But fans of her earlier work need not worry. You can still sense Celia's trademark spookiness lying just beneath the surface, with passing reference to tarot cards and ouija boards to keep even a unicorn happy. Told in accessible first person style by her three narrators – innocent teen Jamie, his damaged elder brother Rob fresh back from Afghanistan, and the beautiful, slightly witchy girl Caro who gets too close to them both – there unfolds an unsettling story of modern teens that you just know is going to get dark and dangerous before the end.
Today, the Muse is delighted to welcome Celia “this is not forgiveness” Rees to talk about why she felt compelled to write this book…
For Witch Child it was the hare. When I first had the idea for the book, I knew I wanted Mary, the main character, and her grandmother, to be witches. Not kind sought by the Witch Finder General, in league with the Devil, but belonging to a wholly different tradition. I drew on a theory of European Witchcraft, first put forward by Margaret Murray in "Witch Cult in Western Europe", that witchcraft was a kind of survival of paganism. It didn’t matter that her theories have been widely discredited; it made sense to me and also meshed with the connection I wanted to make with Native American Shamanism. It seemed that there were many correlations: psychic ability, the power to heal, and shape shifting. A shaman’s ability to shape shift, to take the form of an animal, is very common in Native American belief systems. In English and Scottish witch lore, it was often claimed that a witch could turn into a hare.
I shall go into a hare,
With sorrow and sych and meickle care;
This is the charm used by Scottish witch Isobel Gowdie and this transformation is commonly attested to in folklore and folk song. So when I was writing Witch Child, the hare became my totem animal. And still is.
|The beguiling of Merlin|
The Wish House could not be more different from Witch Child. It is a near contemporary coming of age novel, set in Southwest Wales but this area is suffused with Celtic myth and magic, one of the settings for The Mabinogion and the fabled site of the Vale of Glamour. I couldn’t ignore such riches. A powerful sense of place and myth became increasingly important as I was writing the novel. At the heart of the story is an ageing artist and his beautiful daughter. While I was writing, the legend of the beguiling of Merlin began to take on greater and greater significance.
In my latest novel, This is Not Forgiveness, water is important. A river runs through the town where the story is set, and through the novel. Jamie, the main character, has a job on the boats. He takes Caro, the girl he’s becoming obsessed with, to an island, only accessible by water. Caro loves to swim. She identifies herself with nixie, the shapeshifting water spirit. Yet she fears death by water.
Myths, legends, elements and elementals are important in all my novels. I don’t claim one muse, but many.
Thank you, Celia! Which is your favourite Celia Rees novel? Please leave a comment below!