15 Mar 2015

Susan Tarr: Review of “Phenomena” and author Interview

10 Comments Book Reviews, News

Phenomena_3D “PHENOMENA: The Lost and Forgotten Children” by Susan Tarr is an amazing piece of fraction (fiction mixed with facts), the story of Malcolm, an inmate of a mental asylum in New Zealand in the 1940s and 1950s.
Telling his story is telling the history of mental disease, its perception in society and its medical treatment. The author has not only dived deep into the institution and its history, she has also dared an attempt to look into Malcolm’s head and his perception of it. We live with him and hear him describe how life at the various episodes of his disease and its treatment was for him.
Much of the world is seen from his perspective which makes the story all the more powerful, esp. knowing that much of this has happened for real. Seacliff nurses
We all have seen a change of terminology, from lunatic asylum to mental health – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Phenomena is an important work to mark the changing times, to remind us how far we have come and of how an individual’s life can and has panned out through those changes.
It is heart breaking and heart warming at the same time. An ambitious and accomplished novel that is well worth reading.

Miranda Bay book signing Morrinsville

Interview with Susan Tarr:

How did you come to writing?

I’ve always been a dreamer.

How did you come up with your stories?

            I think the stories came up with me.

You have created great characters. Which one is your favorite?

            Malcolm! He is my reluctant hero from PHENOMENA. He epitomized the people in those days in those circumstances. He even managed wry humor. Seacliff baths

Are you like any of the characters (and how so)? 

In MIRANDA BAY I am both Miranda and Pansy. Introvert and extrovert. Impulsive and deliberate. Exuberant and quiet.

Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?

I start with a general outline, and then it grows from there.

Members of my family and work mates plied me with historical facts based on New Zealand mental health and hospitals of the day. So along with Malcolm’s own words, PHENOMENA grew.

 For MIRANDA BAY, I wrote from diaries I had kept during that difficult time. Miranda bay front cover THUNDERCLAPtwitter

For JACK just an ordinary dog in the dog house, I wrote from diaries I wrote on his behalf for his mum and dad. Jack was a dog, but he had a valid opinion on most stuff.

What is your main reason for writing?

            Beats paying a psychiatrist! JACK's cover and back cover

I’ve read three of your books so far. What is the idea behind your work?

            I write how life is, and sometimes it’s not kind. But we do manage to survive. Well, mostly, we do. That’s what I write about. Life. The good and the bad.

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

            Becoming so tired that I cannot get the ideas from my head to my keyboard.

How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?

            Hmmm, that is the eternal question. I fear I don’t do either justice. But I set aside a couple of hours each day for my writing. Sometimes I get caught up in the promotional side of things and that eats up my time. To offset that, we’ve just set up a web page.

What do you do when you don’t write?

Gardening. I hate gardening. I hate mess even more.

Tell us one odd thing about you and one really mundane thing.

I’m reserved. And yet I accept offers to speak publicly.

Mundane? I’m a homebody. I don’t like people popping in to visit without preparing me first. I don’t like surprises. BUT I tandem dived from 10,000ft and sailed to Kenya in a 28ft yacht. Crazy mix of personalities. A brave scardy cat.

What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?

            That there will always be more on the boil.

Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?

            When my first book was published, MIRANDA BAY, I handed it over to the professionals and took my hands off. I thought that was what you did. However, once I saw their published version of it, in hardback, I was so embarrassed. I’ve not done that again!

How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?

            Harrowing! I have struggled so much and seem to have learned a lot. But come tomorrow, I’ll probably have forgotten what I learned last week.

What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favourite thing? 

            Editing and proofreading my final draft, and working on other author’s works. Love it all.

What is your advice to new writers?seacliffbuilding wide thunderclap

            Don’t rush into publishing. Stay with it, be strong, and edit edit edit. And when your family and friends say it’s perfect, go edit some more. It’s best to have an independent Beta Reader. Then hire yourself a good editor and proofreader. If you miss out the vital steps it may show in your published copy.

Who are your favourite independent writers?

Jana Petken, Christoph Fischer, Khalid Muhammad and many more. Jackie Weger. Gosh, this list could go on forever. Indie Writers are blossoming with some very fine writing.

Who are your favourite authors?

            Joseph Heller, John Steinbeck, Louis de Bernieres, Paul Coelho, Jojo Moyes and many many more.

What are your favourite books?

            God Knows’ by Joseph Heller

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ by Louis de Bernieres

 and anything by Steinbeck and Coelho

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?

(ebook) Blood Money by Anthony Hulse

What makes you laugh?

            People who do dumb things, like idiot criminals who bungle their own plans.

What (not who) would you like to take to a lonely island?

            My PC and ereader.

Who would you like to invite for dinner?

            My husband and daughter.

Hot or cold?

            Preferably hot.

Salty or sweet?

            Both, I like salted popcorn dusted with icing sugar. I need to alternate. As soon as I finish with a sweet, I am craving salty. And vice versa.

What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality?

They would probably say I am colourful and unpredictable, and a wee bit brave.


What would you chose as those qualities?

Honesty and fairness. Fun. Support.

Tell us about your other books?

  When the ROLLER COASTER stops is my new title. It is a sparkling romance about a determined young woman, Bethany, who operates in overdrive. It’s about her courage in the face of a medical minefield. She has recently returned from a European holiday with what she thinks is a runny gut. When she eventually seeks medical advice, she is not at all convinced of the diagnosis of Colorectal bowel cancer; she is too young: she has too much life to live: she is financially secure and loves her job, almost as much as she loves her friends. Besides, bowel cancer is – well, so not nice.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

            ‘Come away with me’, by Norah Jones. This seems to be my writing song. And I must explain that I don’t actually have it playing. I write in total silence, with just the first line running through my mind.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

            A bad review or rating always stings.

 Miranda Bay book signing Morrinsville

Webpage: http://susan-tarr-author.webnode.com/

Blog: http://susan-tarr-author.webnode.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/susanmtarr

Facebook: http://goo.gl/dToB4X

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/100917657872962082549/posts

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Tarr/e/B00I0I3M9U/

BookLife: http://booklife.com/profile/SusanTarr

TSU: https://www.tsu.co/SusanTarr

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7154859.Susan_Tarr

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/susantarr330/

written by
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany in 1970 as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ is his first published work. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

10 Responses to “Susan Tarr: Review of “Phenomena” and author Interview”

  1. KJD says:

    Great interview – I learned loads.
    Thanks, guys.

  2. Pete Barber says:

    What an interesting post. Phenomena sounds very intriguing. I loved how Susan said, “I think the she stories came up with me.” That’s so true.

  3. Jenny Harper says:

    Don’t those old photos just strike your heart through with shards of ice? I’m shivering! Great post, thank you.

  4. Jackie Weger says:

    Wow! Best line is writing saves on psychiatric fees. Love it , because I often think I suffer from a multiple personality disorder when characters start plaguing me to get on page.
    Christopher and Susan ~ nicely done. Enjoyed this interview immensely.
    Best to you and yours.

  5. Dale Furse says:

    Terrific interview and thanks for letting us know more about Phenomena. I’m looking forward to reading it. 🙂

    Dale Furse

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