant.
“I was having a great life, but still doing what I had to in school, while also holding down a little job at the bank,” she told WMN.
"My mother always told me, 'If you want nice things, you have to work hard,'” and by her own admission, she likes nice things. Marin recalls transitioning from one semester to the next with the same shoes, bag and clothes while her peers would be dressed in the newest and trendiest. She dreamt about one day being able to do likewise; and held fast to her mother’s advice to work hard for what she wanted.
In addition, she said, “I always saw myself as extraordinary, I wanted to leave an impact on the world, no matter what I did.”
She graduated from Harcum with an associate degree in sports management and enrolled in Wilmington University. There she was appointed as a student coach and learned more about basketball operations. She was also afforded the opportunity to manage a few overseas NBA players which lined up with her dream profession at that time – to become a sports agent. Meanwhile, she continued her part-time job at the bank where she reconnected with an "old crush" with whom she was still infatuated.
She said at that time scamming had become very popular, and he had “asked her to do some things.”
Putting emotions above reason, she obliged, it backfired and she was charged, convicted and sentenced. Her matter was heard during her final two years at school. She said holding her nerve during that period was tough.
“Honestly, I was gone. I was not myself at all. From the moment I caught the case, I was suicidal. The judge had mandated me to go to counselling and therapy. I was on medication. I had to see the psych like twice a week…
"Everyone who knew me was shocked by the news, because my reputation up to that time had been stellar, notwithstanding the fact that years earlier, I had faced my own trauma," having been raped in her childhood.
The therapy was very helpful, as being able to have a neutral listener brought her some healing. But doing jail time was inconceivable for her, and she often felt like ending her life was the only way out.
Fortunately, the judge who presided over her matter deferred her sentencing so that she could complete her studies. He even allowed her an extra month so she could graduate. But the thought of suicide still lingered.
"It was just brewing in my mind like, 'What should I do?' And every time I felt like I’m about to do it, it’s like something always tugged me back, or someone – a phone call, or somebody busting through my door…it’s just like God just knew, and said, ‘Let me just send this distraction for her…’”
Marin said she cried herself to sleep on the first night in prison. At times, she would also wake up during the night crying as she lay in the cold cell.
As time progressed, she realised that if she persisted with focusing on her problems, she could lose her mind. Prompted by fellow inmates, she made some adjustments; but then became too comfortable with the prison culture, and often got into minor skirmishes and arguments.
She recognised that it was time to pull back and re-focus. It was at this point that she was introduced to Islam and started to study the Quran. She joined the faith and this turned her life around; today, she continues to be a practising Muslim.
Shortly after her conversion, she began work on her first book, Sex, Scams and Bricks. It was completed and published while she was in prison. She also started writing music and mapping out business plans while still incarcerated.
Though she was always a good writer, a career in writing was never a career option she envisaged for herself. She therefore credits her time in the prison system for becoming a full-time writer.
As she reflects on what accounted for that error in judgment, she concluded that “it was about trying to be accepted, basically, being accepted by the boy,” who was not implicated, as Marin assumed full responsibility for everything.
Within the first few months of returning to TT in 2019, she briefly dated someone and became pregnant. The Cunupia resident said everyone tried to convince her to terminate the pregnancy because of her circumstances, but she refused. Today she is the mother of a beautiful three-year-old girl who she said has changed her life.
“She helped me to re-focus, and to have a reason to live. Honestly, I don’t know where I would have been without her.”
Marin said she spent the first year of her daughter’s life being a full-time mom. She then returned to her writing and published her second book.
She has also hosted a writing clinic with the young wards at St Jude’s Home for Girls, and spent time with the children at the St Mary’s Children's Home in Tacarigua.
She is hoping to meet with acting Commissioner of Prisons Deopersad Ramoutar to have some sessions with the inmates at the women’s prison, and hopes to work with children at institutions for boys as well.
Under her business name Pretti Wise, she is in the process of building a website for Pulse Check LLC, a company dedicated to facilitating communication between prison inmates and their families.
Since she cannot return to the US until ten years from the date of her deportation, the website will be launched virtually in the US through her agents, and once up and running, it will transition to TT.
Marin’s other plans include building a studio to become the “Tyler Perry of the Caribbean,” and starting a basketball clinic through which she can establish international connections for talented nationals.