Saturday, May 07, 2011

Celia Rees (Awesome Women)

I have the great pleasure today to interview Celia Rees, author of such books as Pirates! and Witch Child and more recently The Fool's Girl, which I reviewed recently. Thank you so much Celia for joining us today, it's an honour!

To find out more about Celia Rees, please do visit her
website or her Facebook page.

Can you tell me a little something about yourself?

I live in Leamington Spa, a small town in the Midlands, with my husband, Terry. I have a grown up daughter, Catrin, who now lives and works in London. I began writing for teenagers in 1989 while I was an English teacher in the city of Coventry. I began writing thrillers but I have written across many genre, including the supernatural and the Gothic, contemporary realism and more recently historical novels, like Witch Child, Pirates!, Sovay and The Fool's Girl (Bloomsbury).

Most of my novels are written specifically for teenagers and they all tend to feature strong female characters, although some of my titles, The Wish House (Macmillan), for example, and Truth or Dare (Macmillan) have male narrators. My next book, This Is Not Forgiveness (Bloomsbury) has three different narrators, two boys and a girl.

Did you have a role model growing up?

Not really.

Who do you look up to now?

I admire Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese dissident, for the way she has stood up for her people and for democracy and remained steadfast in the face of brutal repression. As far as writers are concerned, I look up to authors like Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx, for their dedication to their art and for their talent. When I read their work, I think: 'How do they do that?'

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an underwater explorer.

Tell me something about the women in your life who have been an influence on you?

My mother was always a strong force and influence in my life. She taught me to read but more than that, she taught me to become a reader and to love books. She also taught me about plants, wild flowers, growing things and she taught me to cook. Her sister, my Auntie Nancy, could not have been more different. A spinster all her life, she was a headmistress, very erudite but with a love of travel and a varied past life. I owe a lot to both of them. I'm just sad that neither of them lived to see me become a writer.

Who is your favourite fictional character? And why?

I'm not very good at favourites - I have too many! One of my favourite characters is Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre was the first classic novel I read all the way through without stopping. I loved her bravery and determination, her resourceful common sense and the way her seemingly quiet ordinariness hid her passionate nature. I came to Jane Austen rather late, but I loved Elizabeth Bennett (who could not?) but also Emma, for her flawed nature and the way she changes as the novel progresses. I also loved Thackeray's Becky Sharpe (Vanity Fair) for her audacity and I always wanted red hair! I'm also a big fan of Steig Larsen's Lisbeth Salander.

What were you like as a teenager and how did you cope with all the changes that occurred?

My father died when I was thirteen and his death coloured my teenage years, although I didn't realise quite how much until I was older. I was quiet, moody, an observer. I was shy around adults, avoiding the attention of teachers whenever possible, but I didn't have many problems at school, a sharp tongue and a strong sense of humour kept my friends amused and potential bullies at bay. I was a bit of a tomboy as a child, so I needed initiating into the female rites of passage - clothes, boys, makeup, pop music, but luckily my friend Gaye was there to do the honours. I never lacked for friends and we went through all the normal changes without too many mishaps.

If you had any advice for yourself as a teenager, what would you say?

Don't be afraid.

Of the issues and concerns that women are faced with today, what's the area you most like reading/writing about?

This is a difficult question to answer. So many issues and concerns face women today. We cannot afford to become complacent and think we've achieved equality and there is nothing left to fight for. We have come a long way, but there are still serious areas of concern from the growth and prevalence of pornography in the West, with the attendant problems of prostitution and people trafficking, to the erosion of equality and basic human rights threatened by radical Islam.

All I can say is that fiction has always been a powerful instrument to expose exploitation and inequality and I hope and trust there will be writers who are brave enough to write about these issues and bring them to public attention. I don't regard myself as an 'issues' writer, but I'd hope that my female characters are strong enough to stand up against what they see as wrong and fight for what they believe in.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I don't think so. I'd just like to thank you for asking such interesting and searching questions.

Thank you so much Celia!


  1. Great interview with some great answers!

  2. Brillliant interview.Personally I am glad she didn't become an underwater explorer.

  3. I'm with you Vivienne, I think we all would have missed out if that had happened!

    Brilliantly answered, thank you very much Celia :)

  4. Great interview, I really loved reading Witch Child and Sorceress when I was a teenager. I must check out more of her books.


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