Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Ceryn Rowntree about her work, what inspires her, and the creative process behind her latest book, The Divine Feminist.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m Ceryn, a Therapist, Medium, writer and practicing witch. I work with clients across the world combining traditional talk therapy techniques with the more spiritual side of life to help people come fully into alignment with themselves and what is right for them. I live in Northumberland, UK with my dog Kali and am never happier than when I’m walking in the woods.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember, and wrote my first book – a picture book called Mr George – when I was 7. You may be surprised to hear that one didn’t make it to bookshops, but that didn’t stifle the dream and I have continued writing in some form ever since.
When did you take a step to start writing?
After I left school I went to work in corporate communications – continuing my passion for writing in a relatively safe environment. I started blogging for my own business a few years later and then had the opportunity to write my first book in 2015.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
The first book took around three months to complete – it was really pretty straightforward and I kept wondering why I had ever thought writing a book would be so complicated… Then the second book arrived!
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
I first attempted to write this book in 2017 but couldn’t get the ideas down on paper! I eventually completed a full draft in 2018 but a series of mis-adventures meant that it took almost two years to get to an editor, by which point I seriously contemplated giving up on this particular idea, but The Divine Feminist wouldn’t leave me! Finally in March of this year I sat down with a pen and paper and wrote the whole thing out in full, delivering it to my publisher just over three months later.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Divine Feminist?
The idea behind the book very much felt like an inner calling that came as a result of my own experiences. A few years ago, having reached a place of real burnout and unhappiness, I began re-connecting with myself and my own body. In doing that I started to realise that the imbalances I was feeling within myself and my life were much more deep-rooted than the inequities we were speaking about in typical feminism, and knew I needed to explore this and share it with others.
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Divine Feminist?
One of the greatest challenges I faced was in having the courage to write what needed to be written. The book covers a wide range of subjects – some of them particularly deep and potentially triggering – and there were a number of times I held myself back in fear of the anger they may stir up and the criticism that may come as a result..
Another one was the scale of what to include. When I initially began writing The Divine Feminist, it felt as though I didn’t know enough and needed to have a full understanding of world history, politics, biology, sociology and so many more subjects before I could even start to put pen to paper. There was a big challenge in that of trusting myself to write what was mine to write, and in knowing I didn’t have to put EVERYTHING in one book!
What was your research process for The Divine Feminist?
There was a lot of reading initially to formulate my ideas. Once a full draft of the book was written, I took some time to do the more academic literary research in order to fill in the blanks of things I didn’t know or needed to clarify further. As a medium though, a lot of my research was intuitive too, and came from sitting in meditation with the book and really tuning into what felt like it needed to be said.
How did you plan the structure of The Divine Feminist?
I always knew that the book would be divided into elemental sections; as a practicing witch I see the elements as not only a foundation of the natural world, but of everything I do, so it felt important for them to provide the foundation for this book too. From there I also knew that each chapter would focus on a binary we’ve been told about within our current world and on trying to dismiss our ideas of which sides of those spectrums were “right” and “wrong”.
However, in delving further into those binaries – for example the idea of light and dark – I realised that the true solution was to step back from the divisions we’ve been led to believe are true and instead focus on the synergies that could come if we embraced all aspects of those spectrums. That realisation – which had a huge impact on the structure of the book – really didn’t come until I sat down to write the final version and realised that this sense of wholeness was exactly what the book had always been about.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Divine Feminist need?
On the very first draft of the book I worked with a freelance editor who gave me a lot of feedback on structure and terminology – at that stage the manuscript was in a very different format and needed a LOT of re-writing. Or, as it turned out, needed to be completely scrapped! For this final version, I received much less editing – a few flags here and there for long sentences, or paragraphs that needed to be re-written. For the most part though the final editing was quite light.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Follow your gut and do it. I think there’s a quote from the novelist Jodi Picoult which says “you can’t edit a blank page.” I wholly agree with that. You can always amend later but until you get the idea out of your head and onto a page it will only ever be an idea.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I have a series of novels that have been eating away at my brain for the longest time, so I’m hoping to get started on those at some point soon.
In terms of non-fiction work there are a couple of ideas percolating in my brain at the moment, so I’m giving them some space to develop. Come back to me in a month or two and I’ll definitely have some firmer plans!
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am. I think all any of us can try to do in this world is make a difference, no matter how small, in our own way and I very much hope that, by encouraging people to re-connect with themselves and remember how wonderful they were before the world taught them otherwise, this book will do exactly that.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
My book is The Divine Feminist, published by The Unbound Press on 18th November 2021.
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