..................A STORY THAT NEEDS TO BE TOLD..............
Since becoming a member of Night Reading I have come across many amazing people. Amongst them is Stacey Danson. I originally met Stacey when she reviewed my book the Eye of Erasmus.
T.L Tyson interviewed Stacey and below is the transcript. This is not a story for the feint hearted I can assure you. I shed a tear or more when I read the first chapter on Night Reading.
I make no excuse for inserting the complete interview.... This story needs to be told.
Tonight I can go to bed and sleep safe in the knowledge that i've done my bit to help everyone in this horrendous situation.
----------------------- T.L.Tyson writes -----------------------------
A Gut-Wrenching Story That Commands Attention
Have you ever had a book come along, kick you in the gut, and refuse to be ignored? Stacey Danson, an Australian author, has written one of those books. The truly amazing part of her story is that the words she’s written are true. First and foremost, I need to deliver a warning in regards to Stacey’s novel, Empty Chairs. This book is a shocking account of one woman’s struggle through a life that is unfair, cruel and traumatizing. It contains graphic scenes of abuse—sexual, physical and mental—and hits us over the head with horrible things we’d like to pretend don’t exist in the world.
I am thrilled to have been able to interview, Stacey. Below are her frank responses to the questions I had in regards to her novel and her decision to write such a heart breaking piece.
Q. Stacey, I am so pleased you have agreed to answer some questions I have in regards to your new work. At this point in time, I have had the privilege of reading a sample of your fiction work and, more importantly, your biography. Have you always wanted to write?
Thanks for taking the interest, and the time, T.L. Wanting to write and believing myself capable of writing were two very different things. I wanted to say something about a world of different things. I had no idea how to go about it.
Q. Today I am going to ask you some question about your new work which is a biography called Empty Chairs. This is a graphic account of a very violent past which includes child abuse, emotional and physical abuse, and a rather horrifying account of sexual abuse through the eyes of a little girl. When did you decide to write about the traumatic experiences you lived through?
I made a promise to a friend of mine. She was another street kid, someone who I knew back then and remained friends with for 40 years. I promised her that one day I would tell it, my story and the story of a whole group of us that clung together back then.
She died last year. Suicide. I hadn’t kept my promise to her. I’m keeping it now.
Q. I’m positive your friend would be proud of what you’re doing. I imagine writing the events of your past down are extremely painful. What was the first step you took in documenting what happened as you were growing up?
The first step, I got blind stinking drunk. I tried writing in that condition. Hopeless, I was avoiding it, big time. So I sat and thought about it. I forced myself to go back there. I forced myself to remember the sounds, smells and the pain. I picked up a pen and started to write it. When I couldn’t continue, I stopped, took a break outside where I could breathe in the clean air, and came back and started again. It took me a couple of weeks to even complete chapter 1.
Q. Here are a few words of how you describe this work: This is no Cinderella story. No-one comes in on a white charger to rescue the child and carry her off to happy-ever-after land . How important is it to you that your readers know no one swooped in and saved you?
Oh, that’s hugely important. I don’t ever want people to think that this is some horrible fairytale that happened but is all good because the good guy comes in and saves everybody and slays the dragon. People need to understand that for many of us, there simply was no good guy. No rescue. We did it, and if…if we got through it was because of ourselves, and our desire to make it through.
Q. The idea that you decided to make it through really makes the story have a stronger impact, I am glad you clarified that with me. Now, the name of your book really piques my curiosity. Can you explain to me why you named it Empty Chairs?
‘Empty Chairs’ Yeah, I guess it’s a strange title. When I first thought about writing this, I remembered just how many people I had known in my life, so many people who would sit on a chair and talk, laugh, cry…or just sit. They are gone, the chairs remain. Empty. My world is full of empty chairs. Do you remember the Don McClean song? He sings of Empty chairs. That stuck with me.
Q. I do remember the song. I don’t think the lyric, “empty clothes that drape and fall on empty chairs” will ever hold the same meaning after reading your story. Although Empty Chairs is currently unfinished, you have been offered a publishing contract from Night Publishing. What does a publishing contract mean for you and your story?
I am still in shock I guess. The publishing contract came out of left field. What does it mean in terms of me and my story? Only time will tell T.L. I really don’t know. I hope it means that people will read my book; people that would never had the opportunity to do so without the contract. The publishers are taking a chance on an unknown because they believe in what I am writing about. I will always be grateful to them for taking that chance.
Q. Well, I think it is amazing and I think Night Publishing has their act together. I am happy they could see this tough rock as the gem that it is. In regards to publishing, with such an intense subject matter, I wouldn’t think this book would be targeted towards the general public, but it looks as though that’s exactly who you are aiming it towards. Tell me, who you are trying to reach with this? Who is this book written for?
The general public is Exactly who I am targeting. The moms and dads, teachers, friends, neighbors, storekeepers; the public. The people who walk past these kids and adults day in day out and avoid eye contact. The ones that shut their windows against the sound of a child screaming with a remark of “They’re at it again.” The people whose instincts are screaming at them , ‘Something’s wrong’ and answer those instincts with “But what can I do…I can’t change it!” Oh yeah, it’s these people that I want and need to read this book. Because they CAN do something. Sorry, I get more than a little…enthusiastic on the subject. The ‘what ifs’, and ‘if onlys’ resound in the lives of anyone that has lived through abuse of this nature.
Q. To be honest, after reading the first chapter, I was completely broken hearted. There were so many feelings I had, simply by reading it, and the most prominent was anger. This is going to be a piece of work that evokes a lot of emotion in the reader. What are you hoping your readers draw from this work?
Primarily? Knowledge. Understanding, and yes, anger. I want them to get angry, very angry. Angry enough to ask the question, “What can I do?” Angry enough to shake the damned apathy. Angry enough to pick up a telephone. Write a letter. Ask some damned questions. Who knows, T.L? Maybe just one little kid, just one, won’t have to spend another day in hell, because somebody out there got angry enough to do something.
Q. Through everything I have read about Empty Chairs there seems to be one very strong message. Action. It is clear in your last answer: you want people to help children who are being abused and not to sit on the sidelines. Do you have any suggestions of what they can do if they know a child is being abused? Any organizations that can help? Or people they can contact?
I am so delighted that ACTION shines through in what I’m trying to say. Nearly every city in every country has a list of Agencies that are A} easy to contact. B} Investigate a concern rapidly, and with thoroughness. The local Hospitals can put you in touch with case workers. The police department can do the same. Any Doctor or health care worker will be aware of an organization that deals with this sort of complaint. I am in Australia. We have Dept of child services. Reporting of a suspect injury to this dept by Health care workers is mandatory.
People can contact their Church Pastor or Priest. One telephone call is all it takes to set the wheels in motion.
Let me add, there will be times when people are falsely accused or their actions are called into question by others that have a whole different agenda. This is a fact of life. I agree it’s a sad thing. However, the numbers of legitimate questions raised and actions taken far outweigh the few people that are accused without justification.
Q. I really have to commend your strength for writing your story down. There are many people out there who’ve had to deal with abusive parents and, whether it is sexual, emotional or physical, many wouldn’t be able to do what you have done, confront their pasts. What would you like to say to adults who have been through similar abuse such as yours and are having a hard time living with it?
I have no right to tell any other human being how to deal with their hell. I can only tell them that they don’t have to stay trapped in it. That there is a life after abuse. So many adults have lived through it, the numbers are frightening. You don’t ever forget it.
But you do not and must not re-live it by sabotaging yourself every single day with the ‘Oh well what can they expect, I was abused as a child.” That’s bullshit. That is an excuse. Sure you’re damaged, and yes it was hell, but you are alive. You are here and now. DO SOMETHING. Get help, you never need to do it alone. You are not doing yourself any favours by using your past to infect your future.
That’s a cop out. That’s easy street people. You didn’t make it through till 2010 just to sit back and say, I CAN’T. You did. You are right here right now. You have already survived it. Now get on with living beyond it. You CAN do this.
Q. You have said, 'Survival is and was never enough for me. I wanted, and still want, more than merely surviving my life.' This is a very powerful statement, and one that is oddly beautiful. You are not the abuse you suffered, but you cannot deny that it shaped you into who you are. Could you further explain what survival means to you and what you mean by wanting more than ‘surviving my life’?
I hate the word SURVIVOR. If I had somehow miraculously survived a plane crash. Would I then be proud to say, “My life is shit, but hey, it’s all good; people understand because, after all, I survived a plane crash.”
Survival of a traumatic event is, in my opinion, partly luck. Sitting in the right seat on that doomed plane. Missing a lift in a car that crashes. Pure luck of the draw. Part luck, part decision making.
Sure, my past shaped my view of the world to some extent. It shaped the choices I made to a point. Maybe I just got luckier than most. Maybe I recognized early on in my life that I could and would have something more, if not more then at the very least, different. Something better. Maybe it is just my damned pig-headed stubbornness. I have always…always believed that if I set my mind on something, if I dared allow myself to dream of better things, then I would move towards that dream. I have shelved many things that I deemed unattainable.
But I don’t believe a life that somebody is happy living is on the unattainable list.
Q. There is something to be said about ‘damned pig-headed stubbornness’ and I think you are better for it. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you all the success with Empty Chairs, I am positive it will reach many people and impact the lives of those who read it. My last question for you, Stacey, what is it you hope the publication of your book accomplishes?
Thanks T.L, I am so pleased to have taken part in this interview. As for what I hope publication will accomplish; it’s already begun. I would never have been airing this content on a public forum without the advent of the contract.
If one person, just one asks a question, then my hope is that the ‘Domino affect’ will come in to play. One child sleeping safe will be my reward.
Quote from TL Tyson
Night Publishing is the brave company that has picked Empty Chairs up to publish.
So there you have it.
If you regularly read my blogs you will know that i'm a bit naff with links but if you go to http://nightreading.ning.com you will find Stacey's book "Empty Chairs" on there.
You would have to be very cold hearted not to shed a tear or show some emotion.