In Heir Of Elendri, Celyna embodies everything I felt while I was growing up. She's the kind of character that, if I were to run into her today, I would want to just hug. That's it. I just want to hug her every time she cries and tell her that she is so much better than she thinks she is.
She's smart, but so desperate for approval that she allows the wool to be pulled over her eyes. That's how Xiuhcoatl was able to disguise himself from her so easily. And how even with all the strange happenings she continued her quest for approval.
And she can't help but think of the strange questions – the questions that no one else thinks to ask because no one else really cares. Like in the 5th grade, we were in class and the teacher was talking about how much breath a person took in to make a noise, like talking. And I wanted to know the exact measurement, and how the lungs knew they had reached that measurement, and what was the difference (exactly) in the amount of breath needed to talk versus what was needed to whisper?
On top of everything else, Celyna sometimes can't help but speak her mind. Most of the time, she bites her tongue, but every once in a while a little pearl comes out that in the book seem cute and endearing but in my life generally landed me in trouble.
Despite her remarkable maturity and her ability to stay alive even under the most dire of circumstances, she continually downplays herself. With statements like “I'm too weak” and “I'm too small” her lack of esteem is staggering.
I've had to take several breaks while writing this character (perhaps this is why Heir Of Elendri has taken me so long to write?) because I would get so angry over everything. Writing a character like this forced me to take a long, hard look at myself and the decisions I made. In many ways, I had to give myself therapy so I could analyze how I got from that scared little girl whom no one loved into a young woman capable of loving herself.
And, to make things all the more complicated, getting Xiuhcoatl's approval all but ruins her. She stops needing anyone else's approval, but Xiuhcoatl's advice is self-serving and destructive. His keen ability to lie and manipulate the people around him is especially effective on Celyna, who rarely (if ever) questions him. In a weird way, this is a lot like the relationship I had with my mother. She was much more interested in how she looked while raising a kid than she was in raising me. But more on that later.
Bad, self-serving advice by a parental figure accompanied by a low self-esteen led Celyna down a dark path. One that almost destroys her. She becomes nearly as ruthless as Xiuhcoatl himself – believing that the only way to solve a problem is to wipe it from existence, just as Xiuhcoatl would. This is where I was several years before starting to write Heir Of Elendri.
Well, minus the killing.
I was jaded and cynical, and I was friendless. The best way to deal with a problem, in my mind, was to just stop seeing the person who was part of the problem. Avoidance on a massive scale.
But, remember what I said. It almost destroyed Celyna.
You see, Celyna is smart. And she's also sweet, kind, and honest. Three things that Xiuhcoatl had expected to be able to render obsolete, but instead he only managed to repress them. And these are the very qualities that help her to befriend people like Zedekiah, Tryston, and Ladeliah. And thanks to these friendships, you get to watch Celyna grow up from the narrow-minded, ruthless shell that Xiuhcoatl had been using and into a beautiful mind strong enough to stand up to Xiuhcoatl himself.
It took a lot for me to build up the courage to stand up to my mother, and thankfully I had a lot of friends who gave me the strength to do it. Friends who saw something in me that neither she nor I saw: worthiness. I was worthy of love even if she didn't think so. Even after all the bad decisions that I had made and the things that I regretted, I was worthy. And when she refused to accept that, I was also strong enough to remove the one person from my life that was holding me back more than anyone else: her.
Xiuhcoatl always knew that the fate of Elendri rested in his ability to teach Celyna to use magic. And he was right. He just didn't realize that by teaching her magic he would be handing her the tools to determine that fate herself.