Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Tabitha Suzuma Interview
I loved Tabitha's Forbidden so much I asked her if she would allow me to interview her. She was extremely nice, and let me ask her a few questions! To learn more about this fantastic author, and her other novels please visit her site here.
When did you know that you wanted to become a writer?
I was six years old when I declared to my mother I would become a writer when I grew up. Then I stuck a picture on the cover of an exercise book and started writing a story about a blind boy.
Who is the first person that gets to read your work?
My best friend.
Can you please tell us a little about your novel Forbidden?
Forbidden is a love story between sixteen-year-old Maya and seventeen-year-old Lochan. They are brother and sister.
What gave you the idea for Forbidden?
Consensual incest was a subject I had wanted to write about for a number of years. I kept rejecting the idea because I thought there was a good chance the subject matter would never get past the gatekeepers. I was only able to take the plunge once I had built up confidence in my writing ability through my previous four books. I was inspired by the desire to write a tragic love story. It came down to incest by a process of elimination. I wanted the book to be set in contemporary London and I needed the two teens in question to be old enough for their love for each other to be taken seriously. But I quickly realised that (fortunately) in modern-day Britain there are very few - if any - obstacles that could keep a couple in love apart. Cultural and religious difference maybe, but if the couple were determined enough to go against their families' wishes, they could always run away together. I needed something that would be condemned by everyone wherever they went - a relationship that could never be and moreover, was against the law.
Did you realize when you were writing it that it would be controversial?
Of course. I actually gave up on the book after writing the first few chapters because I believed that no-one would agree to publish a book for teens about consensual sibling incest. I was persuaded to keep going by my editor, however. But yes, the worry was there all along and the whole book was a battle between keeping the story as realistic as possible (i.e. not glossing over the sexual scenes) and writing a book that wouldn't be banned from every school and bookshop.
What kind of research did you do for this novel?
I got in touch with a wonderfully helpful woman at the Metropolitan Police who answered all my endless questions, both about the characters' legal positions and the details of what they go through at the end of the story. 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.
Did any of the characters grow and have a larger part than you had originally expected?
Yes. I suppose that thirteen-year-old Kit became a more important character than I had anticipated when planning the book. He became much more than just an annoying younger brother, I really began to feel for him as a person and I did not plan the crucial role he would play at in the denouement of the novel until I reached the end.
Which character was the hardest to write? The easiest?
They were all quite easy characters to write because they were all based on people I know - at least in part. Lochan was undoubtedly the most complex, the most unusual, the most emotional and the most intense. Then again, he was the character I identified with the most.
Is there anything you would want someone to know before picking up Forbidden?
Yes. That it's a book about consensual sibling incest. And there are a few explicit love scenes and so it is not a book for children, nor for the faint-of-heart!
Forbidden is quite dark. Do your other works have that same tone?
Yes. Most of my books revolve around mental illness or mental suffering because it is something I am very familiar with. Clinical depression is a condition I have lived with for most of my life and one which has come close to ending it. I guess I write about what I know, what fascinates me, and what I think is important, and all of these topics fall into at least one of those categories. The genius in A Note of Madness and its sequel A Voice in the Distance is Flynn, who is a musical prodigy, and his ‘genius’ was greatly influenced by my then teenage brother who is currently training to become a professional concert pianist. I am also fascinated by the link between mental illness and the artistic temperament. I studied psychology for a while, and one of my favourite books is Touched With Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison, which studies this link by exploring the lives of the many, many illustrious writers, musicians, composers and artists who suffered from some sort of mental illness.
The cover is great. Did you have any input? If not who designed it?
I didn't have much input into the cover of this one. It was designed by the artistic team at Random House UK.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about any of your books?
What is the last book you read and enjoyed?
We Need to Talk about Kevin, by Lionel Shriver