Tabitha Suzuma stunned me last year with her amazing read – ‘Forbidden’. I’m so appreciative to host her on my blog today to talk about the book as well as her other work. Please give her a warm welcome!
Q: Your novel ‘Forbidden‘ tackles a very controversial topic – incest. How did you prepare yourself to write it?
Most of the research I did was online. I also got in touch with a wonderfully helpful woman at the Metropolitan Police who answered all my endless questions. I was also very fortunate in that shortly after starting the book I caught two brilliantly-made television documentaries on the subject. I also found a couple of fascinating magazine articles about siblings who’d had consensual incestuous relationships during their teens.
Q: How have the responses been from readers? Are there more positive or negative reviews?
So far (touch wood) the responses from readers have all been overwhelmingly positive. Some people have commented that they don’t want to even try reading the book because of its subject matter, and that’s fine. But I haven’t received a single negative review yet which has been wonderful! I have over 200 reviews on Goodreads and they have all been fantastic. So I’m very relieved!
Q: How do you try to ‘sell’ Forbidden to people that are a bit hesitant to read something focusing on such a taboo topic?
For people who reject the book outright because without actually reading it, then of course that’s their choice. I wouldn’t try to encourage them to read it. To others I would simply say, give it a go. If it’s not for you, you can always put it down. However, most readers have said they started reading the book out of curiosity, fully expecting to hate it or find it disgusting, but to their amazement have ended up loving it. So if readers are open-minded enough to give it a go, then I’m sure they will be surprised.
Q: What has been the most rewarding experience for you being a published author? Are there any particular messages or experiences shared with readers that have really touched you?
It’s hard to pick just one! Getting the phone call from the editor at Random House to say that after the standard three or so departmental meetings, by very first book, ‘A Note of Madness‘, had been accepted for publication, was one. That was just incredible. Receiving it and reading it in book form was another.
My first ‘fanmail’ had me in tears and meeting readers at an event is overwhelming and very moving – all these people I have never met, coming up to me and saying how much they enjoy my books! But if I’m completely honest, I think the highlight of my seven years as an author was winning the Young Mind’s Award for my second book ‘From Where I Stand‘, in 2008.
It was an award I’d dreamed of being nominated for before my first book was even published! This award in particular is so special to me because Young Minds is a charity that supports children and teenagers with mental health problems. I have struggled with severe clinical depression all my life and it was the illness which encouraged me and gave me some of the tools with which to write in the first place. Tools like the experience of very powerful emotions – sometimes of elation but often of despair. So receiving that particular award was really a dream come true, especially as it was judged by the readers themselves.
I am so lucky in that I receive so many messages from readers that it’s hard to keep up with them all! The messages that touch me the most are ones from readers who say that their lives have been in some way positively affected by one of my books. A Note of Madness and ‘A Voice in the Distance’ are both about this musical genius who suffers from bipolar disorder (aka manic-depression) and there is an article on my website about my own lifelong struggle with depression.
It’s just incredible when I receive messages from readers who also suffer from depression or something similar and who tell me that my books have helped them – either by making them realise they are not alone or sometimes by encouraging them to take the first step in seeking help and treatment. Some readers have even written to say they didn’t realise why they felt a certain way until they read my books. But then they recognised they had many of the same symptoms as the main character and so went to their doctor and were diagnosed and had begun treatment. I have also received some amazing messages from readers of Forbidden, saying that the book had actually changed their life! As an author, I don’t think you can ask for much more than that.
Q: And finally, what can we expect to see from you in the future? Can you tell us anything about your next book?
The book I am currently working on is called ‘A Time to Die’. Again, this one is for mature teenagers who aren’t afraid of hard-hitting books. It deals with a topic that some people may also find controversial: euthanasia. It is due out in 2012.