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Birds, Babies, and Neurodiversity: An Interview with Celia McMahon.

Updated: Apr 7


Celia McMahon is the author of three YA novels: Unspoken, Uncaged, and the upcoming Unleashed. Here's an interview in celebration of her sophomore release, in which we discuss writing as a full time mom, representation in young adult literature, and more!

Loni:

First of all, thanks so much for agreeing to interview with me! You must be very busy with promotion. And kids. And drafting the last book in the trilogy.


Celia:

It's my pleasure to be here and answer some questions about my wolfy books!


Loni:

How do you balance all that with writing? How do you find the time?


Celia:

Well, it's tough. With my little one only being four—almost five—and moving back to the States from Italy, finding a preschool has been a challenge so we've been using hourly care four to five hours a day, which is how I did a lot of my work with Uncaged and, most recently, Unleashed. I have also dedicated an hour at night (after Netflix, of course, baha) to a little bit of writing before bed. That mostly consists of adding notes I've accumulated throughout the day or minor tweaks.


Loni:

You told me once that you’re a pantser, but that you’d give outlining a try. Did you ever get around to that?


Celia:

I just purchased Save the Cat and read it beginning to end and I am convinced that I can attempt an outline with my next project. An experiment, if you will. Part of me wants to rebel, but I am sticking to it. Keep an eye out this year for a potential MG!


Loni:

Ooh, I love middle grade! I’m interested to see how your style translates! Your YA, Uncaged, is the second book in a trilogy, with the third set to release later this year. As a pantser, how different is the ending you imagined while drafting the first book compared to the series’ actual ending? No spoilers!


Celia:

Very different. Izzy's character arc evolved in a way that I had not planned. I hope fans are satisfied with how her story ends. I sure am.


Loni:

If you could describe the trilogy in one wildly terrible and inaccurate sentence, what would it be?


Celia:

"Foolhardy, cake-obsessed girl falls in love with a werewolf because wolves are cool and so is cake."


Loni:

And what is it, really?


Celia:

"A girl breaks free of the bonds of her ancestor's past transgressions and seeks to right their wrongs by any means possible."


Loni:

Love it. Your protagonist, Izzy: she’s fierce and fun, but she’s also very complex. There’s a depth to her that makes her almost impossible not to root for. How did you go about crafting her?


Celia:

As with all of my protagonists, I build them with a piece of myself. Maybe even a great chunk. It's a little frightening to put something like mental illness into a story, but Izzy's anxiety branches from my own, and I hope to teach people that maybe it's not something you can overcome, but it is something you can control. I can't say that I'd willingly turn into a cursed wolf for a boy, but I do know that I always will fight for what is right and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.


Loni:

That’s such an admirable motive, fighting for neurodiversity representation. And it doesn’t stop with Izzy! You achieved this wonderful thing that takes an enormous amount of practice to do: you made every character feel like a person. What advice do you have for writers who struggle to write compelling, believable characters?


Celia:

This type of question always gets me because I am constantly learning and educating myself on the art of writing. As I stated earlier, my characters are an extension of myself. Not only did I write them to push and pull Izzy, but because they all add something to the story, whether it’s to challenge her or to give her a shoulder to lean on. Write your side characters as the friends you would want or already have in real life. Not everybody is perfect, remember that. Even the good guys. Flaws are what make your creations realistic and give the reader something to relate to.


Loni:

With one book left to go, what are you planning to do next? Any chance for a spin-off series?


Celia:

I believe that chapter of my life is completed and Izzy and Fray and all her friends have come to a conclusion that I hope everyone can nod their heads to. I have far too many ideas and projects planned so no immediate spin-offs are in the works.


Loni:

Aw, poo. Well, we’ll close with a fun one. If you could shift into any animal, what would it be? (And don’t say wolf, because that’s cheating!)


Celia:

No wolf? Are you serious? Do you even know me though? Okay, fine. If I did have to choose one other than a wolf, it would be a crow. They are smart and sassy af, and I love them to death.


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