This month we catch up with Differently Normal kiwi author, Tammy Robinson, to get a better idea as to who she is and what gets her ticking. Enjoy!
DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, because sometimes it takes letting someone else in to discover who you really are…
For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her sister with autism happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy’s mind is falling in love. Some things, she’s about to learn, are outside of our control. Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.
How long did the process of writing Differently Normal take? From pen to paper through to the hard copy product…
It took about six months in the end, although I had a brief hiatus of about a month as I had a new-born baby boy in the house and writing time was scarce!
Differently Normal is from the point of view of both Maddy and Albert, did you find it hard to get into the mind of a young male?
Strangely, not at all! It’s not the first time I’ve done it (I also wrote from a male POV in my first book, Charlie and Pearl) and that had gone done well with readers which gave me confidence.
Where do you go to write?
At the moment, we are living in a small farmhouse in the Waikato. Because we moved from a larger house in Rotorua, there’s barely room for all of our furniture etc, so a lot is stored in the shed and some we’ve had to give away. In Rotorua, I finally had my own little writing room that I had beautifully decorated to be serene and inspirational. Here, I am sharing space in my one year old son’s bedroom. There is his cot, the breastfeeding rocker, his drawers and toys and then my desk crammed in a corner. It’s not ideal, but it does the job for now. The lifestyle here is more relaxed and the children are thriving, so the move has been a good one.
In places, Differently Normal is incredibly heartbreaking, and in others we laughed out loud from the witty dialogue – do you find it easier to write the emotional scenes or the funny? How easy is it to weave such different emotions together?
I’m so lucky that it all, especially dialogue, just comes really naturally, as if I am chatting with friends or eavesdropping on a conversation. The dialogue is easier to write then the emotional scenes because it just flows out without much thought required. Whereas with the emotional scenes I need to stop and put myself in the characters situation and really pull out the feelings I have inside.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write. Don’t procrastinate, thinking you’ll get around to it one of these days. Just do it. Now. Sit down in front of the TV at night if that’s what works for you and just start writing. Don’t worry about making it perfect or polishing it up, just get the story out. Then you can work on fine tuning it. If writing is what you really love to do, then just do it. And don’t give up on your dreams. I spent six years self-publishing, dreaming of the day I would walk into the big bookshops and see my book on the shelf, and it came true.
Maddy’s sister Bee is autistic and has epilepsy, did you know much about this before you started writing about her? How much research did you have to do?
I have a friend in the UK whose daughter, Rachel, is autistic, so I have had a few years of listening to her stories and watching videos of her. When I came to write Maddy and Albert’s story and knew Maddy was going to be a young carer, I decided to base the character on Rachel as she really is such a wonderful, amazing young woman, and the world should know more about her and others like her. There is so much misunderstanding about autism, so if the book helps someone understand a little better than that’s wonderful. I had to research the characters other medical conditions, including watching Grand Mal fits on you tube which was harrowing.
How do you unwind and what do you do to relax?
I write, believe it or not. For me, writing is relaxing. I love doing it, and I get quite irritable after a while if I haven’t had any writing time. I also love to get outside in nature, watch sunsets, (preferable to sunrises, although with an early rising son I’ve seen a fair few of those), read magazines, and am partial to the odd glass of wine. I miss the beach and the ocean. I’ve spent a few years living either on or near one, and I find them deeply therapeutic. I don’t get there nearly as often as I’d like.
If you didn’t write, what would you be doing?
Same as what I’m doing now, raising three children. My oldest daughter just started school, then I have a three-year-old daughter and my son, who is one. They keep me pretty busy!
We’re not surprised you’re busy! Speaking of kids, what was your favourite childhood book?
I read prolifically from a very young age, anywhere, anytime, even when I wasn’t supposed to be reading, like in class! I can remember falling in love with the Chronicles of Narnia books. They really fired up my imagination. I was the kind of girl who would explore the woodlands and paddocks behind our house and pretend I was in a magical land with magical creatures.
What book has had the biggest impact on you?
That’s a really tough one for me to answer. I have a few books that I have read over and over because of the way they make me feel or how they inspire me. Books I will never part with and ones that if I see them in a charity shop, I buy them again even though I already own a copy, because I love them that much. But if I have to pick one book because of specific impact, I would say it’s a book called Ask the Universe, by Michael Samuels. On the recommendation of a cousin who uses the Law of Attraction (and runs a very successful kitchen design and build business) I read the book at the beginning of last year. I followed its methods and a few months later, I got my book deal. You do the maths.