Elizabeth Chats With…Celia Moore
Today’s guest has been on my blog before. Last November, I hosted one stage of Celia Moore’s blog tour when she launched her debut novel. At that time, she was talking about her writing journey. But, unlike most of my guests, our relationship is not just a virtual one. She is also a fellow member of Chudleigh Writers’ Circle, so I meet her face to face quite regularly, and find her a fascinating person to talk to. This month, I have invited her back so we can get to know a little more about the person behind the writing.
Celia, welcome back. Let’s start at the very beginning (as Julie Andrews once said); what is your earliest memory — and how old were you at the time?
My earliest memories are on the farm where I grew up, and the first moments, which I can recall from my childhood involve cows. My strongest memory (probably when I was about two-years old) is my father sitting me on the back of one of our dairy cows; the one that Dad had named after me; of course. Celia became my favourite animal on the farm and I remember my fingers coating in a sticky grey goo as I stroked her.
Another moment is me in the shippen with the cows lined up waiting for my father to milk them. As far as I recall, they would always come into the shed in the same order and would always head for the same stall. I remember how tiny I felt as they walked by, and how they calmly ignored me standing there, in my little wellington boots… I remember too, that there were always lots of cats around purring loudly while they waited for Dad to provide a large saucer of fresh warm milk for them.
What was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?
This is me with my Cheriton Bishop primary school year – all eight of us! I am fourth from the right in my much-loved white blouse in 1977.
My favourite subject at primary school was English and especially creative writing. I remember the little story book I created about a bird in a nest high up an oak tree and the chick’s first day at school.
As to which lesson I wanted to avoid; that was French. At the time, I knew no-one who had been to France and I could not see any reason to visit this foreign country. Learning the alien language seemed wholly pointless and difficult. What made it worse, was that my mother knew the teacher, so she asked her to make sure I couldn’t hide at the back avoiding her questions.
Of course, since then, I have had many trips to France, skiing, visiting friends and family, and cycling holidays in the beautiful regions of the Dordogne, the Loire and Lot, and I wish that I had paid more attention learning the language.
If you had to escape from a fire, what three things would you take with you?
I would simply want to make sure everyone and any animals were safe. I was in Phuket in Thailand on Boxing day 2004 and just before the tsunami hit, I was enjoying a perfect early morning swim. Surviving this devastating event and witnessing the heart-breaking aftermath, made me see that only one thing is important, and that is people; they are irreplaceable.
Where is your favourite place on earth — and why?
I have been lucky enough to travel a lot but my favourite place on earth, is the wooden deck of our home with a lit barbeque surrounded by friends. Steep fields wrap around our home. There is always a flock of sheep and a few ancient oak trees provide the animals with shelter and shade – it is beautiful. All my senses are happy there; from the aroma of caramelising onions to the early evening hooting of a distant barn owl.
What would you have printed on the front of your T-shirt?
My t-shirt would be printed ‘(read more)’ . A few years ago I was sent on a ‘Diversity’ training course and one of the things that stuck with me was a simple diagram of an iceberg, which the presenter used to symbolise a person. Her message was that with everyone we meet, we only see the tip of their iceberg; the bit that they are willing to expose to the world and below eye-level there is a mass of unknown features: For example, we don’t know when we encounter someone, what struggles they have had just to get to the place where you have met them – that morning, they may have woken up late because there was a power cut and it led to immeasurable difficulties with their planned schedule, or maybe, as a three-year-old, a parent or friend abandoned them or abused their trust, so now they have an inherent lack of self-confidence.
So ‘read more’ has lots of meanings. For me it is reading on from the initial headlines that grab my attention to find out more. It may be further research to get another’s perspective on a subject that has intrigued me. It is about the joy of reading fiction too and travelling to the world another author has created; discovering new experiences and stepping into another person’s life. It is about finding out about people and trying to understand and empathise with different points of view.
Lastly, it is about my own study and observations, which help me create plausible and interesting characters for my stories that readers will care about. Devising plots too; where my characters’ motives and actions have background experiences that shape the way they behave and interact. I want anyone who reads my writing to glimpse below the tip of the iceberg and understand (or at least have a bit of a clue), about what’s lurking beneath.
If you could meet one person from history, who would it be — and why?
I should love to have met Isambard Kingdom Brunel but just to hear him speak. I reckon he must have been a compelling orator. I should have liked to have been a fly on the wall when this mechanical and civil engineer presented a ground-breaking design or an ingenious construction proposal. To me, it is not his revolutionary engineering skills that I find awe-inspiring, it is the way Brunel must have described his visionary ideas in a way that made people believe him.
If you could take part in one television programme, which one would it be?
I loved the TV programme Time Team. Sadly, it was last made in 2014 and my favourite archaeologist, Professor Mick Aston, left the team in 2012, just before he died. I live in hope of a revival of the show and the possibility to join the dig.
I have always adored Tony Robinson; long before I saw him as Baldric in Black Adder, I watched him present a children’s television story where he was chasing across fields, climbing through fences and crawling along muddy streams. He was captivating in his enthusiasm and his joy of storytelling; breathing reality into the worm-like hero. All the members of the Time Team were passionate about what they were doing and the way the history was brought to life was wonderful. I should not have cared about the pouring rain or the icy cold the team always seemed to have to endure. I wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t find a single interesting fragment in the three days of the archaeological search. Back breaking or boring mud-sifting would have been a small itch in the delight of spending time with this team.
Finally, Celia, you published your debut novel, Fox Halt Farm last year, and you plan to publish the sequel in November this year. Why did you feel compelled to write it?
Think of a girl in tiny wellies chasing escaped piglets on the farm – I watched my parents struggle to make a livelihood from farming and eventually, I saw our home sold – our lovely cows went too. I left beautiful Devon to study at university in London and afterwards, practised as a chartered surveyor – until one day, I took a leap of faith and became a climbing instructor in North Wales.
Lots has happened since then and last year, I started looking back. Fox Halt Farm was partly a dream I couldn’t let go of, and partly, my own experiences with different outcomes and characters I carefully conjured up. My novel is an emotive love story set over twenty years but just like me, it has a Devon farm in its heart.
Lovely to talk to you Elizabeth.
ABOUT CELIA MOORE – growing up on a small farm in Devon, she left the family farm to have a successful career as a Chartered Surveyor starting in London before slowly working her way back to Devon.
In 2000, she left office life behind to start a new adventure as an outdoor instructor, teaching rock climbing, mountaineering, canoeing and even rifle shooting and mountain biking. She was managing an outdoor residential centre when she met her husband and now she is concentrating on gardening for a few lovely customers, running and writing.
Born over fifty years ago, Celia has been creative ever since – from explaining why there are no chocolate biscuits left, to compiling glowing details for ugly buildings; from encouraging people to abseil to oil painting and now, to writing novels.