Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I'm Pleased to Welcome Ceinwen Langley, author of "Edge of the Woods"

I am pleased to welcome Ceinwen Langley to my blog! She is a fantasy author with feminist ideals, and I'm very excited to have her here.

1. Hello, and welcome to my blog! So to start off, what made you decide to take the plunge into the world of publishing?
 Thanks! I've always wanted to write novels, starting with a few attempts in high school (which will, thankfully, never reach human eyes), but at University I decided to take my interest in writing on a different track and followed it into a film degree. I went on to work in television as a scriptwriter, but although I loved the work, as I was writing new characters and stories would pop into my head. I tried writing them as films and TV concepts, but it never quite fit, so I filed them away and got on with my work. But then after three straight years working on a show that airs five times a week for most of the year, I took some time off and read my first new novel in what must have been years. The love came flooding back, and suddenly the ideas I hadn't been able to make work made perfect sense as novels. I started The Edge of the Woods in July last year and, absolutely relishing the fact that for once I was completely in charge of the creative process self published in May. It's been a really rewarding experience! 
2. Tell me about your book.
Emma is a young woman caught between what she's supposed to do and what she wants to do. What she wants is independence, to be able to work in a role she enjoys and earn enough money to support herself and her widowed mother. However, the society she lives in doesn't allow women to provide for themselves without a great amount of shame attached. Emma, like the other girls in her isolated village, is expected to marry before her eighteenth birthday - her only hope of a respectable income. Women who are passed over or whose husbands die without leaving them enough money to live on are ostracised, able to work only as cleaners and cooks for men without wives - like Emma's mother - or forced to beg. 

Meanwhile, there are horror stories about the woods surrounding the village. The local superstition is that they're home to demons waiting to tempt away the unfaithful. Young women have been going missing for decades, giving weight to the rumour, and allowing the village Mayor to enforce his unfair laws. While Emma struggles to secure a future for herself and her mother according to the expectations of the village, she starts to dream of a boy in the woods who promises her freedom. 

But as we all know, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Emma has a lot of tough choices to make. It's a coming of age story, with a little bit of romance, some action and some twists thrown in for good measure. 
3. I see your book is a fantasy. Could you tell me what fantasy elements readers should expect (without spoilers, of course)?
The fantasy elements in The Edge of the Woods are fairly subtle. I don't have swords, or dragons, or commonplace magic. But the world Emma lives in isn't the same as ours, and she meets some creatures who resemble the treacherous fairies from celtic folklore. 
4. Was there a particular part that was your favorite to write?
Yes, but it's a bit of spoiler! I'll just say it's when Emma finally gets Very Fed Up. But Emma in general was a character I really enjoyed getting inside the head of. I also really enjoyed writing Mama and Mona. They have some really fun dialogue and character traits. 
5. What, if anything, inspired you to write this book?
I've been wanting to write a book featuring celtic-style fairies for as long as I can remember wanting to write. So when I started writing this book, all I knew was that it was going to have some dangerous fairies in it - and they were going to be a much bigger focus. So I was very surprised when Emma put her foot down and redirected my attention to the village and her real struggle. The fairies still play a big part in the novel, but not in the way I expected. But what I've ended up with is a much more interesting story, so I couldn't be happier about the change. 
6. What do you do when you're not writing?
At the moment I work as a freelance writer, so I spend a lot of time in and around my house. I'm horrible at cooking, but I really enjoy baking (mostly decorating… and mostly eating the icing), and I've recently taken up gardening. My dog keeps me company in all of these activities and if you follow me on instagram (@feedthewriter) you'll find a wonderful collection of him looking very tolerant while I put things on his head. 
7. Should we be expecting any more books anytime soon?
I hope so! I'm working on a fantasy novella at the moment, and I've just started playing around with an idea for a sci-fi trilogy. I'm aiming to have one of these books out by the end of the year. 
Off-beat questions
1. From the description, it seems like your book has a strong woman theme. Would you consider yourself a feminist? If so, what do you think is the biggest problem facing women today?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's important for young people to see women represented as interesting, complex and diverse characters in our media. We've come a long way in the last few years on this front, but we've got much further to go - in terms of representing anyone who isn't a (usually rich) straight white man. And whether you identify as a feminist or not, or support feminism or not, I don't see how someone wouldn't agree that introducing more diverse characters of different genders, races, sexualities and so on wouldn't at least make our stories more varied and interesting. I think every child deserves to see themselves represented as a hero, which is what feminism means to me. 

As for what I think is the biggest problem facing women, it's a tough call. There are so many factors and not every woman faces all of them - racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and so on. But I think the issue I feel most passionately about addressing (and the issue that really encompasses these other factors) is violence against women - particularly in a domestic situation. One woman is murdered every week in Australia by her partner. One in every six women in America has been or will be the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime - and roughly two thirds of rapes are attempted or committed by someone known to the victim. I think it speaks to a need, as I said before, to reconsider how we represent women in the media (as three-dimensional humans, rather than schemers, sex objects and murder victims), how we raise our children to respect each other as equals and how we teach our young adults - and adults - about consent, respect, and healthy expression of emotion, particularly anger. I don't believe men are uncontrollable animals, and I don't believe rape and violence is an inherent human trait. So something else has gone very wrong, and we need to look very seriously at how we can fix it.

2. I see your short stories come in a variety of genres. Can we expect any non-fantasy books in your future?
Absolutely! I've really been enjoying writing (very) short stories (which you can find on my website) as a way of experimenting with concepts and genres, and I've enjoyed dabbling in sci-fi and dystopia so much that I'll definitely be releasing some books in those areas down the track. I've also written some humourous contemporary stories for an online magazine for young women, which is a style I find really fun, though as I use novel writing as a break from my scriptwriting work (which is very much set in the present day) I'll probably keep my focus on writing speculative fiction books. 

The Edge of the Woods
For as long as anyone can remember, young women have vanished into the woods. Believing them to be weak willed and lured by demons, the zealous Mayor enforces rules to protect them: rules that render the village women submissive and silent, or face being ostracised. 

Emma’s only hope of a decent life is to be married by her eighteenth birthday, but her quick mouth and low social standing make her a poor prospect. Lonely and afraid, she finds herself dreaming of the woods, and of a mysterious boy who promises freedom and acceptance if she’ll only step across the border into the trees. 
With her birthday fast approaching, she has a decision to make: run away from her future, or fight for it.

 Ceinwen Langley (pronounced Kine-Wen) is an Australian television writer and author. 

Born in a desert town with less than 300 people, one TV channel and nothing to do, Ceinwen learned to entertain herself by reading and making up her own stories. The habit stuck, and she's been trying to make a living out of it ever since. 

Ceinwen has worked in development on several local children's shows, taught and spoken at schools and universities and worked as a storyliner and scriptwriter for long-running soap Neighbours. The Edge of the Woods is her debut novel.

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