BLOG TOUR: Silence by Deborah Lytton- Interview

Author: Deborah Lytton
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Pages: 320
Price: $17.99 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1-60907-945-1
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Love & Romance

Blurb DescriptionStella is a vivacious teen with a deep yearning to become an accomplished Broadway musical star. Her dreams are shattered when a freak accident renders her deaf. Struggling mightily to communicate in a world of total silence, she meets Hayden who has such a pronounced stutter she can easily read his lips because he speaks so slowly. Communication leads to connection and an unexpected romance as they learn from each other and discover their own ways to overcome setbacks, find renewed purpose and recognize their true voice.


Q: Silence is a YA romance with a strong theme developing from the budding love relationship, of "mindfulness" and finding the "power in now". It's an unusual perspective for this genre, why was it an important theme for you to explore?

DL: As Hayden and Stella are falling in love, he introduces being "in the moment" to her, which is a saving grace when she's confronted with a sudden devastating hearing loss. Being in the moment allows them to enjoy experiences together without Stella worrying about a future she sees as limited by her deafness. But although Hayden talks about being in the moment, he's actually often thinking ahead by worrying about losing her or haunted by the past and his abusive childhood. Stella frees herself in so many ways in this story, mindfulness being central to her accepting and then embracing the changes in her life. She learns to turn limitations into strengths. I wanted to show how someone can be really important in your life and maybe act as a guide-and a romance heightens all those feelings- but that ultimately you have to find that inner peace yourself, you have to make that choice. Stella does that.

Q: Did you draw on your own life experience in this story and, if so, are you more like Stella or Hayden?

DL: People often ask authors if we project ourselves onto our characters. I don't do that consciously while I'm writing! But in retrospect I'd say Stella is who I am and Hayden is who I strive to be in the sense that Hayden is kind, true to himself, genuinely devoted to helping others in need and though flawed, certainly, he gains wisdom from adversity.
However, as a writer I did draw on real life experience in telling Stella and Hayden's story; my writing is most powerful when I am true to myself and write what I am passionate about. I tried to remain realistic in this book while at the same time reflecting my own values. The kids are messing around at an unsupervised party, and this leads to a freak accident that renders Stella deaf. They're not perfect kids. Stella's parents are divorced, and there are open wounds which play out in that family. Hayden's mother was abusive and absent; his profound stutter is a psychological manifestation of that emotional burden (although his stutter becomes a gift because Stella reads lips, and he speaks perfectly-slowly- to her). So the story and setting are realistic and relatable, but I also wanted the content and the romance to be dramatic, passionate and intense as well as clean and age-appropriate. I had no specific guideline in mind, but these characters believe in doing the right thing, care about each other and live by the Golden Rule. I wanted to show readers that there are people like that. Every relationship in Stella's life plays an important and different role; no one person satisfies all our needs, but all are needed. It's important to me that parents and teachers can recommend a book like this without being concerned about questionable content. On a personal note, I have made a commitment to write books I can give my own daughters to read without looking over their shoulders.

Q: In the book, Hayden talks about being a bystander in life, not a participant. Stella's accident renders her unable to fulfill her dream of becoming a Broadway star and steals her life's purpose. Young adults now have "online lives" in social media that can take up more time than "live" interactive experiences with people. Does that make it dangerously easy for young people to become bystanders in life if they're not careful?

DL: Yes, it's amazing how many young people-and adults-have their heads buried in their phones! That participation in non-stop social media is all about the public mask and can be a crutch, making people less comfortable in social interactions and therefore more avoidant of them.
Before I became a writer, I had a long career as an actor starting at age six so I know all about "putting on the mask" and pretending to be someone else. I experienced how limiting that could be because casting directors only saw "my look" as all-American ingénue roles, when there were other roles I was capable of playing and wanted to play. In a similar way, but much more painful, judgment from Hayden's peers about his stutter makes him a social outcast. Being branded as an outcast affects Hayden's self-esteem, and he in turn continues to wear the mask others put on him, until Stella helps him see himself differently through her eyes.

In the beginning of the book, Stella is also an actress, popular because of her talent. She really hides behind her singing as her persona, giving voice to someone else's words and wearing her own mask. In making Stella deaf, I didn't focus on her impairment as a disability, rather I wanted to strip that character down, take away what she relied on, give her a setback, an obstacle to overcome and see how she could find her way to a better place: a renewed life's purpose, maybe more openness to deep connection and a different way of looking at being really true to herself and finding her own voice. It's from those broken places that people grow stronger. I wanted to use Stella and Hayden's journey to reach out to readers who might also feel broken, to give them hope and encourage them to find their own voices.

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