Saturday, October 06, 2007

Interview with Clint Kelly, author of Echo

Echo by Clint Kelly (July 2007)
Age Range: Teen to Adult (labeled as a Christian Suspense novel-- no inappropriate language)
ISBN: 0310263042
(book first mentioned on this blog on July 8, 2007)

While Cassie and Nick Dixon's lives were consumed with their venture into the perfume industry (which ended in disaster), they lost touch with many of their close friends, including the Fergusons. Cassie realizes this all too well when she has a chance encounter with Andy Ferguson, who believes that their meeting is not so chance after all. He confides that his marriage to Sheila is a bit shaky and they could use the help of some friends. After a great deal of persuasion, the couples, along with the Ferguson’s 13-year-old deaf son travel to the Cascade Mountains to take a relaxing vacation and hopefully restore Sheila and Andy’s relationship. A great deal of the Ferguson’s relationship troubles revolves around how they each wish to raise their deaf son, Cody. Sheila is the overprotective mother who treats her adolescent son as a child who needs to be looked after constantly. Andy wishes that Sheila would just let the boy be a boy… but then he isn’t so perfect either. Andy spends much of his time avoiding the situation and his family by working long hours. When Cassie tries to encourage Sheila to loosen her grip on Cody’s life to give him some breathing room, Sheila feels that everyone is against her…. When Cody disappears, Cassie feels responsible. With signs of dangerous grizzly bears and rain, will the group manage to find the boy alive? And, how did he disappear in the first place?

Cody becomes deaf at a young age. He prefers to speak and read lips. Sheila encourages her son to use sign language, which he is initially against…but will that change?

Author Clint Kelly is a communications specialist for Seattle Pacific University and the author of Scent, the first book in the Sensations series, as well as novels for both children and adults. In a recent interview, I asked him about his latest book. Read below! ***********************************************************************
How did you get involved with writing a book about a deaf character? Have you met/worked with Deaf people before?

CK: I have no extensive experience or friendships with deaf people but have observed confident, personable deaf people in life who carry themselves with poise and purpose. I admire those kinds of people wherever I encounter them, some deaf, most not, but all of us faced with our own uniqueness. A couple in my church knows American Sign Language and teaches our youth choir how to sign the songs they sing to inspire them with another, quite lyrical means of communication.

SPW: What kind of research did you do in order to make the character Cody appear like a real deaf teen?

CK: I interviewed a home school teacher of the deaf and got her take on challenges her students have faced, plus I researched books and Internet sites by and for the deaf. Especially helpful were blogs and interviews with deaf teens. From there, I applied empathy in shaping a deaf kid with hopes and dreams and determination to prove what he could do.

I don’t think deaf teens are worlds apart from any other kind of teen. As a published author of seven other novels, I’m always having to walk miles in my characters’ moccasins. Every one of them requires my understanding. Every one of them experiences conflict of one kind or another. Every one of them is fully human and filled with passion, hope, talent, potential. I’m forever fascinated by what I – they – do with their potential. Invest it? Squander it? Allow someone else to talk them out of it? My book ECHO is about a healthy, inquisitive, funny, bright, at times immature, at times mature beyond his years kid who at turns wonders and agonizes about his future. Oh yeah, and he happens to be deaf. Sound like anyone you know?

SPW: Without giving the story away, can you discuss the choices in communication used by Cody?

CK: Cody is torn between speechreading and signing, preferring not to look any deafer than he has to. He’s definitely down on mechanical hearing devices, but really finds that the greatest barriers to hearing and understanding others are the false impressions and stereotypes others place on him, especially his own mother. He wants others to know that much that is human communication comes by way of the heart, the head, and through body language, quite irrespective of the human senses and how many of those we have or don’t have. He believes that many hearing people miscommunicate and fail to connect all the time. Hearing is no guarantee, no magic bullet for understanding. A focused deaf person can out-communicate a lazy, distracted, or unfeeling hearing person any day of the week.

Sheila's overprotective nature is realistic in some deaf people's experiences.

SPW: Can you discuss your decision for Sheila to let go and accept Cody's deafness?

CK: This is complicated and really a combination of things. When she thinks she’s physically lost him in the wilderness, she has to hope and pray that he has somehow picked up survival skills on his own despite her best efforts to keep him safe and sheltered from the world. She gradually learns that she hasn’t heard her husband, Andy, for years, though both can hear just fine. When finally she does listen to him, she gains the realization that her Cody is no longer 6 but 13 and beginning to think the thoughts of a man, to make plans for his future, to dream of what he can become, of what he can contribute to the world. And when she and Cody face death, he’s the one who must step up to the plate and save his mom and himself. She at least sees what he can do, what he’s capable of, and hears the yearning of his heart. No longer can she live in a world of her own making – she must listen or lose the people she values most dear.

SPW: Do you have plans to include Cody in future books in the Sensations series or any other deaf characters? Okay, to be honest, my book does include the preview of Delicacy but I don't exactly want to give anything away if you're keeping it a secret...

CK: Yes, Cody has a pivotal role in Book 3 of the Sensations Series. I like this kid’s spirit, his sense of humor, his compassion for others. Should the series go beyond three books, Cody will be part of the cast. Beyond that, I’ve not yet plotted for other deaf characters, but they’re welcome to audition for a part just like anybody else!

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?

CK: First of all, thank you for reading. Far too many people have abandoned reading for pleasure in exchange for the banal, be it TV or endless video games or hanging out in endless sessions of doing nothing. All things in moderation, but a voracious appetite for books is for me the sign of a vital mind at work. Well-read people are often well-spoken, well-mannered, well-informed, and just plain more interesting than their non-reading counterparts. (SPW Note: No, I honestly didn’t twist the author’s arm to say this!!! But I did put the print in bold to emphasize his point)

When reading my books for the first time, lead with a spirit of adventure. There’s plenty more about this old world that needs to be explored and experienced. Engage in the question of “What if?” and see where it takes you. And then I hope you might be inspired to try your own hand at writing something. Give expression to the heart of you. Spin a story. Enjoy the sweet rhythm of words and ideas. Write something that makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you FEEL. Don’t let the bad news all around us gain the upper hand. Create a time, a place, a people where imagination and creativity and exploration make the world go round.

SPW: Anything you'd like to add?

CK: If you keep your eyes peeled, mystery and joy will find you.
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