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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Blog Tour: Aaron by JP Barnaby

Please welcome author JP Barnaby back to the blog.  She is one of my favorite authors and I am happy she included me in her blog tour once again.

Writing Spencer as a Deaf Character

As I worked on Aaron, it took me a long time to decide on point of view (POV).  Every other novel I'd written to that point was done in first person. With Aaron, however, I felt the reader might need a little distance from his head. He's  frightened and hurting, with deep psychological damage. So, I converted the chapters I had into third person, entirely from Aaron's perspective, but something still felt off. I put it back on the shelf and worked on something else. Then, I went to OutlantaCon. There, I met a young gay man and his partner. Their story was so similar to Aaron and Spencer - a traumatized boy meets a young deaf man and they find love and commonality. They were such sweet guys. It was dark in the restaurant where we started talking and I found that I had trouble communicating with the young deaf man. I wanted to resort to hand gestures and speaking more slowly. It was then that I knew what I was missing. I was missing what it must be like for Spencer to deal with people who aren't accustomed to the way he communicates.

 Aaron by J. P. Barnaby, a story of fear, desperation, 
and finding the courage to live life on your own terms.

I'd never known anyone with a hearing impairment before, so I didn't appreciate his perspective until right then. When I got home from Atlanta, I rewrote parts of Aaron to alternate with Spencer's side of the story and found a far more well-rounded view of their lives.  So, thank you to Ken and especially Jeffy for helping Spencer find his voice.

The research I did for Spencer's character in the book focused mostly on the technological gadgets that would help compensate for his hearing loss - the doorbell, the sound sensor in the car, etc. As someone totally unaccustomed to that type of impairment, I didn't even know if deaf people could drive. His speech, the way he rarely uses contractions, and a lot of his frustration come from an episode of Law & Order I remembered from years before. Everything else, really came from how I would feel if I were trying to deal with people who had no concept of relating to me. I have some experience with that, and was able to channel my frustration into Spencer.

Justin LeBeau, who I see when I close my eyes and think of Spencer. 
Photo Credit: Cockyboys http://www.CockyBoys.com

When some of my readers got wind of what I was writing, they introduced me to Zach Sweets, a deaf author in our genre. It broke my heart to hear that he hadn't come to GayRomLit with us that year because he was afraid of how he'd be received. I talked with Zach over email and sent him what I had of Aaron to that point so that he could validate whether Spencer's speech patterns and behaviors were authentic. Realism is very important to me, so I was thrilled when he said I'd made Spencer believable.

My other goal with Spencer was to make him strong. Spencer isn't a victim and for the most part, he doesn't hide behind his deafness. In order to deal with Aaron's psychological trauma, Spencer had to be tough but compassionate. He couldn't have his heart broken every time Aaron flinched away from him, he had to want to be Aaron's partner after the incident in the quad, and he had to be able to stay calm in the face of Aaron's flashbacks. Aaron had to know that he could lean on Spencer when things got hard--and he did.

Aaron cover model Jake Bass and Spencer's inspiration Justin LeBeau
Photo credit: Cockyboys http://www.cockyboys.com

Taking away one of my favorite senses was one of the most challenging things about writing Spencer. I am very audibly stimulated, listening gets me off. So, to not be able to describe sounds during Spencer's encounter with the delivery guy took some creativity. Spencer cannot hear sighs, or differentiate that something is whispered, or hear when a voice breaks. Conveying Aaron's emotions when he spoke to Spencer had to be done through non-verbal means that we, as authors, sometimes rely on. That said, I loved writing him, he's a beautiful and compassionate boy perfectly suited for the broken little voice in my head.

I will be eternally grateful to Spencer for coming into Aaron's life and shouldering some of the weight on his small, hunched shoulders.


About J. P. Barnaby

As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.

Website: http://www.jpbarnaby.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JPBarnaby

Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com/JPBarnaby


Three signed copies of Aaron are up for grabs - make sure to 
enter the Goodreads giveaway by October 15th

(Giveaway open to US residents only. If you're outside of the US and would like a signed bookmark from Aaron, please request one from http://www.jpbarnaby.com/#bookmarks)

Want to see the rest of the stops on the tour?



Blogger jayhjay said...

Great post! I loved Spencer and thought he felt very real. I think the story does a nice job of balancing his occasional difficulties or insecurities interacting with people along with the internal strength he has. Great character.

October 4, 2012 at 5:57 AM  
Blogger Alicia Nordwell said...

I haven't read the book yet, but it is definitely in my 'the next time I buy' list. I've had a character with a limited senses for a short time in a story (sight) and it was incredibly difficult to write. I can appreciate the work JP went to in authenticating Spencer. I do so enjoy an author that commits to ensuring their stories are as real as possible; more and more people are half-assing it and failing. JP's stories never fall into that category.

October 4, 2012 at 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate the courage it takes to portray a character with a disability, because as one person once told me, it is so easy to get it wrong if you haven't lived it yourself.

I appreciate even more someone who takes the time to get it right--who honors both the story and the characters by being willing to set it aside until what was missing was found. Having the patience to set the story aside until the time was right and being willing to put in the research into making sure it rang true is not something every writer would do.

Your experiences here with the people you've met that influenced how you wrote this story really touched me--by the very fact that you wrote it, you've made their lives and their difficulties more accessible and understandable to the world at large.

This one's definitely going on the TBR list!

October 4, 2012 at 6:16 PM  
Blogger Loveless3173 said...

Wow... great post. Simply.. a great post.

October 4, 2012 at 8:58 PM  

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