Monday, March 02, 2015

Interview with Deborah Lytton, author of Silence (2015)

Silence by Deborah Lytton
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (March 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1609079450
ISBN-13: 978-1609079451

I’m going to start this a bit unconventionally because I’ve been in that kind of place this week. It all began when a new member of the book club that I’m in made the statement, “it must be horrifying to not be able to hear.” This was completely off topic and not at all related to deaf characters. In fact, this was part of a discussion about horror fiction.  I’m afraid that my reading falls into the categories of Deaf characters and dead characters a bit too often. Don’t think I didn’t roll my eyes at her remark. I pressed her a bit because I just couldn’t let it go. Her response included words mostly associated with loss. That’s just not where my mind goes when I consider deaf characters or deaf people but it seems to for some.  

Deborah Lytton’s novel Silence has been described as a book about friendship and hope. It’s one of the most loving YA stories that I’ve read and it very much has to do with perseverance and well, loss… or perhaps more specifically, the actual coping of loss.  It isn’t what you might think. Yes, the story begins with Stella who has the most beautiful singing voice so that she actually (SPOILER ALERT) lands the lead in her school performance. She even has hopes of making it on Broadway. But then tragedy strikes (which is not hearing loss although that is the result). There is an accident resulting in Stella being unable to hear. What Stella finds difficult and what I found difficult to read about especially while having just had a Ménière's disease attack of vertigo, was how much the character had to cope with her own vertigo. So when I explain that Lytton’s book made me a little nauseous, please understand that this has nothing to do with the plot of her story or the author’s writing style. She was simply able to convey the reality of severe vertigo in just a few short scenes such as when Stella attempts to lace her shoes but pauses because she’s dizzy.

Stella’s loss is that of the future she thought was going to be possible. Joseph Campbell writes, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Of course if anyone is going to have read Joseph Campbell in this book, it is Hayden.

Hayden is the guy with whom Stella has a crush. He is an outcast because he stutters. Hayden’s own loss is what leads him to help Stella cope with all of the changes she’s going through although honestly I think these two would have found their way to each other even without tragedy.

As far as Stella’s deafness, I think Lytton is able to show how an adolescent would cope. When I was 15 being diagnosed with Ménière's, my doctor told my family and me that I would never ride roller coasters again because of the vertigo and that I would most likely lose my hearing before I was 30. As a teen, I focused only on the roller coaster because to me that was the real tragedy. Family members especially our mothers (including Stella’s mother) focus more on the medical side. They cry while attempting to cheer you up because they are grieving the loss of the perceived futures of their children. Teens rely on their friends such as Hayden and his 17-day challenges while Stella is waiting for the processor for her cochlear implant. Lytton’s description of Stella receiving her processor and “hearing” is quite fair too but I don’t want to give away any more of the story than I have to.

I do feel that Stella is able to understand Hayden through lip-reading a little too easily and quickly. When the story begins, she has just met Hayden. They do not have a lifetime of knowing one another.  And while she struggles understanding family members and friends, Stella understands Hayden almost perfectly presumably because he stutters and that slows down his speech. To be fair, there is a good amount of communicating via text messaging.  Other than that, and other readers might either overlook this aspect or argue that I’m wrong which is perfectly alright,  I think this was a pretty honest portrayal of a girl losing her hearing. 

I enjoyed Stella and Hayden's alternating chapters so that readers can access each of their thoughts.  

*****Below is my interview with the author of Silence, Deborah Lytton*******
The author on Hayden and Stella's beach.
SP: What inspired you to include a deaf character in your novel?
DL: I had this dream of a story where the characters could listen without hearing and speak without words.  I wanted to tell a story about a girl who loses her hearing, and how becoming deaf challenges her to find herself. Stella begins the book very much focused on the way things sound. In fact, the first time she hears Hayden speak, she is disappointed because his voice isn’t beautiful to her ears. She changes into a much stronger and more complete person because she is deaf.   

SP: What research did you do to make your character believable?
DL: I began with research about head injuries and resulting sensorineural hearing loss. I read a lot of articles and interviewed a pediatrician and a pediatric nurse practitioner about my medical questions. Specialists from the House Ear Clinic answered specific questions from me about cochlear implants. I watched videos and read first-hand accounts from people having their implants programmed to understand what that experience would be like for Stella.

SP: What do you hope that readers will take away or learn from Silence?
DL: My greatest wish is that readers will find hope in the book. That they will relate to Stella and Hayden’s journeys to overcome obstacles in their lives and that this will inspire readers to seek their own voices.

SP: What advice do you have for young readers?
DL: Find your own voice in creativity. Paint, draw, take photographs, write stories or poems, dance, just express yourself. Your voice needs to be heard.
And keep reading!

SP: Anything you'd like to add...
DL: The most important lesson I have learned in becoming a writer is to never give up. If you believe in yourself and you keep going even when things seem impossible, you can accomplish anything.
Thank you, Sharon for bringing books to readers and for hosting me on your blog today.  
 For more information about the author including her fascinating background as an actor and singer (performing back up vocals for Belinda Carlisle and Frank Sinatra!) and her other books, visit:
To purchase the book, click the link below.

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