Chicklish is delighted to interview Vanessa Curtis, author of Zelah Green, Queen of Clean (reviewed by us here).
Hi Vanessa. Please could you tell our readers a little about Zelah, the character? And what inspired her unusual first name?
Zelah's name came from a signpost as I was driving down to Cornwall. I'd seen it many times before, but on this occasion I decided to tuck it away in my head and use it for the name of a character later on. Zelah is as unusual as her name, because she has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition that has pretty much taken over her entire life. She's also a very feisty and self-effacing sort of character with a dry sense of humour.
Your book touches on OCD, depression and anorexia, among other disorders, in teenagers. What inspired you to write about this topic, and can you tell us anything about the research you did for your characters?
I watched a documentary some years ago about adults who suffered from OCD and it really affected me. There was a woman who was frightened of touching anything glittery and another who could only touch other people if she wrapped her hand in a tissue first. When I came to write Zelah I still had these images in my head, so I decided to explore what it might be like for a far younger person to do battle with the condition. I researched Zelah in various ways - by reading personal stories on internet forums and also by reading a memoir written by a sixteen-year-old boy who suffers from OCD and had similar rituals to Zelah - touching things a certain number of times, checking obsessively and tapping certain objects in a certain way. I also researched some of the other conditions explored in the book (anorexia, self-harm etc) in similar ways, but I think it's important to say that this isn't a novel about issues, it's a book about an unusual character (Zelah) and how she finds her way in life.
Do you have a website where readers can contact you?
My website address is vanessacurtis.com and the site will be updated with news and reviews once Zelah has been launched. There's a guest book on there where readers can leave messages if they'd like to.
Will we get to read more about Zelah, and if so, when? (We're really looking forward to it!)
There's another Zelah book in the pipeline. It's due out in 2010 and is called 'Zelah Green: Dating Queen.' It deals with Zelah's dilemmas when not only does she have to try and look after her father as he tries (unsuccessfully) to stop being unemployed and grumpy, but also she makes a brave decision to try internet dating, with some surprising and unpredictable results! There may possibly be two more Zelah books after that, depending on how things go. Certainly she's a great character to write about.
Thank you very much, Vanessa Curtis!