Interview with Erika Tafel

Why did you write the book?
I wrote Slave To The Farm because in 2009 when The Shawbridge Boys Farm turned a hundred years old I started thinking about the thousands of children that had been placed there over the years. I started searching for books about and by the clients that had been there. I found none. I felt that the lack of case study was a tragedy and wrote my story, hoping to encourage more like it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Montreal Quebec, and I think growing up in Canada's only truly French province as an English speaking Quebecois gave me some unique experiences. Being a white middle-class girl, I represented a minority in this strange way. Being incarcerated in an English female juvenile institution in Quebec lowered my provincial peer group even farther. This irony is reflected in my book, but despite such a limited community I think my story will resonate with people all over the world.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I think the first book I read that really stuck with me was The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. I really identified with the characters and wanted to read more. I wrote mostly songs and poems as a teen, but that book inspired me to write stories about my friends and the crazy things we were doing. Another book I read as a teen that stays with me is Go Ask Alice. It was a young girl's diaries published anonymously after her death. I feel in a way I wrote Slave To The Farm in dedication to that book.I just felt like it could have been me.
In your memoirs you've used pseudonyms for most of your charaters, Why?
There is a couple of reasons I've used pseudonyms. The first is because I wanted to offer some privacy to those I was writing about. I realized that maybe not everyone would want the world to know they were incarcerated at all, so it just made it simpler than tracking everyone down and asking. Secondly, this story takes place decades ago, really I just couldn't remember everyone's name. I remembered what they looked like and how they made me feel, so I just named them accordingly. I do want to point out that not everyone was assigned a new name. The names of my family as well as the man who raped me have not been changed.
What kind of reviews are you getting?
In a single word I keep hearing, WOW! which fills me with such a warm fuzzy feeling. That single word has become pregnant with compliments for me. I've also heard over and over how people can't put it down, and many people have thanked me for writing it. My hope is that it may help the academic community to better understand the experience of being incarcerated as a child, but more importantly, I hope it can give hope to parents with troubled teens to better communicate about the reality of their choices.
The material is pretty gritty with some shocking admissions, did this concern you?
At first I was filled with anxiety about what people would think of the sexual abuse and other admissions but the reaction of those who have read it has put those concerns to bed. I soon realized that most people don't only have a couple skeletons in the closet, but a whole graveyard in there. In making my admissions, I've freed others to share theirs and after reading Slave they often want to share them with me. I'm all ears.
What are you working on next?
Well, my husband and I live a very interesting life. We homestead off-grid, while homeschooling our children. We built our current home, which will eventually become my husband's workshop, from trees that we cut, cleared and milled on our own property. We've since started a second house which is going in underground. I'm writing another book about the project. Interestingly, our underground home will be the fifth built on our short five kilometer rural road. The whole neighborhood has some highly creative architecture. It's about two years from completion so in the meantime I'm thinking about trying my hand at a fictional novel.
What is your writing process?
Pretty much I just sit and let it flow. Then I edit, edit, edit.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love true crime novels, but I'm not all that picky. I love all books, especially those that have meat, that make you think about topics you don't usually think about, books that make you cry or laugh out in public places. Non-fiction is my passion but I definitely love well written fictional books too.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The answer to this is easy. Freedom. The freedom to design and create exactly what I wanted to see. I submitted my manuscript numerous times to big publishers who either rejected it or demanded changes I wasn't prepared to make. I found myself wasting time on submission after submission and finally realized that I could just self-publish and get on with marketing the book.
Describe your desk
That's a funny question because with the purchase of my laptop, out went the clunky desk. I love being able to call the cafe down in town as well as my greenhouse my desk because I can get just as much writing done in either.
Published 2013-09-17.
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Books by This Author

Slave To The Farm
Price: $5.00 USD. Words: 58,560. Language: English. Published: June 15, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Personal memoir
This is a true tale of a teenage girl who, in 1983, refused to go to school and became a ward of Quebec’s juvenile system, eventually making her way to The Farm. It questions the use of incarceration as a means of dealing with youth protection cases, and it offers a rare glimpse inside one of Quebec’s oldest juvenile detention centres.