As part of the Hallow Blog Tour, I have been given the opportunity to interview Olga Gibbs, author of The Celestial series. You can read my review of Heavenward and Hallow here.
Olga Gibbs, the author of The Celestial Series, lives in West Sussex with her husband and two daughters. She has been writing since the age of 15 and is now a published author. She also does outreach work with teenagers
The Celestial Series follows the story of a young woman named Ariel who’s world comes crashing down after finding out that not only are angels real but she is one.
Ariel is troubled with a terrible past, she has not had a pretty life and she is still finding it hard to move forward and accept that she is needed for greater power than she could have ever known.
We’ll start with a brief introduction about yourself, how would you describe yourself?
Woman (mother, writer, survivor), who has a very low tolerance for crap, idiots or abusive people and bullies. I am very open and giving person, but I can dish out serious wrath, and have done so on quite a few occasions – a few people can attest to it. I think life is hard enough without people making it harder for each other.
And I am always happy to help anyone who needs or asks for help. I think that’s the main thing we need to do as humans – we need to help each other.
What hobbies do you do, outside of writing?
I love cooking, love arts – I paint in my spare time and I have sold a few of my paintings.
I absolutely love to travel. I have already announced to my family that once my girls are in Uni, I am going to backpack across South America or maybe South East Asia, or maybe China and Japan, and anyone and everyone is welcome to tag along. I love adventures and hate a bogged down, stagnated life.
You’ve now published 2 novels in the Celestial Creatures series, have you always wanted to become a writer?
I don’t know, tell you the truth. I don’t like attaching labels to people, so I never thought of myself, or defined myself, by a profession, but I guess people find it easier like that. I tend to let life take me where I need to be at that moment. I think life brings us together with people we need at that particular moment in our lives and it brings us to new opportunities when we are ready for them.
So to answer your question, did I ever want to be a writer? No, not really. When I was little I remember really wanting to be a ballet dancer and wear that white high tutu, like the swans in “Swan Lake” wore.
I suppose I will call myself a writer now – since I have written two books – but I won’t discount the possibility of me taking on another occupation, say ten, twenty years down the line. Maybe I will be that ballet dancer after all? Or maybe will be that famous traveler, who discovered a new tribe in the delta of Amazon river??
When did the idea for the Celestial Creatures arise?
The “Heavenward” is the prime example of life, bringing the opportunities when we’re ready to receive them.
This story began with Ariel. I had her with me for years now. She lived with me, inside me. Some parts of her are me. Some of her stories are my stories; some of it is from my childhood and my hurt (sorry, that’s as much as I am prepared to share at the moment).
But when I began working with girls who went through similar things like Ariel, I realized that Ariel is not the only one. I realized that she doesn’t need to keep quiet, to hide her past, to pretend that nothing ever happened. Ariel doesn’t need to feel alone.
I’ve written this book for all girls out there, like Ariel – like I was once – powerless at that moment, struggling, emotionally and mentally. With this book, I wanted to tell them, that they’re an incredible universe of their own, an archangel, who can change the world if decided to do so. I wanted these girls to know that their past doesn’t have to define them – I make sure every day that it doesn’t define me.
I find it incredibly sad that there are almost no books for girls like Ariel. There are books written for adults who suffered abuse, but nothing to help girls to push through it, to let them know that there’s no shame, to make them feel that they’re not alone – and that’s the main issues: self-loathing, guilt, hate and utter isolation.
This topic is not appropriate for YA market (or so I was told), so here we are.
But I didn’t want to write a realistic book about Ariel’s life. I feel that someone who never lived through such things wouldn’t want to read about it, the way it would come out of me would be too disturbing. (You’ve read this book, right? And it’s me diluting it for the YA market).
And girls, who lived through it, would never want to relive it, so thats how this book became a fantasy. But I felt it was important to give Ariel a voice, to speak about the abuse that some girls are suffering on a daily basis.
I see “Heavenward” as a story of empowerment and a promise of hope.
How would you describe Ariel’s relationship with Sam? He seems like a forward person and I don’t believe her feelings for him are as strong as his?
If that’s okay, I would rather not to answer this question J I would like readers to decide for themselves who tells the truth, who is right or wrong. Like all of us in life, we are blind when we go into a relationship; we take someone’s proclamation of love and have to make a decision for ourselves if it’s the truth if we trust that person. Sometimes we just love someone and their love (or not) towards us will not change our heart’s desire to be near that person. But sometimes, our heart and head can play “tug of war” and we don’t know who we can trust. We can’t read people’s minds. Sometimes we have to make a leap of faith and hope for the best.
Who is your favourite character to write about and why?
Ariel. And that’s why I have written from Ariel’s perspective. I understand her; I feel her. I can relate to her. And sometimes it annoys me when readers don’t understand or “get” her, but sometimes the rational side of me reminds me that not everyone will understand her. And I suppose that’s good too – it means that not everyone is broken as her.
Celestial Creatures is written in the first person view of Ariel, will we ever get to read from another P.O.V or was this intentional?
It was intentional. It was written to give Ariel voice. I was written so Ariel can speak up. It was written for younger girls out there, like Ariel, broken, abused, forgotten, who are hiding from the world, from themselves and from their inner demons.
Did you intentionally choose the names, Ariel and Uriel, because they’re quite similar?
Yes. I wanted to tie up the whole thing to angels. Well, not really. It all started with Ariel and my need to give her power. A realistic book was out of the question, so I settled on fantasy. But then I was thinking who to make her into? Vampires? Too bloody, I would’ve ended up with a Stephen King’s kind of blood bath there. Aliens? Not feeling it. Werewolves? Didn’t want her pretty face covered in fur, even if it’s once in a blue moon (the pun is intended) Fairy? Too fairy-ish. Her see-through wings wouldn’t manage to carry her and all the ammo I was planning to give her. Fairies have wings.. wings.. wings.. angel wings. Let’s make her an angel!
And then through research into Christian eschatology, I have decided to make her Uriel and I have named her Ariel. I have to say, I was rather proud of myself – tying up both names so neatly.
You have some really unique and interesting names for your characters, like Rafe, I struggled to pronounce it at first but I really love it now and I think it suits his personality perfectly. How did you go through this process?
Well, with this book it was weeks-long research into all of the beliefs and records into Celestial mythology and angelology: angels, their names, their powers, association to different celestial pantheons, their ranks, etc. So every character you see and meet in my “Celestial Creatures” series books is not a random name of a random person, but a particular angel, carefully chosen and selected due to his/her particular traits, history, an alliance to a different sphere of Heaven or Hell. Even Tabby and Lis are not random names or random characters. They have their full celestial names, and I am not sure if I should, or will, release that information. Maybe in the last book…
Are you working on the next book in the Celestial Creatures series? What can we expect from the next novel?
I have two more novels in this series to write. Both will be high, epic fantasy. Kinda Tolkien went to Heaven & Hell. What to expect? Seriously, I am not sure. Only last May, I was sitting in a local park, swinging in kids swing, staring into the blue sky, wondering what the hell am I going to do with my next book? What to do with my story? But somehow I have come up with the story for “Hallow” from the starting point of: “I need Ariel to grow up, get braver and take back the control. In order to do that, I need to break her more first.” And that was literally it! So we’ll see what will happen next – I will be just as surprised as you are.
We hear more of the Angelic language in the book Hallow, was this a conscious decision to write in a new language?
I absolutely love ancient civilizations! They fascinate me. They make the cogs of my imagination ignite and spin. I am a sucker for everything ancient Egypt – still hoping and waiting to go to Giza – so when I was writing and imagining my world I have weaved in some of the Old Sumerian beliefs. And I thought to myself that it would be only fitting if my ancient angels spoke in an ancient language. I have found a few articles from Fred Hamori and I got hooked. So I played with his words, with his phonetics, and after reading a few theological papers about Old Sumeria, we kind of ended up where we are now.
Let’s face, how plausible (and lazy on my part) would’ve it been for my angels speak only English language?
Some of the concepts in the Celestial Creatures are quite dark, what made you choose to write a dark fantasy other a generic fantasy?
That wasn’t a choice – that’s how my head works and how my writing went. I can’t write sweet and plushy things for the life of me. Besides, with Ariel’s background, dark fantasy is only logical sub-genre of fantasy. “Heavenward” was written to give Ariel the voice, and after everything that had happened to her, nobody would’ve expected the sweet and cheerful reading.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Keep writing – every day – and not giving up. Never.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What would you like to achieve?
To finish “The Placement”, sell the adaptation rights and see it a movie. It would be heart-pounding, uncomfortable, terrifying and unexpected viewing.
And to write more: more books, different stories and maybe begin to earn something from my passion.
What is your favourite thing about being an author?
Let my imagination and creativity flow – unobstructed and free.
What is your favourite book to read and why?
I wouldn’t name only one book as my “favourite” book. I don’t have only one book – I love many, and very often my reading very much depends on my mood. And my reading choices are very eclectic. I guess the only genre I will not read, it’s a sweet romance. That genre bores me to tears.
What is your favourite quote, who said it and why do you like it?
I think the quotes, just like the books, fit different times and different struggles. Not one quote will support or inspires you in every stage of your life journey. The one quote that I’ve found while writing “Hallow” is from Carl Marx, who said: “Religion is opium for masses, but it eases their suffering.” That quote certainly made me think.
And finally, if you were stranded on a desert island, and you can only bring 3 things, what would you bring and why?
Unlimited music, unlimited good (that’s an important requirement) booze and chocolate (especially now, when I am on “sugar-free” diet).
Thank you so much, Olga, for taking part in this wonderful interview! I’d also like to say a thank you for sending me the first edition copy of ‘Heavenward’ signed. I hope you have all enjoyed this interview and I will have some more interview’s for you all soon!