Today as a tour host, I had an opportunity to interview Cecilia Paul, an author of Elizabeth Just 16.
I think this book is of a big importance and I was pretty excited to ask Cecilia some questions.
I want to thank Rachel from Autoright for giving me this chance.
- In your story, we follow a young girl Elizabeth who is diagnosed with MRKH. How much research did you have to do in order to bring Elizabeth’s story to life?
My research and studies on MRKH was done when I was working with my specialist team, so Elizabeth’s story was based on my experience working with the women. They inspired me and had such a humbling effect on me that I wanted to do more for them. I made Elizabeth up and, I used her as my protagonist to display and portray all the many varied and common symptoms that the women often presented although I might have tweaked some of the situations and circumstances to emphasise the points I wanted to make.
- Was the story in your head a while before you decided to write it down?
I suppose you can say that because I can remember all the stories that the women told me so Elizabeth’s story or journey was their combined stories. Even so, I did not plan to be an author although every now and again, certain things would happen at work that were so poignant that, I would feel urged to write about them so when I had some free time, I decided to write it down.
- How long did it take you to finish this story?
It took me about a year to finish it but probably another to get it published.
- So many people are ignorant when it comes to MRKH because people are just not aware of its existence. It is not a syndrome that people are talking about. Your book might bring some awareness of MRKH, but what do you think, how else can people be informed about it?
I hoped my novel will inform and, this was one of my reasons for writing it to try to bring this condition into the public sphere, and like you and the other bloggers who have shown interest, are now more aware. The media and internet are excellent venues to start spreading the word. Of course, the best way would be for the women themselves to come forward and talk publicly about their MRKH but, understandably, many still feel uncomfortable talking openly about it. Nevertheless, there have already been some magazine and newspaper articles about women with MRKH although none have done it in such detail, as I have done with Elizabeth Just 16. But, maybe my novel might just give the women the courage to do a TV feature or a short documentary film, which might also help to inform the public especially when more people watch television than read books. The other point/theme in my novel was to inform people as to why the women with MRKH are frightened to tell anyone – they already feel embarrassed and abnormal but the risks of ridicule and rejection further add to their fear. Therefore, I hoped that if the public was more informed, they would be more empathetic and accepting.
- MRKH has a huge psychological impact on women that are diagnosed with it, but it also reflects on other family members. You pictured it really good in your book. Was there a scene, in your book, that you consider as, your favourite or as the one of huge importance?
Not really because there were several points and themes that I needed and had highlighted in my novel, which have equal importance in the management of the women so helping them to understand fully, will also help them to come to terms.
- What is your writing process? Do you have a schedule or do you write when the inspiration hits you?
Actually, I am a terribly unhealthy example to follow because I am a perfectionist and a workaholic so when I start writing, I cannot stop except for the necessary breaks and, my COFFEE! I would be writing from morning to late in the night until I get a mental block or fatigue. I have so much in my head that I cannot stop but thankfully, my brain stops me from working non-stop and forces me to organise my thoughts and knowledge so that I can use them appropriately in my story. Of course, this said, I do write down my intentions and themes for my story, at the beginning and, I work towards these.
- What inspires you?
Witnessing an act of kindness or heroic act or watching a feel good film. Reading a good book or reading any short inspiring and meaningful quotes.
- Are you working on some other story that we’ll have a chance to read in the future?
I have started something but I have yet to organise it properly because I need a good title first so it will not be for a while but when I do have it published, I will be honoured for your interest and support.
About the book:
Elizabeth Appleton is a sweet and easy-going adolescent. But as she turns sixteen, she discovers something so devastating about herself that her whole world is turned upside down. Elizabeth has been born without a womb or a vagina and is diagnosed with MRKH, an unusual congenital disorder that affects the female reproductive tract. Frightened and confused, Elizabeth must struggle to understand how she can still be a girl but no longer a ‘normal’ one. As she questions everyone and everything around her – her burgeoning sexuality, her gender, her hopes for the future – Elizabeth must fight against the shame and betrayal she feels if she is to ever become the woman she has always hoped to be. In her first novel, Cecilia Paul, now a retired expert in the field of MRKH, sensitively explores and illuminates this complex and often emotionally fraught medical condition, in order to raise public awareness of MRKH and to support those affected by it.
About Cecilia Paul:
Based in London, Cecilia Paul has worked for the NHS, in the field of gynaecology for over twenty years and, where she later worked within a specialist team, specialising in congenital disorders of the genital tract. Together, they have treated hundreds of women with this unusual congenital syndrome, MRKH. Now retired, and with a wealth of knowledge under her belt, Cecilia has been inspired to write her first novel dealing with this little-known syndrome hoping to bring awareness and understanding into the public sphere. Furthermore, as she has retired, she would like to encourage these women to get the appropriate help from specialist centres, that can provide them with a holistic support and treatment. Elizabeth Just 16 by Cecilia Paul (published by Clink Street Publishing 28th June 2016) is available to purchase from online retailers including amazon.co.uk and to order from all good bookstores.