Creativity & Chronic Illness: Natasha Duncan-Drake

Natasha-Duncan-DrakeI had the privilege of interviewing author Natasha Duncan-Drake. She has been publishing genre fiction since 2011, and is one of the founders of Wittegen Press. She has released over twenty-five titles ranging from horror to young adult fantasy, and she produces short stories and novels in equal measure. Though she is a big fan of science fiction, fantasy, and horror in all of their forms, she has never met a genre she didn’t like. – Her varied interest in writing was sparked when she first read The Hobbit in primary school, and she is an advocate for fans to fine tune their writing skills within the warm, supportive fanfiction community.

In addition to being a talented, prolific author, Natasha is also a creative person who suffers from a chronic illness that impedes her daily life.

FE: What are you dealing with that makes it difficult to function either as a person or creatively? (Or both)
ND: I have talipes (clubfoot) in both feet.

FE: What is it? What does it do?
ND: Mine are very severe, which means my ankles are virtually totally fixed and do not move more than a couple of millimetres from left to right, and hence I cannot put my feet flat on the ground, walking always only on the balls of my feet and toes. When I a small child they were totally turned on their side, but I had corrective surgery to break and straighten my toes and to lengthen the tendons in my legs.

FE: How does it affect you personally?

ND: Talipes makes it hard to walk for long distances or stand for long, so I find travelling a real pain (literally ). I often find myself on a quest to find the next place I can sit down. Thanks to the fact all my toes were broken to reset them, I can also always tell when it’s going to rain ;).

FE: How does it affect your art/writing/etc?
ND: It doesn’t affect my writing directly, because it is a primarily sedentary profession, but to be an indie author you really need to be able to get out to see people and get to book fairs etc. I must admit I look at book fairs and shudder somewhat, because they are usually in London and other big cities and require a lot of walking.

For me travelling to London is either an exercise in pain or extremely expensive because I find using the underground horrendous. Walking on concrete is beaten in things-I-try-to-do-as-little-of-as-possible only by walking on sand and all the stairs for the underground are a nightmare. I especially remember the time when some delightful soul decided to push between me and the hand rail because I was being too slow, thus almost sending me crashing down the stairs.

When I have to go places, I do, but I always plan well ahead.

FE: How do you combat the effects of your illness?
ND: I use crutches when I have to do a lot of walking, which help a lot. They also mean I am not so hideously slow . I used to manage without them up until about 10 years ago, but they’re something of a must these days. I have new ones now which use the whole of my forearm to take the pressure, so my wrists aren’t under so much strain. I used to use just one crutch, but it was causing issues with my back, so I use two now. Makes carrying things a pain, but my back is thanking me a lot.

I also have a personal trainer now who is helping me build up my upper body strength and become fitter. I figure the better shape I am in the more power I will have to keep the strain off my feet.

FE: What drives you to keep creating?
ND: I think the fact I have never been able to play sports very well (can’t run for toffee and never have been able to even as a slip of a girl) is actually what made me creative in the first place. I’ve always been a person of the mind rather than the body. This is what I can do, this is what I am good at and it fires me on.

FE: Where do you think you would be if you didn’t have the illness that affects you?
ND: Before I became a writer I was a database and systems engineer and I think I probably would have been something similar no matter what because both my parents are engineering/sciency types. I might be more out there, running around doing more things because I could, but I’m not sure. I’ve always gone for what I wanted, despite the disability, so I think I’d be the same, just probably more sporty, because my mum used to play cricket for Kent ladies when she was younger and she skied and she still plays badminton twice a week now.

FE: What advice would you give others with your condition/concern who are struggling to keep up with something they enjoy?
ND: Try not to let it stop you. Before my ankles became too bad I used to play squash – couldn’t run backwards without landing in a heap and wasn’t overly fast forwards, but still had loads of fun. Don’t worry you’re not the best at it, just have a good time. I love to dance at discos and stuff, so I just bop away with my crutches these days .

Look after yourself as well. If it hurts too much, sit down and don’t be afraid to ask for help. When I first started using the crutch I was embarrassed that my husband often had to help me carry things when we were shopping because I only had the one hand free to do everything, but I realised I was being silly. I needed help and the help was there. These days it’s worse because I have two crutches and no hands free, so I am very glad I sorted that out in my head. I am still trying to figure out a solution for when I am alone – the two crutches is still quite new so I have yet to come up with something. I shall, though, never fear!

Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s harder to get around, but it is often worth it.

FE: What does the future hold?
ND: Lots more writing . I am working on three books at the moment and hope to have the first finished shortly. Two are novels and the last one is two novellas in one volume; vampires, sci-fi/fantasy and werewolves respectively. I’m trying to grow my blog audience at the moment by introducing regular features to entertain and inform and I hope to grow my readership for that and my fiction. Onwards and upwards it my aim.

creative-chronic-illnessWhere to Find Natasha Duncan-Drake

Blog – Tasha’s Thinkings:
Twitter: @beren_writes

Where to Buy Natasha’s Books

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
Google Play:,+Natasha

You can check out the interviews in this series here:
Fox Emm
Sarah Alexander

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