We are excited to feature our second book brag with award-winning author Alison Gervais (In 27 Days, 2017), whose sophomore novel The Silence Between Us goes on sale August 13, 2019.
Deaf teen Maya Harris must navigate a new life—and love—in this #OwnVoices novel from Alison Gervais. When Maya is forced to attended a hearing school, she sets out to prove that her lack of hearing won’t stop her from chasing her dreams or staying true to herself.
Hannah VanVels: Hi Alison! We can’t wait to hear more about this book. What is the inspiration behind the main character Maya and her story in The Silence Between Us?
Alison Gervais: I’m not sure if there was ever one specific moment where I just knew this was a story I needed to tell. I think it happened on its own, to be honest. Maya was a very fun, unique kind of character to create, and right from the beginning I fell in love with the way her voice began to develop. She’s spunky and not afraid to speak her mind. I myself am the exact opposite, so it was fun to write from such a different perspective.
Hannah VanVels: This book is #OwnVoices. You are very much a part of the community from whose perspective you’re writing. How have your own experiences shaped Maya’s voice?
Alison Gervais: I didn’t actually step foot into the Deaf community until I was already in college, so of course, I’m still learning about their beautiful culture and language, and I think that’s going to be a lifelong journey. I was born with normal hearing that got progressively worse as I got older, so I never really knew about the Deaf world until I was eighteen.
But even though it seems as if I have one foot in both worlds—hearing and Deaf—a lot of my own experiences did wind up shaping Maya’s voice. I’ve been mocked and teased because of my hearing loss, had people reach out and finger my ear or pull out my hearing aid just to get a closer look, even gotten in trouble at work because I didn’t mention I have hearing loss. What Maya faces throughout the story looks a little different, but experiences like those stick with you long after the fact.
Hannah VanVels: Friendship is a major theme in this novel. The friendship between Maya and her hearing friend Nina and Maya and her Deaf friend Melissa are complex and nuanced. How is Maya’s connection different with Nina than it is with Melissa? What about makes each of their friendships unique?
Alison Gervais: Maya’s friendship with Nina will always look a little different from her friendship with Melissa, because Nina is hearing, and Maya is not. However much Nina tries to learn about Maya’s world, that’s something she won’t ever have in common with Maya. But despite their differences—or Maya and Melissa’s similarities—they’re all friends, and I think that’s what makes their friendship unique.
Hannah VanVels: We love books that are inclusive of all different kinds of characters. Why do you think it’s important for YA readers to meet characters like Maya, Beau, Nina, Jackson, and Melissa? What’s is like to create characters who view the world so differently?
Alison Gervais: I think one great way for people to experience characters and stories different from their own is to pick up a book and read, and I think that’s what readers will see when they read The Silence Between Us. And to create characters who view the world in different ways can be a challenge sometimes—it was for me—but I’ve found that the more time you spend in that world writing, the characters take on a life of their own eventually, which is always a good feeling!
Hannah VanVels: Both spoken dialogue and signed dialogue are represented in this book. How is writing signed dialogue different than writing spoken dialogue?
Alison Gervais: This was one of the major challenges about telling Maya’s story, because American Sign Language is not English, and there’s really no directtranslation from one to the next. I went through my old ASL textbook, a great online tool called lifeprint.com, and spoke with a friend of mine who is Deaf to figure out the best way to represent ASL throughout the story—all caps, for example—and I think the end result is as accurate as I could’ve hoped for.
Hannah VanVels: Tell us more about the gorgeous cover!
Alison Gervais: I still cannot get over how beautiful the cover is! Unbelievably the Blink team was able to get in touch with the superbly talented Nancy Rourke, who is an amazing, well-known Deaf artist. The sign on the cover means “friend” and the colors just bring it to life. I am so honored Nancy agreed to make the cover! Definitely check out more of her artwork, because it’s all amazing.
Hannah VanVels: Any spoilers you want to share?
Alison Gervais: Not a darn one!
Thank you, Alison! We are counting down until this book comes out.
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About the Author
Alison Gervais began writing at the age of five and gained recognition by posting her work on Wattpad in 2011. She graduated from Colorado State University – Pueblo with a degree in English and is still figuring out what else she’d like to do in life. As for now, she plans to keep writing, rereading Harry Potter, watching Supernatural and Law and Order: SVU, and enjoying life with her husband and their two cats, Jane and Smoke.