Author interview – Carollyne Haynes
Born in Devon, England, Carollyne has been playing with words in one form or another all her life. From editorial assistant on London’s famous Fleet Street, to her first full length novel entitled “Raised by Committee”, Carollyne continues to make music with her words. As a Board member with Nanaimo’s Haven Society, which provides shelter and support for women and children fleeing abuse, Carollyne is acutely aware of the challenges facing care givers. The work is demanding and often thankless as they come face to face with the hurt and anger of the young girls and women they are trying to help.
Stephanie: Hello Carollyne! Congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell me about your book, Raised by Committee.
Carollyne: Raised by Committee is a story of hope and survival and the unconditional caring of strangers. It is my story as an abandoned and abused young girl and my rather turbulent teen years as I struggled to make sense of my past. At age 12 Gail [the fictional name I gave myself] is made a ‘ward of the courts, as being in need of moral protection’ and placed under the care of the ubiquitous Children’s Committee and sent to live in a children’s home in Devon, England.
Set against a backdrop of Beatlemania and the sexual revolution, Raised by Committee chronicles my roller coaster emotional ride as I railed against the restrictions put on my life and struggled to fill the void left by my parents. As much as I resented the interference of the Children’s Committee however, deep down I realized that I needed their protection – from myself as much as anyone. I had a wild streak in me fueled by hurt and anger, and a searing anguish which threatened to consume me.
From runaway, to thief, to top student, my life ran the gamut from despair to hope but just when I thought everything was fine it blew up in my face again and again!
Raised by Committee is on the recommended list for Little Warriors* and Nanaimo’s Haven Society because of its importance in expressing the hurt, confusion and anger many young people experience when the people they love and trust fail them so badly.
Raised by Committee
Stephanie: What inspired you to write this story?
Carollyne: Several things conspired to get me to put pen to paper. I took a ‘freefall into creative writing’ course which basically teaches you how to open up and write without judging what you write, but for me the same topic kept burbling to the surface. It was a topic I had spent my life avoiding but snippets of it would creep into whatever I wrote. I could hear the creaking of the stairs as my father approached my bedroom at night, I could smell his beer sodden breath as he smothered me with his drunken kisses, I could feel the weight of him suffocating me. These were all things I had kept buried inside me and I was anxious to keep them there even though my writing tutor encouraged me to ‘keep digging’ and get the story out.
If anyone ever asked I would tell them I went to boarding school, the euphemism I gave to the Children’s Home, and I thought I’d put my past behind me as I had gone on to have a good life, but apparently not. One day I read a newspaper article entitled ‘Kids see group homes as gateways to jail’ which noted that ‘It’s very important to understand that these kids should be treated as though they’re in homes, not in institutions. When we have children in, for example, the province’s child protection system, we the province are their parents.’ Also, around that time there was a lot of negative publicity about the fact that children were being mistreated in some children’s homes which got me thinking about how my experience had been so different and proved to be my saving grace. The home I was sent to was run by Miss Lillian Hopkins, whom we all called Nurse and she was as caring and attentive to my needs as any parent could be. Raised by Committee is a tribute to Nurse and all the hidden angels who take care of the children like myself who, through no fault of our own, become the flotsam of our society.
Stephanie: Is this your first published book? Will there be others?
Carollyne: This is my first published book. I have recently finished a second book which is now undergoing the seemingly endless cycle of revisions and edits. Also, I have a third book on the back burner which will be a sequel to Raised by Committee as many of my readers have asked for it.
Stephanie: Please tell me a little about yourself and how you got started in writing.
Carollyne: Words are my music and I’ve been playing with them in one form or another all my life. At college I studied languages and secretarial skills which enabled me to travel and work in a variety of arenas, from London’s famous Fleet Street to the House of Commons in Ottawa. I used my writing skills to develop newsletters and write speeches and reports and also had a regular newspaper column. When I retired in my early fifties I started to focus on writing and hedonistic pursuits. I have 3 amazing children, 3 1/2 beautiful grandchildren [to become 4 in December] and a loving, supportive husband. Despite a rather bumpy beginning to my life I feel I have indeed been blessed!
I have also been a strong community supporter over the years and have served on various Boards including the United Way, Brechin United Church, Fort Langley’s Women’s Institute [founding President], Nanaimo’s Haven Society and currently the Qualicum Beach Historical & Museum Society. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I believe that, especially considering the manner in which I was raised! I also believe in the importance of giving back to the community we live in – it is a win-win for everyone.
Stephanie: Are there any challenges you find in writing?
Carollyne: I’ve been told, by editors, and tutors, that I seem, to have a bit of a, “comma fetish”, as I tend to put them, in all the wrong, places! I’m working, on this and, my other challenge which is, the fact that, I always dream up other important, but not really, things to do, instead of sitting down, to write!
Stephanie: Was there any research involved for your story, Raised by Committee?
Carollyne: Yes. I realized that Nurse was an integral part of my survival and story so I felt a need to reconnect with her and let her know that things had worked out well for me, thanks in large part to her support and caring. Unfortunately my internet search turned up no trace of her so I assumed she must have passed away as she would have been well into her nineties by then. I was, however, able to locate Aunty Dawn, Nurse’s assistant during the years I lived in the children’s home so I telephoned her. Much to my delight she told me that Nurse was still alive and gave me her phone number.
It took me several days to pluck up the courage to call Nurse. I hadn’t exactly been what you’d call a ‘model resident’ during my years in the home so I wasn’t at all sure Nurse would remember me – and if she did, maybe she’d rather she didn’t! When I eventually called I gave her my name as asked if she remembered me. ‘Oh yes dear,’ she replied with a little chuckle, ‘I remember you. You’re the one who called me a witch!’Unfortunately I couldn’t deny it – so much for senile dementia!
Within a few weeks I was on a plane home to England to visit with Nurse and Aunty Dawn. Also, through the Freedom of Information Act, I applied for and obtained a copy of my file which had been stored in the bowels of the Devon County Council offices all those years [over 500 pages in total]. It was all there in black and white – every wart and bump of my rather turbulent youth! Woven throughout those clinical reports, however, was an underlying current of caring and dedication that I had been oblivious to as a teenager. I saw how diligently the social workers, care givers and assorted others worked to turn a very angry, hurt young girl into the semblance of a socially acceptable humanoid [me!]. Also, as I read through my file I came to the overwhelming realization that I had literally been ‘raised by a committee’. I realized I had an important story to tell – not just about sexual abuse per se but about the impact it has on its victims. I also realized that I could not have dug myself out of that dark hole of depression if it wasn’t for the care and understanding I received from Nurse and all those involved in my care. The rest was easy.
Stephanie: How long did it take you to write your story?
Carollyne: The first draft took just over three painful months to write as I spewed every memory and emotion into my computer. I then locked the manuscript away for a couple of months to let my emotions settle, then went back to start the edits. It was almost five years before the book eventually saw the light of day and was published.
Stephanie: Is there a message you would like readers to grasp?
Carollyne: Raised by Committee in a story of hope and survival and a tribute to the unconditional caring of strangers who make such a difference. To those who have been abused – I encourage you to take back the power over your own lives and not let the past destroy your future. To those who care for us and put us back together – I say thank you! Your work is often thankless and not enough of us look back over the years to see who the true angels were in our lives. You do make a difference, even if we don’t acknowledge it at the time. Finally, I hope people will start talking more openly about this difficult topic. Until we bring it into the open the problem will continue to exist and other young children will suffer abuse … maybe not you, but maybe your neighbor, or your daughter’s friend, or that sullen young girl you so see in the Mall. Sexual abuse is not OK and we cannot continue to keep quiet about it.
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
Carollyne: In a newsletter from the BC Federation of Writers which I receive on a regular basis. I put the word out there and was overwhelmed by the readers who nominated my book for the BRAG award. As an independently published author it is indeed gratifying to have organizations such as indieBRAG shining their light on our work.
Stephanie: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Carollyne: Write! Set a time aside every day for writing and commit to it, even if you can think of every excuse in the book not to. Also, I once read that every good story should answer a question, so decide what the question is and keep it center front. Raised by Committee asks the question … can a committee raise a child or replace a mother’s love? I guess you’ll have to read the book to find the answer to that question. Anything which didn’t in some way address that question was edited out.
*Little Warriors is the Canadian branch of Darkness to Light [D2L] and their mandate is to empower people to prevent child sexual abuse. Their programs raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.
Carollyne’s webpage www.carollynehaynes.com and Little Warriors, http://littlewarriors.ca/
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Carollyne Haynes, who is the author of, Raised by Committee one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Raised by Committee merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.