Author of “Sleeping with the Rabbits”

Susanne Defoe

Susanne Defoe

A moving, true-life story of an escape from domestic abuse

My first love was art. As soon as I could hold a pencil I drew and instantly sparked a passion for drawing Disney characters. Mum kept my pictures all rolled up and tied neatly with a ribbon. I was always surrounded by children’s books whilst growing up, with my parents being avid readers, and although I couldn’t read at the young age of three or four, I could copy the pictures from my books and they were exceptional for my age. My passion for drawing, the arts and literature continued into adult life, in more recent years finding a connection with my local arts centre which is now home from home.

Thinking back to my school years I wasn’t at all academic, but I did love to write and was always praised by my teachers for my neat handwriting and spelling, as well being able to turn out a good story. A variety of my work would often be on display including story writing, needlework and art. This gave me further drive to continue with what I excelled at. The skills learned as a child came in very useful when I became a mother and I would make the girls clothes from scratch ensuring they always looked their best. Others would comment on my needlework and put in requests for their own families which filled me with pride.

My first ‘grown up’ book, without pictures, was a present for my eighth birthday. It was a small green hardback book of an iconic tail that most of you will know, by Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows. I fell in love with it, I read and reread it even as an adult. My love of reading started here and from this moment on I was always searching for the next good read with a diversity of interests from ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ to ‘River God’.

Now my first book has been published I am still kind of stunned by it, but am also proud of myself for such a huge achievement that is writing my autobiography. I had honestly never thought about doing this and still have to pinch myself to check I’m not dreaming. For me it was a cleansing experience and a time to let go. Do I feel better for having written it…maybe …. a little.

My next challenge would be to write my Grandmother’s and Great Grandmother’s story of life in the East End of London within the Jewish community. A tale of skulduggery, riches to rags, lies, betrayal and extreme poverty. A clash of religions and beliefs that tore the family apart and is still showing the butterfly effect three generations later. What a tale for the pages this would be!

On a lighter note and skipping forward to life today, there is nothing more wonderful than one of our amazing family get-togethers, they just about all fit into my small house now. We laugh all the time and there is always music which we all love, so much so that we have been dubbed the Von Trapps. We’ll take that!

Although I am not a religious person I am spiritual and also a Reiki master and practitioner, giving healing to anybody that needs and asks for it. I shuffle the tarot now and then for friends and family, I wouldn’t say I was particularly good at it but it is certainly an enjoyable talking point and those interested are always keen to sit down and learn a little more about the cards.

I adore animals and have had so many of them in my life, all of them rescue. To name a couple, Sally my miniature poodle passed away in 2007 and Roger my special cat joined her in 2015. I miss them so much that I am looking for a couple of cats to keep me company now. I would honestly have a farm if I could, filled with all the unwanted animals that needed love and care.

My youngest daughter is a talented professional hair stylist being fantastic at what she does and so always has her hands full with myself and her sisters vying for her attention, not to mention all of the nieces and nephews her sisters have given her. My older girls work in the world of commercialisation together and have found an amazing balance between their working relationship and home life, storming the retail and property industry as a solid team. My girls are so close, I am very proud of them and what they have achieved. They have truly become strong independent women…wonder where they get that from!

My hobby aside from writing is ceramic pottery, making pots, cups, plates etc. on the wheel. There is nothing I like more than throwing a lump of clay at my wheel and visualising what this mound of nothing is going to become. I would one day like to have my own kiln in a purpose-built workshop to create ceramics from home. My own little area to potter around in. My Grandchildren love to join in with the fun of pottery and are always wanting to get their hands dirty, coming up with their own little creations and throwing the odd bit around the place along the way. I take joy in watching them show such enthusiasm over one of my very own passions.

I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into my life.

Susan Defoe’s memoir, “Sleeping with the Rabbits: A Story of Family Life and Personal Survival” is published by Mereo (Paperback, £12.99) and available through all good bookshops and internet booksellers.