Celia Rees is the wonderful writer for teenagers, author of Witch Child (which has, by the way, been published in 28 languages and is required reading for British secondary schools) and many other fab books.
Celia’s recent writing is largely historical fiction (although she did start out writing with gritty thrillers) and as I’m totally intrigued by the whole process of writing historical fiction, I asked her about it – amongst other things.
ME: Why do you write historical fiction?
I didn’t set out with the intention of writing historical fiction, although I studied History at university and taught it for a while. I just had an idea, which turned into Witch Child. The books that followed, Sorceress, Pirates!, Sovay, The Fool’s Girl also tended to be historical, but my latest book, This Is Not Forgiveness is contemporary.
What is your writing process like? Is there a tremendous amount of research involved?
There is a great deal of research involved in writing historical fiction. You have to make sure that you have a grasp of the period, that any facts are correct and that what you want to happen could have happened. I tend to do background research, to see if what I want to happen is possible, then research the detail as I go along.
When you get a new novel idea what do you do with it?
Write it down!
Of all your characters who are you most like? And who are you least like? And who do you wish you were most like?
I don’t think about my characters in that way. I created them, so they are all part of me in some way.
If a time machine was invented and you could go back to any point in your life and give yourself advice about writing, when would you go back to and what would you say?
I’m quite happy with how my writing career has evolved. I’m not sure that it could have been any other way.
If you could collaborate with any other published author on a new novel, who would you collaborate with?
I wouldn’t collaborate on a novel. I think the process is too individual. We might end up falling out and I wouldn’t want that.
Are you in favour of the argument for only writing what you know?
Yes. But it doesn’t mean write about your own life. It means that you have to know what you’re writing about. All writing should be rooted in real life and experience, whatever the genre.
Describe your life so far in ten words.
It’s impossible to describe a life in ten words.