An interview with author Tanya Savko
I'm pleased to share a wonderful book with you, Slip, by my blog and real-life friend, Tanya Savko, from Teen Autism. You could say it's a book about autism and the coming to terms with it. You could say it's a book about one family's transitions and transformations. You could say it's a book about the universal message that love heals. No matter what you say, it's a beautifully written book, by a beautiful woman with a beautiful story to tell.
1) Tell us about the actual writing of Slip, how long did it take you to write. How does a single mom with more than one job and more than one special needs child, find time to write?
I started writing Slip almost six years ago and finished the first draft within a year. I spent the next three years working on subsequent drafts and editing. It went through some changes! At times I was able to focus on it consistently, and other times I had to set it aside for a while, just depending on how full my life was at the moment. My usual writing time is at night, after my sons are in bed - if I'm not too exhausted by then!
2) Tell us why you decided to fictionalize your story, rather than writing straight memoir?
I chose fiction rather than memoir for a few reasons. Mostly, it's because I just love to write fiction. I love creating characters, getting to know them, and seeing how they develop. Although the main ideas of Slip are memoir-based, the characters often say and do things differently than their real-life counterparts did. And in that way, it was more cathartic for me to write a novel instead of a memoir.
3) Tell us about starting your own publishing company and self publishing. What made you decide to go that route, and what's your advice for writers out there looking to publish?
Whew! Starting my own publishing company was even more of a labor of love than writing the book itself! It's considerably more involved than having Lulu or some other company publish your book, which is actually what I would recommend to anyone wanting to self-publish. Don't do it the hard way like I did! I don't regret it, though, because I had my reasons for doing it that way - namely, because I wanted to start my own publishing company. It had been a childhood dream of mine to publish books, and not just my own (eventually I would like to publish the work of other people). Another motivating factor was that I had been working with another company, and the typesetting job they did was terrible. But starting your own publishing company is much more labor-intensive (not to mention a lot more expensive). So if you're not driven to start your own publishing company, my advice would be to self-publish via Lulu or something similar.
4) In the book Andrew, the father, has a four-year relationship with a woman named Brooke. We love and hate Brooke, we love that she loves Andrews kids, we hate her drinking and drugging and violent temper. Did you have a "Brooke" in your life? If so, did you find it as hard to end the relationship as Andrew did? Why or why not?
Interestingly, Brooke is probably the least fictionalized character in the book. There was definitely a "male Brooke" in my life. It was very difficult to end the relationship, and I dragged it out much longer than I should have. I think it was just during a really vulnerable point in my life - a lot of rationalizing went on. You come out of a relationship like that feeling chaotic and shell shocked, very unsure of yourself. It was easier for me to write about it in fictional form - happening to someone else - than memoir.
5) The Andrew character recovers from depression and OCD, are these issues you've dealt with, and do you think you can ever fully recover, or is it a matter of them going from debilitating to manageable?
Yes, I have been diagnosed with depression and OCD. Both have been present throughout my life in varying degrees; the worst was 12-13 years ago, during the time that my sons were toddlers. I was on medication for almost two years, and that helped immensely. I think, for me anyway, the most debilitating effects of those conditions were largely situational. I was completely isolated, caring for two toddlers with special needs, and in an unsupportive marriage. Several things coincided that helped me to get better: the medication, going back to work, and my sons being enrolled in therapy programs. These days, both my depression and OCD are much more manageable, although some milder symptoms remain with me.
6) You make the mother, Erica, a bartender with a family history of alcoholism. Do you think that was Erica's way of exerting control over alcohol in her life? If so, did it work?
With Erica, I tried to portray the effects of childhood abandonment in one's adult life, in which control issues are often present. I think it was a subconscious defense mechanism for her to exhert control over the alcohol in her life by being a bartender. In that sense, I think it did work for her, especially since she was the manager. She is controlling in other areas of her life as well; she has a hard time on the few occasions when she's not calling the shots.
7) Tell us more about the title of the book, and what advice you have for other "SLIPS?" (Singe, low-income parents.)
As for the title of the book, although the main reference is the acronym "single, low-income parent," there are several other references to the word "slip," such as "one slip in a small town and everyone knows" and asking how does a child "slip into autism." I had also thought of including a Freudian slip, but that probably would have been too much!
My advice to other "SLIPs" is to a) find emotional and physical support, whether it's in the form of extended family, friends, church, or respite care, b) find financial support in the form of government programs - they are there for a reason, and c) find spiritual and mental support, by taking small steps to achieve your dreams and goals, taking care of yourself, exercising, and meditating.
8) Now it's your turn, Tanya - what do you want us to know about this book that I have not asked yet?
For years now, we've been saddled with statistics about autism and the divorce rate. I wanted to write a story that clearly illustrates that the link isn't always there, that so many other factors can contribute to a divorce, even when autism is present. Yes, it puts stress on a marriage, undeniably so. But autism should not be a marriage's scapegoat. With Slip, I wanted to look at the underlying causes, how complicated and intertwined they are, instead of just accepting the statistic as the ground rule.
To order your copy of Slip, click here.