Several years ago, I read an article in the Romance Writer Report which stated that women are attracted to a man who "looks at them like they are the only thing in the room." I found that idea intriguing. So I started wondering, what sort of man would have that kind of intensity in his gaze?
A deaf man would.
So, I decided to write a deaf hero. Because I write historicals and Norsemen, I set him in the 1700s in Christiania (now
Next, I needed to figure out what a deaf man could do to support himself, after
being passed over as heir because of his hearing loss. He told me he solves
crimes because (in his gestures): When people find out I'm deaf, they forget
I'm in the room. Norway
Plus, he reads lips, courtesy of the older cousin brought in to be his “ears” when he was young.
I contacted a friend who is a sign language interpreter to run my ideas past her and get advice from. She told me that my hero needed to have acquired spoken language before losing his hearing, or there would be slew of other problems to deal with. That was excellent, and critical, information. I wrote that Brander was seven years old when his second eardrum burst irreparably, the result of multiple ear infections.
After dragging poor Brander Hansen through all kinds of emotional torture ~ and having him track a serial killer along
's southern coastline ~ he
gets his "Happily Ever After" with the heroine. I typed The End, and
thought I was done. Norway
He didn't agree. After a few months, Brander nudged me and asked if I was really certain I wanted to let go of him. And for a mute-by-choice deaf man, he has a very loud voice.
I had to admit, I wasn't.
With a deep breath and a squaring of shoulders, I turned back to look at Brander's life with his new wife, Regin Kildahl. Turns out, the spunky Baroness wasn't ready to sit back and enjoy a quiet life either, and their shared precarious adventures filled five full-length novels.
Writing a deaf hero in the 1700s was a challenge, to be honest. Aside from the lack of a formal sign language, the common perception of the deaf was that they were stupid. Of course, Brander turns that to his advantage.
As I was typing along, I occasionally made mistakes. When I did, I worked them into the narrative. Like this line: “Regin lowered her voice…” Oops. Well, go on with the thought: “…before she remembered she didn't have to.”
I even had a line of dialog where Regin points her finger at her deaf and mute husband and shouts, "Don't you ever say that to me again, do you hear me?" Who wouldn’t use words they were accustomed to in the heat of an argument?
Brander looks at her like she's crazy and asks: Do you realize what you just said?
"You know what I mean!" she retorts.
Realistic. And humorous.
I have a scene in the second book "A Discreet Gentleman of Matrimony," when a doctor asks to look into Brander's ears. My discreet gentleman experiences a moment of shock and wonders if he could regain his hearing.
He cannot. And when he thinks about it, Brander realizes that he is a better man because he is deaf. To regain his hearing at this stage of his life would be a detriment to his career.
That is a very realistic response. Not heroic. Not bitter. No pounding anyone with a politically correct agenda. Just real.
Another challenge was figuring out a way to let the reader know HOW the dialog was being delivered. I decided on:
"Spoken words are in quotation marks."
Written words are in italics.
And when Brander gestures: His sentences look like dialog, but without any quote marks.
Aside from the 80% 5-Star ratings Brander has garnered, the most gratifying response to the books came from a reviewer of books and movies with disability themes: http://reviews.paradevo.net/2012/08/a-discreet-gentleman-of-discovery.html
After all, getting it “right” is the most respectful portrayal of all.
Historical Romance Author Kris Tualla is a former Genre-ista and a frequent guest at Romancing the Genres. There are now 17 full-length novels in the Hansen Series plus 3 novellas. These comprise 5 trilogies plus one 5-book set. And I am very happy to report that the Hansen Series has a 4.75-star overall rating on Amazon.