Celia Rees

Questions and Craft

Celia is happy to answer questions about her writing. Here are the answers to some of the popular questions that others have asked. Scroll down the page to read all the questions and answers or use the quick links to jump to individual ones. If you’d like to ask a question yourself, please use the contact form.

Questions about writing

I want to be a writer. What should I do?

Read good fiction and keep writing. It doesn’t really matter what you write: letters, diary, journals, short stories, it is all good practice.

For more advice you could look at the page on this site called The Craft, it’s my advice for writers.

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas can come from anywhere. The trick is to remember them. I keep a note book, which is kind of like a scrap book, where I write down ideas. I also stick in anything that I find interesting: cuttings from newspapers and magazines, pictures, post cards, photographs, etc. Then, every so often, I look through it and see if a story is forming there.

How do you develop a story?

Quite often I start with the question: What if?
For example: What if a girl met someone who was a vampire, but didn’t realise?
What if there was a girl who WAS a witch?
What if an English heiress became friends with a slave, and then they both ran away and became pirates?
What if? leads from who and where and when? to how? and why? and what happens next?
It is a useful question to ask…

How long does it take to write a book?

It depends on the book. Some take longer than others.

Are any of your characters based on yourself?

They all have to be, to some greater or lesser degree, because they all come from inside me.

Which is your favourite own book / own character?

I can’t say. The other books / characters wouldn’t like it.

What would you do if you were not a writer?

I would probably still be a teacher.

How do you create atmosphere?

You have to create the atmosphere through using your imagination, imagining the world you are trying to create, using little details to bring it to life. With a book like Witch Child, you also have to do quite a bit of research to find out how people lived, what they thought and what the world looked like to them.

Have any of your books been made into films?

Not yet, although Witch Child is being developed as a play. There has been film interest in Witch Child and Sorceress. It takes a long time to get from page to screen, so you never know.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I am always working on something.

Who or what was your biggest influence in deciding to become a writer?

I was an English teacher and began writing with and for my students; they proved to me that I could do it.

What’s the best thing you have ever written?

I haven’t written it yet.

What’s the last piece of your writing that you hated and threw in the wastepaper bin and why?

I never throw anything I’ve written away – it always comes in useful in one way or another, so I keep it for recycling purposes.

Is there any particular ritual involved in your writing process (favourite pen, lucky charm, south facing window)?

I have things that stay on my desk – like a moon gazing hare and a cricket ball. I have things that live on top of my computer – formerly a very small plastic pig, but he got lost – so now it’s one of the aliens from Toy Story.

Do you have any advice for making believable characters?

I think the important thing to do when creating characters is to think of them as real people and think to yourself, how do we get to know real people? We describe what makes them different and we describe their behaviour, so when you are writing about a character, find small things about them that reveal what they are like and then establish their character through their behaviour.

Questions about specific books

Is there going to be a sequel to Pirates!?

A sequel to Pirates! I have not ruled out the possibility – I want to know what happens to them, too! But I can’t do it right now as I have other books I’m already committed to write. If it does look like I’m going to do it, I’ll keep everyone posted on the web site.

Is Witch Child a true story?

Although Witch Child appears to be real it is, in fact, a made up story. I hope that knowing this does not spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the book, but I wrote it as a diary because I wanted the reader to feel close to Mary. From her first words, it is clear that she must keep her diary secret. A quilt seemed a cunning place to hide it. If something is hidden, it can be found. That’s where Alison Ellman came into the story. She seemed a good person to link Witch Child to its sequel, Sorceress.

Why does Witch Child start in 1659?

1659 was a time when witch persecution was still going on in England and also people were setting off for America taking their prejudices with them. In the New World Mary would meet a different people, Native Americans, whose belief was nearer to her own. If she was forced to choose, what would she do?

Some of Witch Child is similar to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, why is that?

The Crucible is set at the time of the famous witch persecutions that took place at Salem, Massechusetts in 1692. Witch Child pre-dates this by more than thirty years, but the patterns such persecutions took, the accusations and the reasons for them, were depressingly similar. I wanted there to be echoes back in time from Salem, so I studied the transcripts of the trials (as Arthur Miller did) and used them as the basis for the case against Mary. I was also interested in the fact that the whole thing centred round a group of teenage girls. I write for teenagers. Behaviour doesn’t change. It was a way to establish modern relevance.

You can find out more about Witch Child at www.witchchild.com

Questions about other authors

What are your five favourite books, and why?

Who are your five favourite authors, and why?

What is the most overrated book you’ve ever read?

That would be telling!

If you could require everyone to read just one book what would it be?

I would never be so prescriptive.