This January we are delighted to welcome in the
New Year with an interview from author Celia MIcklefield.
Welcome to Autumn Chickens, Celia, and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
"Originally from West Yorkshire I now live in Norfolk after time in Kintore, Aberdeenshire and southern France in a village surrounded by vineyards. I love being close to countryside and I’ve been fortunate that all the places I’ve lived have had green, open spaces close by - places to walk and think and inspire me.
I’ve had quite a few different kinds of jobs in shops, factories, offices etc. and I’ve been able to use some of my work experiences as well as locations in the background of my stories. My last position was teaching English at a sixth form college. Now I’m retired and live quietly on a secluded country lane with a garden backing onto woodland. I often find inspiration in the behaviour of the surrounding wildlife. I believe we could learn a lot about ourselves by watching birds and animals."
When did your writing really take off? What made you decide to pubIish your first book?
"I sold my first short story to a UK women’s magazine about 10 years ago when I was living in France. Three months after I submitted (I’d given up hope) I heard from the fiction editor. They gave The Fire Dragon beautiful watercolour illustrations over several pages. I was thrilled and I’ve sold many more short stories since. Since copyright reverted to me I included this story in my second collection of short reads Queer As Folk.
I decided to publish my first novel while I was living abroad. I wanted to write more deeply at greater length, create more troubled characters with problems to solve and I’m not afraid of tackling subjects unsuitable for a magazine read. I knew nothing about book bloggers and blog tours. I sent out press releases and hoped for the best so I was lucky that Patterns of Our Lives hit the best-seller ranking for a very brief period one weekend.
Writing is like an itch you have to scratch. I once called it an affliction. I must have been in a queer mood that day but it made somebody laugh on Twitter and they re-tweeted ,so that’s all right then. I enjoy making readers laugh with my words. I enjoy making them cry too. That’s the kind of book I like to read: full of emotion, twists and turns, mysteries, surprises, tragedies and laugh-out-loud idiosyncrasies. The notion of genre can make me rant. I know booksellers need to classify for their bookshelves but L.I.F.E. isn’t a genre and I want to write about all its vicissitudes in my plots and characters. I like to give readers things to think about."
How do you feel about writing? Has it made a difference to your life?
"My writing has been my ‘escape’ in two main ways. Some of my earlier work was wishful thinking, creating the kind of relationship I dreamed of. I imagined loving words for my characters to say and thoughtful acts of kindness even though I didn’t get them from my partner at home. Then I was knocked down by a careless driver and developed a condition called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome). I spent four months in a French clinic recovering from injuries. My bones mended but my nervous system didn’t. At its worst CRPS is indescribably painful. On bad pain days I do very little. On low pain days I escape in my writing. Eventually I escaped the dysfunctional relationship and came back to the UK. I wrote my only non-fiction title (so far) about abusive personality disorders and waited for my fiction head to come back.
It’s taken some time. Constant pain crushes creativity but I’m getting there and I have future plans. I realise I need to be more involved in marketing my work and I could really do with a complete re-launch of my novels and collections of short stories. I want to do things properly next time."
I really enjoy reading your blog. How do you decide what to include in your blog posts?
"I have a Blog page on my website www.celiamicklefield.com where I write about a variety of subjects not all to do with writing. I sometimes write about developments in research into CRPS and I’m a contributor at The Mighty online support magazine. I also include posts about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Psychopathy to help others come to an understanding of these abusive relationships."
How many books have you published? Do you have any favourites?
"I’ve published just six books: three novels; two collections of short stories and one non-fiction. Currently I’m working on my fourth novel, A Measured Man, an unsentimental, not-in-the-least-romantic comedy and I’m happy to tell you my fiction head is firmly back on my shoulders!
I don’t have a favourite book of my own but I have a particular character I love to bits. Madame Catherine Joubert, ex call-girl now in her seventies is created by the protagonist in Trobairitz- the Storyteller. Trobairitz were female troubadours in the 12th and 13th centuries. My contemporary trobairitz entertains truck drivers at an overnight stop by telling them Catherine Joubert’s story as well as attempting to sort out her own life. The sequel to this book is on my to-do list."
Do you think it is important to write books which feature older protagonists?
"I’m old: 71 this January. I have a painful condition and I’m slower than I’d like to be but I have an open mind, I’m still learning new things and I enjoy reading a wide variety of literature. Here comes the but . . .older protagonists are largely ignored, it seems to me, unless the whole book is a reminiscence of how their lives used to be or, as some of the major publishers believe, old begins at over forty. How ridiculous is that? There’s an army of us older folk coping with ageing, still living life to our personal fullest and making plans for our futures. Many members of this army are also doing their best to care for the even older generation. There are thousands of stories out there just waiting to be told."
Tell us about your most recent book.
People Who Hurt - abusers and co-dependants - looking for answers is the non-fiction book I mentioned earlier. I give it away as often as Amazon allows to do my bit to help raise awareness of covert, emotional and psychological abuse.
A Measured Man is coming along nicely now since my fiction head returned. Then there’s The God of Putting Things Right in the pipeline, the sequel to Trobairitz and a brand new idea that I can’t wait to begin.