“During Colleen’s absences, Jane would write stories to try to fill the time… and there was a feeling like she was carrying heavy shopping bags, but somehow on the inside…’’
Colleen is not like other mothers, and Jane knows she’s not like other teenagers.
Finding out she has a skin condition that will gradually give her the appearance of a Dalmatian is only further confirmation she’ll never fit in.
At least she’s well on her way to creating the perfect camouflage… until she meets someone who’s determined to strip it all off.
Jane’s story journeys between her adult years in Perth, Western Australia, to her adolescence in the coastal tree-lined town of Denmark further south, where dreams for aspiring creatives (sometimes) come true… and where she falls in love. Along the way, Jane faces the struggles that come with being human and learns to realise that sometimes, someone loving us at our worst can set us free to become our best.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult and young adult readership
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
When I wrote Dappled, I wanted a book that explored many themes, including love, loss, friendship, mental illness, disability, and self-acceptance.
Being a group therapist and OT working in mental health and teaching neuropsychiatry and recovery, these themes were already close to my heart.
But Dappled is also about a young woman, Jane and her journey with vitiligo. Having vitiligo too, I wanted to read a book about someone else with the rare skin condition that understood the struggles, however, was also warm, hopeful and affirming.
I couldn’t find that book… so I decided to write it.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters of Dappled are partly inspired by people I know, partly a product of my imagination. I wanted to create a collection of unforgettable characters, who were also entirely relatable. There are also a lot of parallels between myself and Dappled's main character, Jane.
Even her pregnancy with Daniel had been an accident. A beautiful, glorious accident but an accident all the same. In fact, she’d cried when they’d found out she was pregnant so soon after Bradley. They’d both felt completely out of their depth at the prospect of having a toddler with CP and a newborn thrown into the mix. But Peter had always maintained it was going to be fine – they were an unconquerable duo and they would cope. And cope they did. She breastfed Daniel between appointments with doctors and physios. He took his first cheeky steps in the hospital foyer, while they’d been waiting to see Bradley’s paediatrician. As a child, Daniel spent long hours in hospital waiting rooms entertaining himself by drawing treasure maps and striking up conversations with strangers. But that was his normal and Sue could rarely remember him complaining.
One day on one of the numerous trips home from the hospital Bradley informed Daniel he’d been an accident, adding rather unkindly, “And if Mum and D-Dad had any idea how noisy y-you were going to be, they’d have put you right back in!”
There were a few beats of silence in which Sue’s heart broke a little. Just as she was about to say something she heard Daniel’s indignant, but still rather cheerful response from the back seat: “Yeah, I already know about being a mistake, Brad. But Dad says the best damn mistake they ever made! Right, Mum?”
“Absolutely right, sweetheart,’’ Sue replied, eyes watering a little.
That was Danny all over. Always making lemonade out of lemons.
Of course, all the appointments were hardest on Bradley. But she and Peter rarely stopped to consider they were hard on Daniel too.
They hadn’t even picked up on the fact he had dyslexia until he was eight for God’s sake and even that was a referral initiated by his Year 3 teacher. She remembered he had been so good natured about their negligence, as if they’d simply forgotten to pack his excursion money in his school bag one day.
A couple of years ago, a dear friend who’d moved to the UK when Daniel was still a toddler had asked after Sue’s boys in an email. She’d said: It’s so sad how the years fly by… If I saw your lovely boys on the street I wouldn’t know them … if you could describe each of them to me in one or two words what words would you use?
Strangely, Sue had already known what her response was, almost as if she had been waiting for the question. Bradley is the pragmatist, Danny is the empath, she had said.
Sue vividly remembered Danny’s Year 3 teacher pulling her aside after school one day, saying to her Danny still jumbled up the ‘i’ and ‘e’ in his name and was struggling to keep up in class. She suggested some activities Sue could do at home with him, which, to her shame, Sue didn’t consistently follow … she was so caught up in Bradley’s needs at the time.
But his young teacher, Mrs Barrett, had also added, “And Sue? Although Daniel may get behind in class sometimes… I just wanted you to know he is such a sweetheart. He is the only child in my class who seems to always notice if I’m a little stressed and seems to see it as his personal responsibility to make it better. Sometimes he’ll even tell the other kids to shut up on my behalf if I look a bit rattled! ‘Quiet guys, Mrs Barrett is trying to think!’ He’s also always the first to go over and sit with a new kid. Whatever challenges Daniel may experience as he goes through school, I imagine that sweet quality will remain in him throughout his life – a special gift.’’
She’d never forgotten that.
As the boys grew older, Sue had noticed a protective hardening develop in Bradley. He was naturally cautious and measured by nature and he had street-smarts. To be honest, the kid could even be downright cynical at times.
But not so in Danny.
She feared for Bradley in a logistical sense, whereas for Danny, her concerns were grounded in his emotional vulnerability.
As she watched Danny grow—now more than ever—she couldn’t help but wonder, how could an enthusiasm so endless not be slowly deflated by the harsh realities of life?
How could a heart so tender, not be broken?
Sometimes it seemed like a curse, just as much as it was a gift.
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