Chicklish interviews Shanta Everington, author of Give Me a Sign.
What inspired you to write Give Me a Sign?
I wanted to write a love story/coming of age book and I was playing around with ideas for possible storylines. Liz just came to me the way characters sometimes do. She popped up when I was in the bath or cooking my dinner and started talking to me. I started to get to know her in my head. I knew that her dad died, I knew that she was bullied, I knew she had a difficult relationship with her mum. But I didn't know who she was going to fall in love with or how it was going to work out!
Then I got a new job and to cut a long story short, my employer swapped roles about before I started and I was chucked in the deep end and asked to facilitate a project working with a deaf production company to produce a deaf-led DVD in BSL! I had absolutely zero experience of the deaf world and I was bricking it! It was a very intensive time, meeting deaf people, learning how to work with interpreters, enrolling in sign language classes, beginning to understand about the Deaf Community and Deaf politics.
Then Doug came to me. I didn't think, 'I know, I'll have a deaf character', he just started chatting to me (in BSL of course!) So the decision was made. I don't tend to map out the plot too much to start with, I just go with the flow and let the characters do the work.
As mentioned in the review, I related to Liz's adventures in learning British Sign Language. Do you have qualifications in this yourself, and was your experience of learning similar to Liz's?
Why, yes I am the proud owner of a BSL level 1 certificate! I would love to be able to say that I took it further than that, but as you and anybody else who's learned sign will know, it's extremely difficult! A lot of Liz's experiences interacting with deaf people are based loosely on my own experiences of trying to get to grips with this whole other world. All her gaffes and goofs, yep, I've been there, worn the T-shirt! I don't think I've ever humiliated myself quite as much in such a short space of time!
Can you tell us something about the blog you have started for Liz?
I started the blog at the beginning of national Deaf Awareness Week in May as a vehicle for getting young people thinking about how deaf and hearing people comminucate and also to get people hooked into the story so they'd want to buy the book!
Liz's posts take place during the story so it's a taster of what the book covers written in a similar voice. It's aimed at young people deaf or hearing but has also attracted some interest from parents and educators.
It can be difficult to return to Liz in this format as the nature of blog communication means I have to use very bald language so it's hard to get her voice the same as in the book. Yes, the book is written in a sparing style but this takes it to a whole new level of sparingness!
What do you particularly enjoy about writing for young adults? Will you be writing more books for this age group?
For starters, I love reading YA books and I think it's always good practice to write the kind of stuff you love to read. I love the complexity of young adults. I love that it's okay to obssess about boys and pink glitter nail varnish - it doesn't mean you're shallow and you can still care passionately about what happens in the world. I enjoy the apparent paradox in that - I like being frivolous and serious all at the same time. I love that writing for YAs means revisiting my own experiences - like what was it like to fall in love for the very first time.
I'm currently putting the finishing touches to my second teen novel, whih is narrated by a boy. I can't say too much at this stage but WATCH THIS SPACE!