The hills and slopes at Crystal Cove are dotted with native grassland, sweet clover, sage, and Maritime Chaparral. As rolling surf slaps at the sand, as the occasional sailboat heads out to sea, I bring writer Dawn Torrens here because she loves the outdoors as much as I do. I figure it’s a great spot for us to get to know each other better while we hike the trails and enjoy the sunny day.
One of the things that caught my attention early on about you, Dawn, is that you wrote your autobiography in Amelia’s Story. Writing any book is no easy task. Writing about something so personal has got to be even more difficult. How hard was it to go back in your mind to those days and experience all that over again to capture what happened? I’m not sure I could do it.
This was not an easy book for me to write at all. I had to re-visit some of the places I lived as a child, the large institutions which served as temporary homes. This was so emotional and took me on an incredible journey. While writing my story I was reminded of just how far I have come. Going back to those places as an adult had a profound effect on me and one that will remain with me forever. I was reminded of just how resilient children are and I was. I became that little girl again for a while and I wanted to hug her and tell her everything will be okay.
I can relate to that. But it had to be somewhat cathartic to finally let go and write about your childhood. Have you ever considered speaking to groups of adults who’ve had a similar difficult journey in the system to maybe help them in some way?
Yes it was cathartic; I am at peace in my life now and remain ever determined! I believe that the obstacles placed before us in life and how we deal with those obstacles help to shape the person we eventually become. It’s funny you should mention speaking in groups, as this is something I am hoping to do through one of my children’s charities. People need hope, and when their hope has been taken away and they have all but given up on themselves they need to believe that no matter how bad things get, where you come from or what you have been through, you can achieve, you can succeed and you can cultivate a great life for yourself.
I know you’re a mum. How did writing about what happened to you as a child change your attitude toward the whole motherhood experience?
Yes, I am a mother to my beautiful four-year-old princess! From the moment she came into this world I have showered her with all the love that I have. She is my world and inspires all that I do. Writing my story for her made me quite emotional to say the least. I would look at her while she was playing and wonder at a parent who could ill treat their child, they are so vulnerable and depend on us parents for everything, love, care, nurture and so much more. I think it’s made me more protective of her. Her happiness is paramount to me.
You’ve said your daughter comes first, but even mommies need a break. Where do you go when you need to get away to recharge? And why do you pick that particular spot or that activity?
Lol! I love to go running or power walking, so when I need to recharge or take a break I run or walk! This is great for the mind, it de-clutters my over active head and helps me to relax. I also love to read while soaking in a lovely hot bath…
Same here. On that note, when you do get back to work, I’m curious as to what kind of environment you need when you write? I ask this because everyone seems to say the same thing. They need complete solitude. I admit, I’m baffled at this because I don’t have that luxury. And since you have a young daughter, what is your writing environment like?
Like you, Vickie, I don’t really have that luxury! With a very energetic four-year-old running around the house and wanting my complete attention during her waking hours, my writing environment can be noisy at times. So I wait until I read her bed-time story and she is fast asleep and then it’s my time and I can write in relative peace. Always late at night, often burning the candle at both ends so to speak!
Noisy? Yesssss! I knew I’d finally ask that question and learn someone else writes in chaos! What did you do before you opened that laptop and started writing? And how were you able to suppress that urge to create before you discovered an outlet?
I have always been a writer, just not a published one. I have been writing a long time, I have been writing poetry since I was around 12 years old and then graduated to short stories. I just did nothing with them for a long time. Working full-time in accounts and very long hours to enhance my career took precedence for a long time. Then I got married and had my little girl and became a full-time mother three years ago, this made it possible for me to put some time aside to finally start writing full-time. Since then I have written five books three of which are published, the forth one due for release this month and my fifth one currently undergoing a re-write!
Wow! Five books. Readers will have something new from you very soon then. Do you pay attention to negative reviews or criticism at all?
In the beginning, I did, a bad review would completely ruin my day! I would really take it to heart. But like anything else in life I eventually accepted them and took what positives I could from them. Sometimes even learning from constructive bad reviews. However, there are people out there who seem to take great pleasure in completely trashing an author with an almost personal attack? These are not constructive reviews and you cannot take anything from them.
On the flip side of that, how do you handle praise when people gush over your work?
I have had so many wonderful messages from people all over the world who have praised my books and said that I have inspired them in some way. Even helping a few people to change the course of their own life. I find this truly incredible and so humbling. Vickie, I have my feet firmly planted on the ground and always feel humbled when someone praises me… I never take it for granted because my journey through life has been a long and hard one.
Who influenced you the most to take that fire in the belly and become a writer?
This is a difficult one!! Mmm, “PAUSE” okay I’m back! I had to really think hard about this question because if I am really honest, my twelve year old self inspired me. The determined girl full of dreams and hope for her future while living in a chaotic and violent world has to be my biggest inspiration! I was also inspired by many books I had read too. Ann Frank’s diary for one, this story was incredible and remained with me forever. As a child I was able to transport myself anywhere in the world through a book. This for me was my savior and instilled a love for books and writing.
I, too, was able to transport myself through a book and get through difficult times. If you had a magic wand, what’s the one thing you would change about your life now, at present, not the past, but right now, if you could?
Oh good question! Honestly, I am in such a happy place right now, I have my daughter, a supportive husband and I am writing… No, there is nothing I would change right now!
Did you always have the confidence to put your work out there for the public, or did it build slowly over time? I was petrified in the beginning Vickie!
I was so nervous how the public would respond to my book. I never imagined that it would do as well as it has in a million years. My confidence has since built up over time and through knowledge and experience. I have a book due for release next week and already I am feeling a tad nervous. Because you never know how your work that you have spent endless late nights working on is going to be received.
If you could sit down with one author and ask one question, which author would it be and what would you ask?
Oh wow, there are so many traditionally published and indie authors I would love to have a one to one with. Traditionally published author if he were alive today would be the great, “Charles Dickens” I would ask him what was it like growing up in London during his time? Indie author Kevin Swarbrick would be my next choice as his true story from a man’s perspective about love was intriguing, raw and honest. I would ask him – how has your experience with love changed you as a person?
Actually Kevin will be on the blog soon and I asked him that very question. So check back here for Kevin’s answer. Dawn, are you ever tempted to write outside the genre you’re best known for?
Yes, and I have! My upcoming release is a war/romance novel and a debut for me in this genre.
A romance novel? Perfect. What do you do to quiet those voices inside your head? I know writing is the outlet, but do you talk it out, do you act out any part of the stories, do you go over a scene that’s troubling you with another person you trust to listen?
Oh yes, and I’m sure I bore everyone I know silly! My voices, ideas are always floating about in my head, they never go away. Sometimes I talk to myself when alone to hear how something will sound. Or I will use my friends and family as sounding boards.
That’s why I ask the question because I use my hubby as a sounding board and sometimes we even act out the scene, especially if I’m having difficulty with it. So tell us about the romance novel if you can.
The war/romance novel is called Broken Wings due for release in March. I am very excited about this story, it’s intense, emotional, tragic and a true love story. I have already started writing my second romance novel called Distance and Time.
Hear that people, Broken Wings is out today!!! Then we look forward to Distance and Time not far behind that. One last question and we’re done. Where can people find your books online? Get in touch with you?
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Vickie for inviting me here today! It was a great honour.
It’s my been pleasure, Dawn. Please come back any time. Now let’s go down to the little beach cafe for lunch!