I read and reviewed Star Gazing a few weeks ago and gave it 5 out of 5. It was an amazing read.
Linda has joined us today to talk about Star Gazing but please do check out her latest novel, House of Silence which is available as a Kindle e-book. It is getting a lot of 5 star attention on the book forums and blogs.
SEEING STARS - by Linda Gillard
The question everyone asks me about my third novel, STAR GAZING is, “Why did you write about a blind heroine?” (And not just someone who loses her sight, a woman who was born blind.) Readers have assumed there must be blindness in my family or that I have a blind friend, but it was purely an artistic decision and one I arrived at by a circuitous route.
My adult son refers jokingly to my writing as “playing with my imaginary friends”. (A pretty accurate description of writing fiction!) I had the idea of creating an imaginary hero, or at least an “Is he/Isn’t he real?” hero. It struck me that if you’re blind, you’re dependent on your sense of touch or the corroboration of others to confirm someone’s existence. (A voice could be a delusion.) When you met a man for the first time, you wouldn’t touch him and he would be just a voice to you. But what if you were alone? And he had a tendency to just disappear? What if no one else appeared to see him?…
I decided a blind heroine would allow me to pursue this storyline. It also gave me an angle for writing about the landscape of the Isle of Skye, where the novel is set. (I now live on the Isle of Arran, but Skye was my home for six years and I lived there when I was writing STAR GAZING.)
I’d written about Hebridean island landscape in my first novel, EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY and I didn’t think I had anything new to say about the spectacular beauty of Skye. It’s hard to avoid resorting to clichés when confronted with a world-class mountain range, but I realised I could present the island from an original point of view, or rather, no point of view. I decided to write about Skye from the “point of view” of a blind woman: what she heard, touched and smelled while she was there.
As I didn’t know anyone who was blind or even visually impaired I had to research blindness. I read several books written by people who’d gone blind, but I couldn’t find much written by the congenitally blind. (I wanted my heroine Marianne to have no visual frame of reference at all. I’m not one for doing things by halves!) I found a certain amount of information online, which got me started, but mostly I made it up. I just imagined what it might be like to be blind. I also removed all “sighted-speak” from Marianne’s narrative and focused on her other senses. Once I got going, I found it surprisingly easy, apart from the constant intrusions of “sighted-speak”, which were hard to eliminate. As Marianne says,
“Has it ever struck you how language favours the sighted? (Of course not, because you can see.) I don’t just have a problem seeing, I have a problem talking, trying to find words and phrases appropriate to my experience. Just listen to how people go on:
Oh, I see what you mean . . . Now look, here . . . The way I see it . . . Reading between the lines . . . I didn’t see that coming! . . . It depends on your point of view . . .
You get the picture?
I, of course, don’t.”
It was certainly fun creating my hero, Keir by describing how he sounded, felt, and smelled! This is how Marianne describes him:
“His voice was like toffee. Smooth and pitched low. But this voice didn’t have the drop of vanilla, the hint of a drawl that Harvey inherited from his Canadian mother. This voice was more like a good dark chocolate, the kind that’s succulent, almost fruity, but with a hint of bitterness. He hit his Highland consonants with the same satisfying “click” that good chocolate makes when you snap it into pieces. (The blind are as fetishistic about voices as the sighted are about appearances, so allow me if you will, to describe this man’s voice as chocolate. Serious chocolate. Green and Black’s, not Cadbury’s.)”
While I was writing, I had no idea if the book would be convincing. I had my doubts and at times the whole exercise seemed presumptuous. But after STAR GAZING was published, I had an email from a man whose daughter had Marianne’s condition. He said he thought I’d captured her experience very well - so much so, he was going to get the book brailled for her.
STAR GAZING was also a critical success. It was short-listed for Romantic Novel of the Year in 2009 and also for the Robin Jenkins Literary Award in Scotland (an award for writing that promotes Scottish landscape). Then in 2010 it was voted Favourite Romantic Novel 1960-2010 by readers of Woman’s Weekly magazine.
I think STAR GAZING changed the way I write. I came to realise how much we limit ourselves – as people and especially as writers - by concentrating on visuals. We miss so much! As Keir says,
‘It’s not you with the limited perception, Marianne. Folk who can see just don’t seem to look.’
Writing STAR GAZING was an interesting experiment. I’d feared readers might be bored, as so much of the book lacks a visual element, but they seem to have been as fascinated as I was by the day-to-day practicalities of life for the blind and everyone seems to have been entranced by the way Keir “interprets” the island for Marianne, often through music, using her other senses. He even helps her to “see” the stars:
‘If you look east, one of the brightest stars you’ll see is Arcturus. It has a yellow-orange glow. Most stars look cold. Icy. They’d sound like… flutes. No, piccolos. Shrill. Arcturus looks warmer. A cello maybe… It looks like the stove feels when it gives off just a bit of heat. Arcturus glows, but it doesn’t burn or blaze like the sun. It’s like the feeling you might have for an old friend… or an ex-lover, one who still means something to you. Steady. Passionless. On second thoughts, make that a viola… How am I doing?’
Thank you to Linda for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us about writing Star Gazing. Like the book, I found this fascinating.
STAR GAZING (Piatkus £7.99) will be published as a Kindle e-book for Amazon on 9th June.
|I love this cover!|
Linda’s latest novel, HOUSE OF SILENCE is available as a Kindle e-book from Amazon UK and Amazon US, priced £1.90/$2.99.
For more information about Linda and her books, visit her website: http://www.lindagillard.co.uk/
Linda has kindly offered the chance to win a signed copy of either Star Gazing or Emotional Geology and the chance to win a e-book copy of House of Silence. (3 winners - 2 paperback books and 1 e-book to be won)
Please leave a comment, with your choice of book, if you are lucky enough to be a winner.
The winner of House of Silence will receive a gift certificate to purchase the e-book.
Winners will be notified by email or DM if a twitter follower, so if your email address is not available from
your profile please leave it with your comment (spaced out to avoid spam). Thanks
Closing date 6th May 2011
Please read Giveaway Policy