Interview · Pencils · stationery · writers · writing

Interview with Cecilia Micklefield

I still yearn for the Conway Dinkie fountain pen I used to have in school. I have small hands and I remember it fitted me perfectly. In marbled, deep wine colours with golden (not real solid gold) nib, she was a shining beauty. Oh, the aroma at that first opening of a new bottle of ink when I would flip back her little lever and dip her nose in the perfect blue/black liquid. She’d slurp up a barrel full, sometimes with a windy squeak from her rubber gut or a hollow gurgle like you do at the dentist and we would be ready to glide across the paper.

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Nowadays I like to use a pen with a triangular shaped barrel. They’re easier for my older hands to hold. I don’t like thin-bodied pens nor scratchy ones and I have a thing about completing even a shopping list with the same colour pen I began with. See, I don’t like mixing black and blue writing. Well, we all have our quirks and foibles, don’t we?

When I’m not writing I’m drawing or painting. My latest joy is the Hardtmuth Koh-i-Noor pastel pencils which are soft as babies and can be sharpened to a fine point for those tricky details. They make very little dust. I love the paper I use with them too. French Pastelmat made from cotton is deceptively smooth. You wouldn’t think it would hold as many layers as it does with ease. You can mix colours right there on the page. These pastel pencils don’t need fixing so you don’t have to spray with anything that dulls the colours.

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Don’t get me started on notebooks! I always have a notebook with me. You never know when you might see or hear something that fires up your imagination and gives you an idea for a story title or something one of your character’s might say. When a friend asked our choir group as we were sitting at a street café having coffee, ‘What’s for dinner tonight?’ the resulting conversation led to a short story I subsequently sold to a UK women’s magazine.

I lived in southern France for nine years. Stationery was expensive and I could never find what I really wanted until the day I went into Lidl on their back-to-school promotion day. I discovered their hard-backed notebooks and I’ve been hooked ever since. In France they all come with the kind of squared paper you’d associate with mathematics but I eventually became used to writing on it. They’re A5 size and I like the chunky feel of them. Just like a proper book. I use them for plot outlines and character backstory as well as my daily ‘To Do’ lists. Sometimes I draw maps in them of my imaginary settings so I don’t make mistakes about geographical features or which characters live where. My notebooks give me a break from looking at screens all the time.

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I don’t like those reporter type pads with pages that flip over. They’re too bendy. No, I must have that solid hardback to support my precious musings. My notebooks come to the fore when I’m writing short stories. I have two collections of short stories, Arse(d) Ends, stories inspired by words ending in the letters a.r.s.e. and Queer as Folk inspired by sayings well-known or otherwise. Both collections feature the kinds of stories not suitable for women’s magazines. I enjoy dark humour and I’m not afraid of writing about difficult subjects that don’t always have a hopeful ending.

Back to the notebooks. All of them contain complete stories, handwritten when I’m taking a break from the computer or I just want to be in a different room with a different view from the window. They just happen. Sometimes they happen when I’m in the middle of a chapter for the next novel. They’re full of crossings out and asterisks and they need a lot of editing afterwards.

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Apart from printer paper and print cartridges there isn’t much other stationery I buy regularly. However, when I have a lot of research to do I buy lever arch files and plastic pockets for each page to organise my information into whatever order works best for the book. For example, when I was writing Patterns of Our Lives I needed facts about World War Two and how it affected particular groups of people in Yorkshire and Norfolk. I kept data about the West Yorkshire regiment in one segment, munition factory workers in another, the Polish air squadrons based in UK in another and so on. Similarly, when I was writing Trobairitz – the Storyteller my research covered trucks and truckers, the medieval female troubadours known as trobairitz, the history of brothels known as ‘closed houses’ in France and the processes at incineration facilities called waste to energy plants. I needed more than one lever arch file for that book! For my third novel The Sandman and Mrs Carter my research was mostly in the medical field.

My stationery plans for 2018? I’m actually going to use a notebook I bought online four years ago when I was living in France. I was buying Christmas gifts to send to family back home in England and couldn’t resist the chunkiest, prettiest notebook at Marks and Spencer with a cover design of coloured pencils. One week after it arrived I was hit by that car and the notebook was never used. It’s still in its cellophane wrap.

It’s been a kind of totem to me. Without going into too much detail here I was forced to leave my home abroad by an abusive partner. My illness only exacerbated the problems we already had. The Marks and Spencer notebook came back to England with me and resided in a cardboard box of books in storage while I was living with good friends who’d helped in my escape. When I got my own place I put the notebook on a shelf and looked at it.

‘Wait there,’ I thought. ‘Your time hasn’t arrived yet.’

There was one book I had to write first. People Who Hurt is due for publication early next year. I hope it helps others who are in a relationship with a dysfunctional partner.

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My author name is Celia Micklefield. I began by selling short stories. Some of my ideas wanted to grow into full length novels so like the little red hen I did it myself. I have to pace myself. I have a condition called CRPS diagnosed after I was hit by a car. I spent four months as an outpatient in a French clinic learning how to use my arm and hand again. Now pain and the effects of medication for it mean my energies are limited.

My latest book The Sandman and Mrs Carter is a psychological mystery. Narrated by five named characters who know Wendy Carter’s story, they tell it from their viewpoint. But who is the mystery character who seems to know everything about everybody? Published in September 2017 it’s available on Amazon as a paperback and for Kindle.

I love multi-layered stories with more than a hint of mystery, something you can really get your teeth into and think about. I enjoy being creative with the narrative scheme too. All my work is character-led and it’s they who set the pace unless outside influences introduce sudden change. My settings are important to me and I prefer to use settings I know well so I can include those sensory details which can bring a narrative to life.

Celia's Books Standing Up

 

My website is www.celiamicklefield.com

All my work is available on all Amazon sites both as paperback and for Kindle.

I have a Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/CeliaMicklefield/

and I’m on Twitter https://twitter.com/CMicklefield

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