Whisper by Chrissie Keighery
1) What was your inspiration behind Whisper and how long did it take you to write?
In 2009 I was at a writer’s festival, launching my last novel for Young Adults, Outside In. The venue I was given was a noisy breezeway. It was very difficult to make myself heard to the students milling about. It was ironic then, that a group of deaf students accompanied by an interpreter were the ones who actually ‘heard’ what I was saying.
After that, I felt very drawn to watching interpreters at other author talks. Sign language is pretty beguiling visually.
Having a coffee with my Australian editor, Hilary started telling me about a family that fascinated her. Both parents were deaf but both of their children could hear. From there we started to talk about the idea of creating a deaf character.
I have to say, I was very naïve about how much I was taking on. The research alone took me three months. There was so much to consider that at times I felt overwhelmed. The whole process of researching and writing Whisper took eighteen months… by far the longest period I’ve ever spent on a book.
2) While writing Whisper did your characters behave as you wanted them to or did they ever change the direction of the story?
My characters rarely behave! The thing is, I guess I don’t want them to. To me, the process of writing a book is more about uncovering a story that’s buried somewhere rather than creating it. If character’s all behaved that process could become quite boring.
All of my main characters changed from my original perceptions. The changing was the part, I think, that helped them become three dimensional.
3) What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing Whisper? And which was the hardest scene for you to write?
I was very concerned at times to be writing a deaf character while I’m not deaf myself. Many times I lost confidence in being able to depict Demi’s life without becoming a preacher! I can’t bear books that try to force feed wisdom – and I didn’t want to be the writer of one.
The hardest scene to write was the scene where Demi is at a party with a hearing crowd and someone switches off the light. By that stage, I was falling in love with her… and I felt so cruel to make her go through that. Even now, I find it hard to read that scene aloud without choking up.
4) Can you tell is anything about any new/future projects of yours?
This year I’m writing four books. Three are for a new series called Girl Vs the World. They’re for a slightly younger audience, but I think they’re brave books that go into areas of adolescence that aren’t discussed in a straight forward way in fiction very often.
I’m also writing a YA Romance… I have my L plates on again for that one.
5) Can you offer any advice to all the aspiring writers out there?
My first book was published nearly twenty years ago. The last seven years have been really productive for me, but there were definitely some lean times in there. Lots of tears when I got rejections. My philosophy, given that I really knew writing was something I desperately wanted to make my career, was to do something every day to advance my style and understanding. Which actually (sorry about this!) means to spend time writing! There’s no way out guys. Reading can definitely help but it’s the time spent writing that makes us writers.
6) And finally, just to add in a bit of random… What’s your favourite childhood book? And who is your favourite villan?
Oh what a mean question! To have to choose…
My mum used to read to me and my sisters from ‘When We Were Six’: a book of poetry by A.A. Milne. I still adore those poems, though when I chase my kids reciting them I’m not sure they share my passion.
The Banksia Men from ‘Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’ were pretty freaky. Nasty sods, the lot of them. They were modelled on Australian Banksia cones. Look, it’s hard to describe… here’s one carrying a poor gumnut baby. You can see what I mean!
Thank you so much Chrissie for answering my questions. Whisper is a truly thought provoking read and I really do recommend you guys all check it out! You can find my review of it HERE.