The written word is how Suzi likes to be heard. She aspires to inspire those who read her work. Suzi has independently published her late father’s biography, Fighting Spirit, and is awaiting the release of her debut picture book, My Daddy is Different.
Three of her stories also appeared in the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection Vol. 2.
She lives in Bunbury, Western Australia, with her husband, daughter, and two little dogs with big attitudes.
What is My Daddy is Different about?
My Daddy is Different is a gentle book about a difficult subject – mental illness. The story is told through the eyes of a young boy who is struggling to understand and accept his father’s mental illness.
Is there a particular theme in your story?
Aside from the obvious theme of mental illness, the story also deals with family relationships, suffering and then acceptance. My main wish is that children who have a loved one suffering from a mental illness will find hope within this book. That these themes will resonate with them and help them feel less alone and able to deal with their circumstance. And for children who are fortunate enough not to be affected by mental illness, that they will develop an awareness of this issue and help them to become empathetic to those around them who may be struggling.
Was there an inspiration for your story?
This book was inspired by personal experience. My Dad suffered from Schizophrenia and when I was about eight years old he had a massive relapse and the world as I knew it changed dramatically. His illness had a huge impact on not only him but also our whole family. That experience has stayed with me and I thought it was time I used our tumultuous journey to help others.
What is the story behind the story?
When I was growing up, struggling to understand why my Dad was ‘different’ and fighting feelings of shame, anger, misunderstanding and dislike towards my Dad, I could have benefited from a book like this. Back then, mental illness was not openly discussed and so I spent a lot of my childhood feeling alone. I have often thought about how things could have been if only we had more information and were able to talk about what was happening.
In the book, the boy comes to some kind of acceptance and the love between them is restored. In real life, this didn’t happen to Dad and I for a long time. So, this story portrays the power of talking openly, of replacing stigma with facts.
For me, this book is deeply personal; it’s from the heart and comes from a vulnerable place. Sadly, Dad is no longer with me but I know he would be extremely proud to see our story being used in a positive way.
What kind of research did you do to write this story?
As this book came from personal experience, all I had to do was summon my inner child and all those feelings came flooding back. All the emotions that the child goes through in the story were my emotions and they transferred easily onto the page.
The research came after the story was written – finding relevant help lines to list in the back of the book, researching mental health in more detail and lots of Google searches to find places where my book could be used as a resource. I plan to create a workshop for My Daddy is Different and take it to schools so there will be more research to come, I’m sure!
Do you have any tips for people wanting to write for children?
I’m still fairly new when it comes to writing for children but I believe that the children of today are ready to hear the big issues. They are resilient and can understand more than we give them credit for. So, if there is something that has impacted you, chances are there are children going through the same. Of course, it needs to be in child-friendly language and appropriate to their age level, but don’t be afraid to tackle subjects that were once considered off-limits. It is from this exposure that we equip children to grow into resilient, empathetic and well-rounded human beings, and what better way to do this than through the wonder of picture books!
To read more about Suzi visit her website. You can also read more about the history behind this story here.
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