Charlotte Lobb
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A bit of everything

About me 

It’s a crisp winter’s morning here in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Often, there would be cows mooing in the paddocks behind our property, but today’s writing is accompanied by chirpy birdsong. 

Skipping back to the beginning, I was born and raised on a lifestyle block in Tamahere, just out of Hamilton (NZ). Although I always had a love for reading and writing, I kept busy in my earlier years with ballroom dancing, violin, piano and singing, as well as being a member of the New Zealand Shooting Team and High Performance Academy for air-rifle in my teens/early twenties. It wasn’t until I left home to complete a Bachelor in Speech and Language Therapy at the University of Canterbury, that my passion for writing truly ignited. It’s here that I wrote my first full-length manuscript, fitting it in around my university studies and training with the NZ Shooting Team. At the time, I was pretty pleased with my efforts. If I were to read it now, I’d probably die from shame. First lesson for any newbie writer: always put any writing away (preferably for a few months) before bringing it back out and reviewing it with fresh eyes.

After graduating, I worked in various hospitals around NZ, mostly with stroke and head injury patients. It was a bit of a turbulent time in my life, so writing (except for some personal journaling) was put on the back burner for a bit. It wasn’t until my husband and I settled in Tauranga, and I’d given birth to our son/youngest of our two children, that I began to put words to paper in the form of my debut novel ‘Hannah & Huia’ (more about the writing and publication process to come). 

Life over the past few years has been kept busy working as a speech-therapist and also a teacher aide for children with additional needs, playing taxi to my own busy children, writing, reading, and this year I’m home-schooling my son who has additional learning and health needs. It’s not always easy fitting writing in around a busy life, but it’s my way of de-stressing and processing everything going on around me. When hubby’s bingeing Netflix, I’m working away on a writing project.

My debut novel ‘Hannah & Huia’ 

I’d love to say I was one of those writers who could sit down and whip out a few hundred words before breakfast, but I’m not. Firstly, I’m not a morning writer (I’m not a morning person at all!) Secondly, I’m more likely to spend a couple of hours on the same paragraph, only to delete said paragraph the very next day, than churn out a chapter or more in the one sitting.

My debut novel, ‘Hannah & Huia’, took 6 years to write. It wasn’t constant writing. Some months, even years, I wrote almost nothing. Other months I’d write every single night once the kids were in bed. Most was written (well, typed on my laptop) from the office I share with my husband. Some sections were plotted while out on family bush walks. And a few chapters were actually written during an admission on a mental health unit (a little more on that to come). 

So, what is my debut novel actually about? Well, let me tell you.
You first encounter Hannah on a mental health unit following the death of her husband and baby son. All Hannah can focus on is the unbearable present…until she meets Huia, a long-term resident on the ward who lives entirely in her own inner world. 

Huia sits in the far right-hand corner. She picks and rubs at her left wrist, never her right, and she speaks in strange sequences of three unrelated mutterings: “Sunscreen, helipad, cuddly koala. Catapult, pōwhiri, snakebite…” No one knows what any of it means, especially not the enigmatic words, “Sun, rain, bye-bye.”

Drawn out of her own misery, Hannah slowly interprets the meaning of some of Huia’s seemingly random words and oddities, and begins to piece together the story of Huia’s heartbreaking past...and a little bit of New Zealand’s shameful history. Although ‘Hannah & Huia’ deals with some emotional topics, it’s ultimately a story about hope, friendship and love, all intertwined with perfectly judged humour. 


The story of ‘Hannah & Huia’ began as three words that popped into my head in the middle of the night: Sun, rain, bye-bye. I had no clue what they meant—I’m not a planner; I let the characters and words guide the direction of my writing. I just had this really clear picture of an elderly, Māori lady (Huia) sitting in the corner of a psychiatric ward, speaking in odd, three-word sentences. It wasn’t until almost the end of the first draft that I fully understood what her words and oddities actually meant. So as well as the story being about Hannah’s journey to make sense of Huia, I too was piecing it together as I went.

For a long time, I’ve held unwarranted shame about my own journey with mental illness and time on mental health units. I’ve kept it secretive because I feared rejection, judgement, and societies unjust stigma. I always knew that I wanted my first book to have themes of trauma, hope, and mental illness, so I wrote ‘Hannah & Huia’ with the hope of trying to normalise and demystify the experiences of those in the mental health system. 

No one should ever be made to feel invisible or alone in their struggles, and the story of ‘Hannah & Huia’ shows that it only takes one person to reach out and change someone else’s life for the better. You don’t need to be family or a friend, just giving someone a few minutes of your time and undivided attention could in that moment be life saving for them. The book also reminds us that everyone has a story behind who they are, and if we learn to understand that story, maybe as a society we’ll learn to be more accepting and supportive of those around us.

If the story of Hannah & Huia impacts just one person, then it’s done its job. But if it opens up conversations around mental health units, trauma, PTSD, depression, and any number of other needed to be talked about topics, then putting a little of my own painful journey into its pages has been the best decision I could have ever made.

A day in the life of…

I dream of writing full-time one day, but for now I’m happy to weave writing times in between all life’s other responsibilities. I’d also love to be one of those authors who can pump out thousands of words at a time, yet for me anything more than a sentence is worthy of celebration. So, here’s a typical day in the life of me…

Wake up – If my alarm doesn’t wake me, my son running in at full volume to show me his latest Lego creation usually does the trick.

Homeschool my son – Have a brilliant idea for the next chapter of my manuscript. Re-explain the current maths problem using dinosaurs and Lego bricks. Forget brilliant idea.

Morning tea – Check my author socials. Feel a mini buzz when someone instantly hearts my post…only to retract mini buzz when I see it was hubby. Open my latest writing project and try to frantically get in a sentence or three before I’m magically transformed back into the role of homeschool teacher.

Homeschool my son – Rinse and repeat. This time have a notebook standing by; no bright ideas decide to show themselves.

Lunch – Tell myself I’ll go for a walk, but I don’t. Read what I wrote at morning tea, then promptly delete it. Stare at a blank screen for the next 20min. Have a sudden flow of words about 1min before I need to get my son to a hospital appointment.

End of school day – Play taxi to my daughter’s multitude of dance classes. Try to get a few chapters read of a book that’s been on my TBR pile for the last couple of years while ‘watching’ my son’s Taekwondo practice. Get home, cook dinner, plan homeschool lessons for the next day. Hunt the house high and low for my daughter’s ballet leotard, only to find it crammed in the back of her wardrobe under a lunchbox full of rotting apple cores. Fold a load of washing, do the dishes…finally and thankfully get both kids off to bed.

Uninterrupted writing time – Re-read anything I may have written during the day. Delete most of it. Tidy my desk. Realise there’s no such thing as uninterrupted writing time when my son hops out of bed for the fourth time, my daughter has a late evening panic because she can’t find her phone charger, and hubby decides that right now is the ideal time to discuss changing power companies. 

Bedtime – Dream up the perfect plot for a new novel. Jot it down in one of the multitude of notebooks beside my bed. Realise in the morning that maybe a two-headed spy sloth won’t make best-seller material. 🤔😂

Can anyone else relate??? 😏

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