Meeting Céline Domenech – Hysteria 2017 short story judge

Céline Domenech is a judge in the short story category of the Hysteria Writing Competition and English is her second language. She won a Write Star competition in 2016 on the theme of Holiday and is currently looking for an agent for her first English novel, ‘The Shadow of Phaedrus’. It’s a YA magical saga that shows the journey of a strong and determined teenage girl to restore order in her world. You can read an extract from the book on her blog. You can meet Céline on her website, and read an extract from her new novel as well, here You can also find her on Twitter @FluffAndPoops.

Which writers or poets inspire you and why?

It’s tricky to give an exhaustive list of inspiring authors. So I’d like to name the authors who’ve inspired me to get better.

Leonie Swann, a German writer, has published in 2005 a crime novel from the point of view of a flock of sheep (Glennkill or Three Bags Full in English). I love the creative work she’s done to keep the reader believing the sheep psychology. It’s fun, it’s creative, and it’s well done. The flock of sheep remains to me one of the best examples of an original narrator.
When one thinks of narrators, it is impossible to ignore Jonathan Stroud, who write YA novels. He created the Bartimaeus trilogy in which a magical creature, a djinni, recalls his adventures in London and elsewhere. I fell in love with the way Stroud is using notes on the page. Suddenly, notes stop being an element that cut the story but they become a constant comical commentary of the action. Stroud has a clever way of introducing humour to the story. I find it very inspiring.

David Crystal, the British guru of punctuation, is another inspiration. He may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of a writer, but he gives an important lesson for non-fiction writers. Conveying knowledge in an entertaining and accessible way is an art indeed.

Françoise Sagan, nicknamed the ‘charming little monster’, is my favourite go-to author when I am feeling in the mood for social revolution and exacerbated sensitivity. She did what she wanted, she wrote what she wanted, but she did it with great talent. Life consumed her in the end, but her words always gave a sharp and honest portrait of the decadence of the world.

Arundhati Roy should be on the list of inspirational writers for anybody. Along with her technique to depict the innocence of children and the loose and natural process of memory, there’s also a voice that denounces discrimination, social classes. Indian politics and human betrayal. Everyone wishes to be that voice of reason in our world.

Finally, I refer to Angela Carter’s Fairy Tales when I want to see a playful and witty turn to a classic. It’s witty, it’s down-to-earth and it still feels like a fairy tale. Of course, others have since repurposed fairy tales into a more modern environment, but I think Angela Carte opened the way to gothic witticism.

Do you have a ‘must read’ list?

No. I have a ‘must check’ list, which implies visiting the closest bookshop, reading the first pages of the book (or reading the first pages online for an ebook) and then deciding if I actually want to read it. On my ‘must check’ list, you’ll find authors I have heard about but never read, classics, newly published books, praised authors, and interesting covers and titles.

Have you ever been disappointed by a ‘highly recommended’ book?

Yes, often. That’s probably why I’ve stopped relying on recommendations (from newspapers, celebrities, relatives, TV and radio shows) to pick my next book. I am the kind of person who frowns at articles that start with ‘top [x] books to read’. It seems difficult to believe that someone’s tastes in reading can match the interests of the entire population. We all have different expectations and needs. But I make a mental note to check these books nevertheless!

What advice would you give your younger writing self?

Write what you want to read. Life is full of inspiring experiences. Some are good, some are bad, some are big, some are small. But all are significant, so you need to live to write. Writing can be a real job too if you work hard on it. Don’t be ashamed of writing.

What emotion do you associate with good writing?

Good writing creates all sort of emotions: Excitement, sadness, fear, laughter, pity, curiosity, etc. It depends on the book you are reading. A thriller should make you shiver with anxiety. A love story should give you butterflies flying in your stomach. But above all, good writing makes you want to turn the page, to know what happens next. Good writing doesn’t let you sleep until you’ve finished the book. When I finish a good book, I feel just like the gourmet whose finger is fishing the last drops of sauce on the plate: Satisfied, nourished, cared for.

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