Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Golden Braids Blog Tour DAY 3: MECHANICAL HEART RELEASE! (Ft. Writing Deaf Characters (When You're Not Deaf))


Hey'a, everyone! As you can see from the title, Mechanical Heart is officially out! Writing, editing, and publishing this book has been quite a journey, and it involved a lot of challenges I didn't have to deal with when writing Blood in the Snow. But it's done; it's out in the world and ready for you all to explore; and all those challenges are now just life lessons and stories to tell. And for today, I'm sharing about one of those challenges . . . but first, blurb time.

About . . .

Mechanical Heart!

Can you save someone who doesn’t know if she’s alive?

Breen lives locked away, separated from the world by the walls of her clock tower and the machine of gems, gears, and magic that replaces her heart. That is, until an unexpected visitor appears in her tower, offering a dangerous gift: freedom. His promises awaken hope for a life unbound by the tower walls — but she knows that if he learns about her heart, it’s only a matter of time before he turns on her.

Josiah is powerless. Though he’s the crown prince of the mighty Chanian empire, he feels stifled by his inability to protect his people from the schemes of corrupt nobles. When he discovers a girl trapped in a locked clock tower, he thinks he’s finally found a problem he can solve . . . but more than just walls keep her captive.

From the royal palace to the streets of Rivenford to the tops of clock towers, secrets hide around every corner in this steampunk retelling of Rapunzel. Breen and Josiah hold the keys to each other's struggles — if they can break down the barriers that divide them.

Find it On: Amazon || Goodreads


On Writing Deaf Characters (When You're Not Deaf)

If you’re an author of speculative fiction, you learn pretty quickly how to write characters who are different from you. After all, most writers aren’t sword-wielding, spell-slinging adventurers or sharp-shooting, quick-witted starship captains. Very few of us grew up without knowing who our parents are; most of us haven’t had to deal with the mental or physical aftermath of fighting for our lives; and none of us have ominous prophecies hanging over our heads. (At least, I assume not. If I’m wrong on that one, please let me know.)

Mechanical Heart is no exception to that principle. After all, its cast includes a politician prince whose desire to change the world is only surpassed by his tendency to make dramatic speeches, a pair of pretty brilliant (and also rather technically minded) inventors, and a princess who might be one of the most outgoing and extroverted characters I’ve ever written. Oh, and did I mention that two of those characters — one of the inventors and the princess — are deaf?

So, how does a hearing author write a deaf character? The usual advice for writing characters different from you — “Write people, not characters” — only goes so far. For the rest, well, that requires a lot of research and a bit of ingenuity.

Most of that research went into figuring out how Breen and the other major deaf character, Princess Grace, would communicate and interact with other people. In the earliest version of the book, conversations between Breen and Josiah (the prince I mentioned earlier) involved a lot of written notes and too-accurate lip reading. However, the more I learned about life for a deaf person, the more I realized that what I had was both unrealistic and infeasible.

Thankfully, by the time I got around to writing the second, third, and fourth drafts, I had help. By that time, I was in college and had found a friend with a fair knowledge of sign language and the Deaf community. She and some of her friends were able to answer quite many of my questions, and they directed me to solid resources for learning more. (For those curious: most of the people I asked said that Lifeprint is the best choice for learning ASL, and I relied on it quite a bit in certain scenes.)

Of course, how characters talk to each other is only part of how they interact. I also had to try to understand how people in the Deaf community tend to view hearing people and what behaviors and attitudes would be realistic or unrealistic on both sides of the conversation. One resource I found particularly helpful on this point was a deaf YouTuber, Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, who has some videos that provide a really good look at a deaf person’s perspective. Of course, the attitudes of someone from our modern era might not match those of someone from the Victorian era . . . but I’m not writing historical fiction here! That meant I could make societal treatment of the deaf in the world of Mechanical Heart a lot more like what it is today than what it was historically.

(Also, minor sidetrack: Victorian attempts at hearing aids are fascinating. Most of them were something along the lines of an ear trumpet or a reverse megaphone — but the Victorian people found so many ways to hide them. In hairpieces, in hats, in fans, in chairs . . . it’s honestly impressive. This article from the Washington University School of Medicine covers the topic pretty well; go read it. It’s cool.)

Even once I’d done the research, writing from a deaf POV and about deaf characters had its own challenges. Obviously, I had to make sure I wasn’t including sound details when I was writing from the perspective of a deaf character. However, I also had to consider other details that normally wouldn’t be a concern, like whether or not characters would actually be able to see what the other was signing and what type of sign language different characters use. (For example, Breen uses her world’s equivalent of ASL, which has a grammatical structure different from that of English. On the other hand, Josiah, who often has to speak and sign at the same time, tends to use his word’s version of PSE, which uses ASL signs with English word order.)

Even with all that to consider, though, writing from Breen’s POV wasn’t any harder than writing from any other character’s POV. In fact, her scenes were often easier to write than Josiah’s many debates and other verbal sparring matches. The biggest challenge was just making sure I got her part right. I want to tell a good story, but I also want to tell it in a way that’s respectful to the communities my characters represent. I’m aware that I may have gotten some things wrong; after all, I’m only human. But I did my best, and I hope that will be enough.

So, are you excited to read Mechanical Heart? What are you most looking forward to? Have you ever written a character who's deaf (or faces other physical challenges that you don't)? What character that you've written about would you say is the most different from you? Please tell me in the comments, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour posts and enter the giveaway!
Have a lovely day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Blog Tour Stops: August 7

Knitted By God's Plan - Five Reasons to Read
Light and Shadows - Five Reasons to Read
Dreams and Dragons - Writing Deaf Characters

Reviews

Reality Reflected + Mini Interview!
The Page Dreamer
The Language of Writing
The Labyrinth + Mini Interview!
The World of a Writer

Interviews

To be a Shennachie - Sarah

Guest Posts

Dragonpen Press - Why Nomances

Or find the full list of stops here.

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