1. In early footage your mother always looks calm and organised. Is that really how she was with all those children?
Absolutely! She was a very good mum. We were natural kids, riding horses, fresh air. We hardly ever did any homework. We watched a little bit of TV but not much. We ate well, never had junk food. Mum was extremely happy, you could see that. And then you could see [in later footage] that she'd just lost so much, her soul was gone.
2. Your father left when you were 6 and your stepfather Gary Eyton moved in a few years later. What were your first impressions of him?
Kind of physical because he was huge - 6'4" (193cm), very slim, very long arms. After about a month I noticed his radical driving, his anger outbursts. What I remember was the way I felt. It was a sort of nervous, excited feeling. Because I wasn't used to that sort of behaviour and I didn't know how to respond - I was 9. My stomach would be churning.
3. He abused one of your sisters and attempted to abuse you too. Why didn't he succeed?
I would get away from him. He wasn't the sort of guy who would just come in and take; he had a very manipulative, sly way of doing everything. He shot my cat in front of me and after that he said "I'm sorry and I love you". That was the first time I felt that energy from him. With any man that tries to invade your space, regardless of what age you are, that feeling applies.
4. Where were you when you found out he had killed your mother and himself?
I was 16 and living in Rotorua with my boyfriend. When the cops came and said "your mum is dead" I just said "did Gary do it?"
5. Within a few years you also lost your son. How old were you?
I was 19. I lost my son Vince from cot death when he was 6 months old. I was in a very volatile relationship with someone I didn't respect but I was still trying to create a home. After Vince died I started to shut my feelings down. I had to get out of that abusive relationship. My older sister Leeann came and got me and took me to America where she was living.
6. What was your experience of the US?
It was all big cars and cocaine. I was living in Kansas and New Orleans, party towns. I worked in five-star restaurants and bar management, I always had good jobs. Cocaine was an epidemic in America in the 80s and 90s. My addiction was quite social, it wasn't every night or a total destructive mess. I was having a good time, to be honest, but I had a lot of grief in my past and eventually the drugs don't work. I had to deal with my stuff. And I did have near-death experiences on cocaine. Twice.
7. How did you quit?
I went to one meeting of Cocaine Anonymous. But I thought, are you people for real? You're all stuck in a soup! I don't want to be a part of this soup, I'm going to do it by myself. And I did. Now, I hardly even drink. I don't eat anything packaged or processed. I love raw food, juices, smoothies. Things that make me feel balanced.
8. During those American years you fell pregnant again. What happened?
I went in for a sonogram. They said, "your baby doesn't have a skull". I said, "but I can see its face!" My baby had a neural tube defect. It was when the big abortion rallies were happening in America, and here I was having to make a decision that I really didn't want to make. And I actually cried for the first time, after all those years.
9. When did you first get interested in aromatherapy?
In New Hampshire, I walked into a New Age shop and saw a book about it. I followed my nose and I found I liked blending oils and they made me feel good. When I was pregnant with my daughter Kowai - that's when I started my business Quin Essense and began importing essential oils. You have to understand the oils, combining them is an art. I've always been drawn to the mysteries of life. It was an inner calling but then all the traumas threw me way out and I had to bring myself back. Aromatherapy helped me heal.
10. You said as a teenager you always fought with your quin sister Selina. Is that still the case?
Absolutely not. I don't fight with any of them but I do know who to phone and what advice I'm going to get. With Lisa, you're going to get a very intellectual perspective. Selina reminds me that everything's okay. Sam is on a spiritual path in Australia. Shirlene's like "oh well Deb", she goes with the flow, but when she says "no" I listen. I listen to all of them, but if I really need to unload I'll call [non-quin sister] Leeann.
11. You had your daughter Kowai in your late 20s. How was motherhood and did it bring back memories of your own mum?
It was amazing. I didn't freak out and check up on my daughter every minute. Because I knew everything was okay this time. But it didn't bring back memories of Mum because she had a ... mature mother energy and it wasn't until I became a nana that I felt that in myself.
12. You recently came out of a marriage. Would you like another relationship?
I think I've given up on relationships now, at 50. I'm done. My most important relationships are with my daughter and my grand-daughter who I'm helping to raise. I've had some gratifying, fulfilling loves, but I like my space, I love to travel, I pay my own bills, mow the lawns. That's been my nature since I was young and I can't blame Gary or Dad; all that could have had the opposite effect, I could be needy. You can't be free in a relationship, there's no way. When I get in my car and drive, I don't want my phone to be ringing. And maybe it's because I got squashed in the womb that I'm like "get off me, you're too close!" but I don't think so. I just like being on my own. I've been on my own all my life, really.
• Stolen Lives: The Untold Stories of the Lawson Quins, by Paul Little (Paul Little Books, RRP $34.95) is out now. For more on Deborah's aromatherapy, see quinessense.com