An Interview with Celia Ann Leaman

Mary’s Child
Celia Ann Leaman

Author Bio

Celia Leaman was raised in North Bovey, a hamlet nestled on the edge of Dartmoor in England.

She always enjoyed writing, but did not begin seriously until after immigrating to Canada in 1980, when several of her short stories were published in England, Canada and the States. She also wrote and co-directed an English farce that was performed on Galiano Island, British Columbia.

Her hobby is painting in oils and she created the cover to her first published novel, Mary’s Child (available in ebook formats from publisher Other art can be seen on her web page where visitors can read about her second novel, Unraveled, written by her Gemini twin, Pandora Dash, available in ebook formats from Short stories and interesting links can also be found on her web page



Karen: Can you tell us a little about your background, your writing career, etc? I notice you were born in England, but now live in Canada?

Celia: I was born in Devon, England and emigrated to Canada in 1980. Canada feels like home now, but I draw on the very rich memories of my child and young adulthood for my work. My writing career didn’t begin in earnest until recently. Until then it had to take a back seat to everything else in my life, husbands (one at a time), children, survival. Now it’s key to my survival.

Karen: What are you currently working on and what are your literary goals?

Celia: I always have several short stories/articles on the go and I’m working on two novels, the second in the Gale Island series, and another tale based on a Dartmoor legend. My ambition is to be able to make some sort of living at writing, though I read the other day that only 6% of writers manage to do this. Those stats are bit daunting, but as my mother likes to remind me, persistence is my middle name and I’m determined to be one of the 6%. God willing, if I can only keep my marbles, I hope I will be writing until the day I die. The word ‘retire’ isn’t even in my vocabulary.

Karen: How do you write? (That is, where do you get your ideas, do you write in an office at home, do you write full time or do you have a ‘proper’ job, etc?)

Celia: I used to work outside the home until five years ago, when a serious illness made me realize how short life is, and how awful it would be to die without at least trying to fulfill an ambition. I had my husband’s full support when I reduced my working hours, then gradually evolved into writing full time. I work in a small office upstairs in our home, starting at 8 am and working until 3 pm each day, except for weekends, which I spend mainly with my husband. I generally come up for air in the afternoons to do the chores, gardening etc. After dinner I return to work, either to write or to work on my web pages.

As for my ideas, they just appear. Sometimes a character pops into my head and I fit a story around him/her, or I dream a story and adapt it. I also have a whole filing drawer of stories begun and not finished from over the years. Some ideas start off like my paintings, just a brush stroke, and I have to create the story with layers until I am satisfied with the end result. Once my characters take breath they get minds of their own and carry the story along. I always worry about finishing–you know, how will I end this? even though I remind myself generally speaking the characters always do the job for me.

Karen: Why did you originally decide to publish your work electronically and would you recommend it to other writers?

Celia: Like many authors, being epublished came as a last resort because I was SO frustrated with print publishers either not responding, or sending me silly and thoughtless rejections. For instance, you send off a story called Blush, and they write a year later and refer to your story called Bloom. Aarrgg. The frustration of waiting for even such a paltry response just became too much.

At the height of my frustration someone I knew mentioned the word ebook, and explained what they were. At first it was very difficult to consider sending my work into cyberspace. At the time–and not so long ago either–I’d hardly used email, and never used the computer except for word processing and to do my taxes! It was a bit scary to think about working over the Internet. However, I did some serious thinking about my situation and decided I had little to lose.

Many print authors seem to be very concerned about piracy and it caused me some concern too. However, I do hold the copyrights, so I trust it will take care of any problems that might arise. Sometimes you just have to take leaps of faith.

After researching the epublishers I took the plunge. However, it still took some courage to press ‘send’ on that first email enquiry. As with everything, there are pros and cons for being epublished. The positive things for me are the ‘family’ of authors I’ve made and the rapport that is possible with a publisher. Also, one avenue leads to another. You feel you are truly ‘networking’, and can find venues for your work more easily, mainly because you have the world literally at your fingertips.

Unless you write you don’t realize how putting your work ‘out there’ is such a self-exposure. No matter how confident writers may seem to the world, I believe we are fragile, insecure creatures and find constant rejections hard to deal with. By comparison, having one or two successes is a real confidence and esteem builder. Having a work accepted in itself induces creativity.

Admittedly there isn’t the thrill with epublishing of holding a ‘finished product’ in your hand–a disc isn’t quite the same–nor do you see your books on the shelf in a bookstore, but there is some satisfaction in knowing your work is exposed for longer and to a greater audience. Also, you have to remember that we are in a sort of revolutionary stage with this, and anything that breaks a life-long habit (of holding a paper book) is bound to feel less satisfying and a bit strange.

I believe this is a very young technology that is bound to take off. The sales might be a little on the low side right now, but the long-term prospects are good. It is also quite a thrill to be on the cutting edge of technology, and I’m quite happy to be walking the ebook path.

Though I had several short stories published in print in the 80′s, I no longer write for print publishers except the occasional magazine/newspaper article, nor do I actively seek to have my books in print. I’m content to wait and see what happens with ebooks, and POD in the future.

Karen: You write historical romance. Does this genre have its own particular problems in terms of accuracy of facts and research?


Celia: I love history, so I don’t find it hard to do research, and I always research far more than I ever need to as I find it helps to get a feeling for an era. When I wrote Mary’s Child it was rather strange in that, though I was writing the book several centuries after Mary Jay actually lived, because of my upbringing where things were so old-fashioned, I discovered much had stayed the same for centuries in Devon apart from modern conveniences. I still did my research though, and ordered many books through the library to confirm my perceptions of the 1800′s.

Karen: What writers have influenced your work?

Celia: I don’t think anyone has influenced my actual work, though I do like to read good writers, and when I’m writing in a specific genre I try to read similar books.

Karen: What goals do you have for the future?

Celia: I really would like to get two more novels out by the end of the year and I have several things on the back burner just simmering away. I find each day brings its opportunities and challenges in this arena, so one never knows what is around the corner.

Karen: What advice would you give to writers starting out in their career?

Celia: The competition in the publishing world can be quite overwhelming at times, and very daunting to someone who’s just beginning, but don’t let it get you down. Remember, you are unique in that only you can write your story. There is nothing new under the sun, but there is a different way of telling it. Remember that and follow your dream. Thank you Karen, for this interview.


Please read an extract from Mary’s Child:


A year later Ronald Bennett was still as nonplused by his wife’s attitude towards Mary as he had been in the beginning. He had also gathered a multitude of battle scars on the girl’s behalf, and was feeling very weary about it all.

He wasn’t tired of Mary, not by any means. She who tried so hard to please, who worked solidly and cheerfully at anything she was set to do, was the light of his life. He liked to imagine she was his own little girl, and had endless patience teaching her this and showing her how to do that. She responded to his kindness like a flower opening its petals to the sun, and he was proud of how quickly she learned. As Mr. Brimley said, she was indeed a bright little thing, and when Harriet wasn’t around he lent new meaning to the words by calling her his angel.

With Mary in his life he looked forward to each day with renewed vigor. Even the winter did not seem as long because he had the evenings to look forward to when he would sit with her in front of the fire and tell her stories. More often than not Matthew would be there, and in a kindly way tease his master into telling them about the ‘olden days’.

“You may laugh,” Ronald said, looking at them sadly, “but you’ll be old before you know it.” And he would feel a pain in his heart when he thought of Mary growing up and away, and leaving him as inevitably she must one day.

Harriet rarely joined in their camaraderie, as if it wasn’t the proper thing to do, but hovered in the background, and if she could find any excuse to break them up she would.

“If she smiled,” Matthew said once to Mary, “she’d crack her face.” And though Ronald overheard and gave him a reproachful look, he didn’t chide him. Matthew was like a son to him if truth be known, and he would have been the happiest man on earth if only Harriet’s attitude had been different.

Not that he blamed her entirely. Her detestable sister Sarah, whose visits had become more frequent since Mary’s arrival, didn’t help. It had been she who had put the foul seed into Harriet’s mind about the dairy, saying Mary could be a witch and thus turn the milk sour. “What bleddy nonsense!” Ronald said, when he found out. He, who so rarely swore. “The woman’s mazed, and you’re no better if you believe her.”

But even though Harriet had subsequently allowed Mary to work in the dairy, he noticed a rowan twig suddenly appear on the lintel of the door, professedly to ward off the evil eye.

Mary was aware of the tension between her master and mistress and wished for all the world it was not so. She realized Sarah was an instigator who had for some reason taken an instant and violent dislike to her. She once heard her say that Harriet was nursing a viper in her bosom. Though Mary was stung, it would have hurt more if she had ever heard Sarah say a kind word about anyone. She came to dread her visits because the outcome was always the same: Harriet would generally find fault with her afterwards and make an excuse to send her to bed early without supper.

Though Matthew tried his best to reassure her, Mary’s constant companion was insecurity; her frequent worry was that one day Ronald would tire of soldiering for her, and Harriet would have her way and try and return her to the workhouse. And always, always, Mary was determined that would never happen.

Copyright Celia Ann Leaman 2001

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