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Thread: AW's Day of Listening - Interviews Thread

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  1. #11
    Court Jester Shadow_Ferret's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    In a world of my own making

    MSCelina Interview

    Celina Summers, aka MSCelina, is the author of The Asphodel Cycle which includes The Reckoning of Asphodel, The Gift of Redemption, and the just released Temptation of Asphodel. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for AW's Day of Listening.

    Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?
    My mother was French, and immigrated to the U.S. after she met and married my father, who is of Cherokee descent and was stationed in Paris. I grew up in Tennessee, where I learned how to bale hay and strip tobacco at a very young age. As a child, I spent my summers in France--including attending school in a little town called Meaux, which is fifty kilometers or so from Paris. From the time I was nine, my mother would take me into Paris and drop me off in the Louvre, and I spent hours every day sitting in front of the greatest masterpieces of art available.

    Somewhere around here is a picture of my younger brother and myself standing beside one of the huge vineyards in the Champagne region of France. The memory is probably one of my strongest memories because they grew poppies in between the vines. As far as the eye could see, there were long lines of green interspersed with rows of red and yellow poppies that grew taller than we were. In the picture, I have an armful of poppies that was larger than I was.

    What are you doing now? (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)
    I'm now writing full time, primarily speculative fiction, and freelancing as an editor for a couple of small presses. I used to be a professional actor, but let my union memberships lapse some years ago. I may go back to it someday. Naturally, as a writer and actor, I really worked as a bartender and server for most of my adult life. I'm married to a brilliant man, one who speaks seven languages and yet still can't manage to change the oil in the car. My husband, Shannon, supports me in every thing that I do and I think our relationship is truly special.

    I have two daughters from a previous marriage: Audrey, who is an artist working in oils and sculpture and is studying at Western Kentucky University, and Meredith, who is getting married this weekend and is expecting her first child in June--making me a grandmother at forty-two. Someone shoot me.
    As for pets, we have been rescuing cats for years. At the moment, we have thirteen cats either inside or outside. My personal favorite is a little black calico named Biscuit, who owns the house and knows it.

    When did you first realize you had a talent for writing? When did you start to believe it could be a viable career option?
    I was one of those weird kids who started reading at the age of two. My parents used to invite people over to listen to me read the TV Guide--it was their favorite party game. I started writing poetry at 7. My first poem was published at age 8. I still torture myself with bad iambic pentameter on occasion. I've always written. I wrote my first full length novel at 17. I thought it might be a viable career choice when I sold my first novel and was contracted for the series.

    What do you write? Novels? Short stories? Poetry? Non-Fiction? Which do you prefer and why?
    I primarily write novels--almost entirely speculative fiction. I have seventeen novels "done" at the moment and in various stages of revision. I prefer writing novels because even when I write poetry now, it turns out to include the term "epic." Just to be different, though, I have an anthology of short stories coming out this winter.

    What is your favorite genre to write in? To read in?
    Primarily, I've been writing fantasy, although I've been delving in horror a bit more lately. As for reading--my current obsession is biographies and autobiographies. At the moment, I'm concentrating on the Tudor era.

    How do you generate story ideas?
    They just come to me.
    No, seriously--my earlier works were based on Greco-Roman mythology. I was taking those famous myths and warping them with fantasy archetypes just to see what would happen. Currently, I'm writing a series of books that explores the theme of "God versus man" with a twist. My almost ready to submit novel, Terella, is centered around a goddess who gets amnesia and forgets her divinity. She discovers corruption in the Temple—the one that worships her--becomes an atheist and leads a revolution against the false religion. Then she remembers that SHE is the false god. Pretty wacky stuff.

    Give us an example of a typical writing day.
    I wake up early--at 7 am. I start off with three hours of editing (have to make a living) then take a break to play online. Then I'll write in four two-hour blocks, taking brief play breaks in between. At night, I usually revise or do some world building. Then I always write for at least another hour, usually going to bed at 2 or 3 am.

    What are your strong qualities as a writer?
    My editing job. If it weren't for the fact that I have to edit well (if I want to get paid) I wouldn't write nearly as well. My strongest points as a creator/writer are world building and character development. I studied playwriting under Howard Stein, former professor emeritus at the Yale School of Drama and Dean of the Columbia Theatrical department, and I'd like to think that my work with him has enabled me to have insight into character development beyond the trite restrictions of my mind.

    Your weaknesses?
    Commas. Adverbs. Thats. Probably most horribly, I have a nasty tendency to hold on to a manuscript longer than I should. I'm always seeking that perfection when I should be seeking publication.

    Can you tell us, why the fascination with elf killing?
    This is actually funny. When I started writing the Asphodel series, I purposely created a race of Elves because I HATED them. HATED them. I hated how prissy they were, how perfect they were, how they never got dirty, never bled, never cursed and never did anything bad. I wanted to take familiar fantasy archetypes and bend them in my work. So, I figured the best way to get over my Elf hatred was to kill as many of them as possible and keep a running tally. There's a super-secret link on my website that has the running dead Elf tally on it. To date in the Asphodel series, I have killed 148,301 Elves. Of those Elves, almost 500 have very specific and described individual deaths. Whether those deaths make it into the final version of a story or not is a game time decision when I rewrite.

    What do you think sets you apart from other writers in your genre?
    Stubborness. That's about it.

    Aside from writing, you also are an editor. What can you tell us about Celina the editor?
    Celina the editor remembers the rules that Celina the writer forgets. I'm not a grammar fanatic, per se, but I am particular. I tend to negotiate plot problems with my authors; I try not to be an autocratic editor. But, if it doesn't work, I'll let the writer know in no uncertain terms. There have been a couple of writers who couldn't handle that, but for the most part they love me. Also, I'm fast. I can edit a 100k novel thoroughly in less than ten days.

    If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
    The UK--too many people over there owe me a beer.

    What inspires you to write and why?
    Waking up in the morning is pretty much all it takes. Everything inspires me to write: a good hamburger, a snowfall, a football game, the fight I just had with my kid--somehow it all ends up that way. I find myself with a pen jotting notes in my journal.

    What is your favorite book and why?
    Totally not fair. This week--probably John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany

    List your three favorite authors (any genre) and why?
    JK Rowling--because she brought a generation of kids out of the X-Box and back into books.
    Jane Austen--because she endures and is beloved
    Homer--because he just is.

    What is it that makes you successful as a writer?
    I consider myself a success if one person reads my story and is entertained.

    What are your goals as a writer?
    Never to stop.

    How long did it take you to write your book(s)?
    A first draft can take anywhere from six weeks to six years. It depends on the book. I've managed to write seven complete first drafts this year. It may take me ten to get them 'finished.'

    Tell us about your publishing success (title, publishing date and company, where it is available to purchase).
    My epic fantasy series The Asphodel Cycle is being published by Aspen Mountain Press. The first book, The Reckoning of Asphodel, was a top ten finisher in the Preditors & Editors Best Fantasy Novel of 2007 Readers poll. The sequel, The Gift of Redemption, came out in June of this year and the third book, Temptation of Asphodel was just released. They can be found at the AMP site ( as well as Amazon, Fictionwise, other small online distributors and -- are you ready for this? --

    We hear you’ve been on the best seller list. Can you explain that?
    I have no explanation. All I know is that one day, Neil Gaiman's Stardust was at number one and the movie got released. The next day, The Reckoning of Asphodel was number one at Fictionwise, knocking Gaiman off the top spot. Asphodel stayed at number one for several weeks. I was most pleased.

    What would you do differently if you could repeat the same publishing experience?
    I would have been more persistent in my initial querying process.

    What have you learned about the publishing world?
    That it doesn't matter how smart I think I am, I'm still stupid.

    Now The Asphodel Cycle is a series, not a trilogy, correct? How many more books do you have planned? Can you tell us a little about the future you might have planned for Asphodel?
    The Asphodel Cycle is a four book series, which will conclude this spring with Apostle of Asphodel. There is a second series involving the characters of Asphodel, called Compulsion of Dis. The Compulsion series, also four books, will deal with most of the familiar characters from the first series. This time, they're not out to save the world. This time, they're out to save the gods--save two. One renegade god is the son of Dis, the God of Death, and the other--well, let's just say that the other will be well known to Asphodel readers. Congratulations, Ed--you just got a scoop! The only other person in the world to know that information is my editor. There are also two stand alone novels set in the Asphodel world, about characters that have nothing to do with the characters of the novels, and quite a few Asphodel short stories that were originally written as backstories for the series and will come to light eventually on their own. The first short story, The Seduction of Abur, will appear in my short story collection Metamorphosis in 2009.

    If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?
    Queen Elizabeth I. We could have a great conversation.

    What is your favorite food?

    What is your favorite color?
    dark green. I'm a redhead--hello.

    What is your favorite sound?
    A snowy night.

    Who is your favorite person?
    my husband.

    What is your favorite place?
    my study.

    What is your favorite memory?
    The day my oldest daughter was born.

    What is your favorite article of clothing?
    Black boots. All thirteen pairs of them that I own.

    What is your favorite word?
    defenestration--it's the act of throwing someone out of a window

    If you could have any talent in the world besides writing, what would it be?

    Is there anything you’d like to tell us about yourself that might surprise people at AW?
    I donate 10 % of my royalties every month to my favorite AIDS charity.
    Last edited by Shadow_Ferret; 12-14-2008 at 10:00 AM.
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