Today we welcome Celia Micklefield as we travel to Norfolk on the east coast of England to discover how writing short stories, growing vegetables, complex characters, narcissism, a barn owl, and curiosity are a part of the fullness of Celia’s human experience. Slip into the gardening shoes, let’s go …
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My real name is Celia Smith but I write in my maiden name: Celia Micklefield. I used to think that was a good idea but now I know how difficult it is to fit such a long surname on the book cover!
I was born in the county of West Yorkshire in the north of England where folks call a spade exactly what it is. I’ve lived in Scotland, near Aberdeen, where for the most part I couldn’t tell what people were saying at all and for nine years I lived in southern France where my schoolgirl French improved considerably. Now I live in Norfolk on the east coast of England. It’s a wildlife wonderland with its inland waterways, wooded areas, windmills and quaint villages. I often use inspiration from nature in my short stories. That’s how I began: writing short stories for a UK women’s magazine. Since then I’ve published two short story collections, three novels and one non-fiction book. I’m currently working on my fourth novel with another two in the pipeline.
Leisure time is usually spent in my garden. I love growing vegetables but have to make sure the deer can’t get at them or they’d eat the lot.
In which genre do you write?
I suppose you could call my work Women’s Fiction but they’re all different.
How many published books do you have?
I have six self-published books. I used to have an agent but it didn’t work out so I went ahead by myself.
My first novel, Patterns of Our Lives, is a UK saga set partly during World War Two.
It’s essentially a multi-generational story about love and the sacrifices people make in its name.
My second novel, Trobairitz – the Storyteller is harder to classify. Trobairitz were female troubadours in France during the 12th and 13th centuries. My Trobairitz is a contemporary woman entertaining other truck drivers at an overnight stop in Languedoc by telling them a story. Her main character is an ex sex worker, now in her seventies who has a running battle with the current mayor of the village and his grandfather.
My third novel, The Sandman and Mrs Carter is a psychological mystery. Narrated by five main characters the story of Wendy Carter unfolds through their different points of view.
All my fiction is character-led. I love stories with multiple threads and complex characters with problems to solve. There’s usually a mystery woven in and maybe a tragedy or two. Life isn’t all sweetness and light so I hope to reflect the fullness of human experience in my work.
My two collections of short stories feature work that isn’t suitable for women’s magazines as they prefer, if not a happy ending, at least a hopeful one. Women’s magazines fiction tends to shy away from difficult subjects too but I love to jump into the dark stuff every now and then. In Arse(d) Ends you’ll find dark comedy, sexual harassment and sibling rivalry. In Queer As Folk the story Lemon Meringue captures sisterly love when one suffers from dementia, for example.
My sixth book, People Who Hurt is non-fiction. Part memoir, part informational the book outlines covert, passive aggressive narcissism and the abusive patterns of behaviour individuals with this personality disorder inflict on their partners. I make this book free as often as Amazon allows and I’m pleased to know it’s helping others realise that not all abuse is physical.
What is an interesting writing quirk you have that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
I’m slow. In everything I do I’m slow. In 2013 I was hit and knocked down by a careless driver. My bones mended but my central nervous system didn’t and I’m in pain all the time. My condition’s been diagnosed as CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) so on low pain days I write as much as I can. On other days my energy is used up by just getting up. It’s taken me a whole week to fill in this questionnaire. I can’t sit in one position too long or my muscles spasm and my joints lock. That’s how slow I am.
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal or avatar and why?
The barn owl.
After I’d left the abusive relationship I lived with friends until the legalities were finalised. It took three years to get my money out of the property we’d bought together because of his delaying tactics and spurious claims against me. I began looking for a place of my own but was anxious it should be the kind of home where I could find peace.
As I drew up in preparation to park outside the cottage I wanted to view, a barn owl flew low over the roof of my car. I watched it fly down the lane ahead of me. Its wings were majestic, beating slowly, calmly. It wasn’t in any kind of rush. I felt it was an omen. If a beautiful creature like that was happy meandering along this country backwater then this was the place for me.
What does your ideal working space look like?
Ah, it’s beautiful. Deep in the forest there’s a hidden clearing beside a lake. Distant mountains rise in misty mauve beyond the tree line. There, like Snow White surrounded by cute animals, I sit in my cottage and the words flow like magic.
In reality I’m in the spare bedroom with my trusty iMac up against the window. I can see cute animals, though. Except for when they’re eating my vegetables. They’re not cute then!
What are you currently reading?
Currently I’m not reading anything other than research for my next book but I have The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan on my Kindle ready to begin.
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
Not a lot. I like a quiet life. But I do like visiting foreign countries when I’m able. I usually pay for it afterwards and have to rest but I love the Greek islands in particular. I can look at that turquoise water for hours!
If you could have a coffee date with an author from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d choose Daphne du Maurier. I keep a copy of Rebecca near my work station to remind me of the power of character. I’d like to ask her what she’d change about the book for today’s readers.
Do you believe things happen for a reason?
I do now. Everything is a learning experience. I like to think we are spiritual beings having a human experience. If I hadn’t experienced loss, grief, betrayal, bereavement, etc. how would I know what it felt like? I want to write well about how these emotions affect my characters and the things they do. My research following time with an abusive partner opened my eyes to a hidden world of domestic abuse and it pleases me that my story is helping others in similar situations to come to an understanding of what happened to them.
Which of your personality traits has been the most useful and why?
I think I must name two things:
Curiosity. I have to look things up. I want to know the reasons, meanings, backstory, processes, outcomes etc. etc. I love learning. Very useful for writers.
Patience. Without it there’d be no number one!
What is your most recent work and what is your work in progress?
My most recent book is People Who Hurt and the link is above. My work in progress is A Measured Man, an unsentimental, passionless romantic comedy aimed at mature readers. At the rate I’m going it could be finished in 2020!
Please drop in and say hello at my website or facebook page. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Thank you for being a part of MTA Celia. It was wonderful learning more about you and your writing style. –Camilla
Where to find Celia’s books:
People Who Hurt:
US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ZP5LaA
UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/31dYw9C
Patterns of Our Lives:
The Sandman and Mrs Carter:
Queer As Folk:
Website: www.celiamicklefield.com and Celia has an author page on Facebook also.
If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!
And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …