Author of newly released Deafness and Hearing Loss reflects on the experience of writing her recent book, her developing new novel and more!
What spurred you to write Deafness and Hearing Loss?
I initially answered an advert in a writing magazine saying that the publisher was looking for authors, and pitched several ideas to them but hearing loss and deafness was the one they went with. I wasn't aware of any other publications that offered a complete guide to all aspects of hearing difficulties, and, of course, was already very interested in the issues involved, having experienced many of them at first hand myself.
You make good use of case studies - where did you find the information?
It varied. One case study I met after chatting to him at a writing conference, I was put in touch with another because she was a friend of a former colleague. Another was a personal acquaintance, another contact came from the British Tinnitus Association. I also got in touch with the parents I've interviewed through an online forum for parents of deaf children. I even met a group of teenagers when I saw them using sign language on a bus and approached them too! I was able to visit a school's deaf unit and chat to staff and pupils there because a friend is also a teacher there, although not in the deaf unit.
What did your research tell you about the state of service provision for deaf people today?
I think it told me lots of things, much of it very encouraging. There is more technology than ever to help deaf people, and more support through things like Access to Work and the Disability Discrimination Act which never existed before. Also more can be done to help deaf students at college, school and university now. But perhaps more could still be done to make people aware of and access the help they are entitled to. There's no doubt negative attitudes to deafness still linger, as well.
What were Forward Press like to work with?
I found the experience very positive - it was very much a collaborative effort, and we took many editing decisions together. I found the editorial staff I worked with communicated well and quickly with me at all times, and gave good direction.
Did you find writing hard work or did the creative process come easy to you?
I don;t think any writer finds the process easy at all times, and working on a project of this length is always going to present its own challenges. However, most of the time I was pleasantly surprised to find that, once I had found the information I needed, the words seemed to come pretty smoothly, and I found it enjoyable. There was a chapter plan in place, so an initial structure was there from the start.
What will you be working on next?
Still thinking about that one! I have written 80 pages of a novel which I would like to return to at some point. I am also interested in doing more creative non-fiction, perhaps a memoir, travelogue or biography. But for the moment I am mulling this over while pressing on with my normal workload of articles which I do freelance for various websites, magazines and so on.
Do you think that as a society we are becoming more deaf aware?
This is an interesting one. Technology and equality legislation are all in place. But, as I said, I think negative attitudes towards deafness can still linger. I come across plenty of people who get unnecessarily frustrated when they have to repeat something. I am sure as well that plenty of prejudice at work still goes on. I did a piece for Hearing Times before the election, and none of the main political parties had a policy on what they would do, if elected, to help deaf people. In fact, it was a struggle to get any of them to talk to me at all!
How has your own experience of deafness influenced your work?
It has in that I have definitely encountered impatience and a lack of understanding at work in various jobs I have done in the past. Equally, I think that having an experience of hearing loss myself gave me a greater sense of urgency to complete the book and to try and do a good job. It meant that my research had to be carried out face to face or by text relay phone calls or email, but most people were very understanding of that.