Friday, January 30, 2009

Interview with C.F. Brunner, author of Isles of View

Here is the love story of a deaf man and a hearing woman. We've probably all heard the statistics that marriages between deaf and hearing people just don't work out; however, there are also the statistics that marriages (between any groups of people) just don't work out. Characters Dan Brighton and Cara DiSordo share their unique struggles of marriage and communication in a world where even when we speak the same language we have a hard time understanding one another. And then, Cara accepts a position that will take her away from her husband for nearly four months. Will distance make the heart grow fonder?

Isles of View by C. F. Brunner
Paperback: 162 pages
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (March 20, 2006)
Reading Level: Crossover to Adult
***Read my interview with author C.F. Brunner below***
SPW: What prompted you to write the story? The book list description reveals that your marriage to a deaf man inspired this work.

CFB: Yes, while I’ve always had the desire to write a novel, being married to a deaf man did inspire this book. People were always asking me what it is like to be married to a deaf person. They wondered how we communicated. For instance, they would ask if we speak in sign language all the time? Or how we were able to talk to each other when it got dark outside and he could not read my lips easily. Some people were curious if our house is quiet all the time with a deaf person living there. So I thought of all the different experiences we had shared, and I began to write them down. Some of the experiences were fun, some surprising and some were even frustrating. But altogether they showed what the hearing and deaf experience is about. Soon I developed a novel from all my notes.

SPW: What type of research did you do for your book?

CFB: The deaf character in my novel and my husband, both attended American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Connecticut and Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. I wanted to be sure that I depicted accurate facts regarding both institutions so I did some research on them. Also, the history of sign language in America is intriguing as it was formalized by one man, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. I researched this man as well so I could offer interesting and accurate information.
Also, I had learned much from all the years of being with my husband. He is unable to hear, but he has exceptional skills of observation, and in understanding different personality traits in people. This learning experience with him provided me with a real life study for my book.

SPW: You had your character learn some basics of Sign Language? Did you do this yourself? Will you describe your struggle overcoming communication?

CFB: Yes, I learned sign language myself. At the beginning, before I had learned signs, it was somewhat difficult to talk to Don. I had to repeat myself frequently because he didn’t understand what I was saying. Also, I had to make the effort to speak slowly so he could better read my lips. That became cumbersome so I decided to teach myself a few signs. I bought books with illustrations of hand and finger signals for many words in the English language. I started putting them together into sentences and then it became easier to communicate with him.
Still, it is an ongoing process and even after years of knowing each other, communication can at times still be a challenge. It takes patience and understanding. I wouldn’t say that we’ve overcome the struggle to communicate, but we’ve learned how to manage it nicely.

SPW: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book?

CFB: My hope is that readers will learn that even people with different abilities can share love. Often it is just those very differences that make a relationship very special. Obstacles can be overcome when both people are motivated to make everything work.
Additionally, I’d like readers to recognize that not all deaf individuals are the same. They are as unique as we hearing people are. Some deaf individuals prefer sign language to speaking, and some deaf people prefer speaking to sign language. It is their choice based on their own backgrounds and skills. The best thing that hearing people can do for deaf people is to allow them to be themselves. Trying to fit them into a category of an ASL (American Sign Language) user, or an Exact English user or even as an Oral deaf person is not fair or practical. Trends come and go, and the person is still just who he or she is.

SPW: What advice would you give to young people (or the young at heart) who are reading your book for the first time?

CFB: My advice is to be open to differences in people. Not just between hearing and deaf people, but to all people. Kindness and compassion go a long way in this difficult world. It makes others smile, and our hearts can smile with them when we know we’ve given our best.

SPW: Anything you would like to add....

CFB: I think people will enjoy my book. It is a sweet story about two people who find each other, connect and work very hard to stay together. It reflects optimism and compassion. It is a realistic depiction of the deaf and hearing experience of two unique individuals.

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