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HEAR by Jacqueline Abelson

Hear (2012)
by Jacqueline Abelson
Publication Date: May 19, 2012
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synopsis from Goodreads.

I’m very happy to be featuring Jacqueline Abelson, who is the 19-year old author behind her debut novel, HEAR.

Lots of people can hear, but how many really listen?

At the age of 17, Charlotte Goode has issues. Serious issues. Despite countless surgeries, her parent’s panic attacks, and a well-meaning oncologist, a rare genetic disorder means Charlotte must live with recurring tumors. Life isn’t supposed to be this way.

And just as Charlotte is learning to cope, she gets some devastating news: Tumors are growing on her auditory nerves. But, the necessary surgery will leave her completely deaf.

With the operation scheduled in a month, Charlotte prepares herself for a world without sound. A world without the violin she loves, without her best friend’s laugh, and even without her boss’s irksome tone. Charlotte’s on a mission to take it all in, while trying to hire a band to play a benefit concert. Will it be The Bond Boys or Lennox?

Counting down the days until everything goes silent, The Bond Boys’ lead singer, Ron Cam, sweeps Charlotte off her feet. He’s pure charisma. Then there’s Matthew Lovelace of Lennox , who captures Charlotte’s attention with his music and “that” voice. What will she do?

Time is running out. Charlotte must find a way to leave the hearing world on a high note without missing a beat.

What inspired you to write Hear?

In the summer of 2008, when I was fifteen–years–old, the TV morning news program, Good Morning America had a story about a woman named Jessica Stone, who – like Charlotte – suffered from neurofibromatosis type II. Jessica’s story was different from anything that I’ve ever heard of. She was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis when she was 15 and had more than 20 surgeries to remove the benign tumors that grew along her nervous system. She had an estimated 80 tumors throughout her body. After watching this women being faced with this unthinkable obstacle, was the sole inspiration for HEAR. I wanted a character who was just as strong as Jessica Stone who was able to overcome the impossible. It wasn’t that simple though. I began writing HEAR while I was on Coronado Island (in San Diego) and found myself putting my character in an environment where I took the sounds of the waves and the seagulls for granted. I just couldn’t imagine a world without sound.

Is there a character in Hear that you feel most resembles you?

I would say that every author feels a certain kinship or resemblance to their main character. I know that in the four years I spent working on this novel, I inserted some of my own qualities into Charlotte. So for example, in Chapter 3, the first five sentences in the beginning of the chapter are just some of the traits that I find myself doing from time to time. I love french fries dipped in chocolate milkshakes, spraying whipped cream into my mouth from the can, I’m still a huge Spongebob Squarepants fan, I always thought that the Shamwow commercials were entertaining to watch, and from time to time I’ll be with my friends and we would prank call people asking if they would like to donate a dollar to the Ice Skates for Ostriches Campaign. And these are the things that Charlotte finds herself doing as well. Plus, Charlotte has this cynical approach to life, which is something every teenager (like myself) has been through at some point or another.

What was the writing process like? Did you do any special research for it?

The writing process wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. In the first couple of drafts, I was more interested in how I was going to pull the story off than the scientific aspects behind Charlotte’s disease. Afterwards, once the draft was completed, I researched more upon neurofiberomatosis type II. When I learned more about the disease in depth, then I went back and filled in the scientific portions of the novel. As for, what kind of special research I had to do, it was a mixture of taking what Jessica Stone (the women whom Charlotte is based off from) had experienced from living with neurofiberomatosis, as well as the mechanics behind the genetic disease. So in a way, my research entailed both a personal component and a neurological component. I had to keep myself up to date with the encounters Jessica had to face through her blog, as well as visiting various websites that touched upon the properties of neurofiberomatosis.

Do you play music when you read and write?

Usually, I do not. Although, I’ve become recently accustomed to listening to classical music from Bach or Beethoven whenever I’m reading or writing. And even though I love listening from everything from Bruno Mars to Van Halen, I can’t seem to work properly whenever I’m listening to a song with words in them. I guess you can say, that I become more distracted from listening to what the singer is singing about than what I’m actually writing whenever I turn on a Coldplay song. But that’s just me. A lot of my friends have told me that they work better if they’re listening to a song or even an opera while they’re working. For me, I stick better with the classics, not only because there are no words to distract me, but also because it helps me get my creative juices flowing. Music, (whether it’s classical or pop) is all about emotion. And with classical music, there is a lot of emotion that I feel – whenever I listen to a Mozart or a Chopin piece – that I want to express in my writing. Classical music is a leeway into helping me discover what my characters are feeling and what they really want out of life.

What song would be a good companion to Hear?

That’s a good question, and one in which I’ve thought long and hard about. What has recently been on my mind is the song “Kids” by MGMT. I don’t really know why though. Even after hearing the song a couple of times, I haven’t really had a concrete interpretation of what the song means, but I have some ideas. The basic premise of the song “Kids” is about life and the different stages of our lives that we must overcome to reach adulthood. And this got me thinking about Charlotte, and how she has lived most of her life with this disease. She’s sick of the disease, and just wants it to go away. But the problem is, that Charlotte has this idea in her head that she’s not moving forward in her life, and that her disease is preventing her from living the life that she has always wanted. For Charlotte, there are no stages in her life. She’s in a place where she doesn’t have that much wiggle room to expand her own options, and feels like everyone is moving towards their future but her.

Why should we read Hear? What kind of reader is Hear intended for?

HEAR is a Young Adult novel (probably 15 and up). You should read HEAR because it tells a compelling story of hope and overcoming adversity. It’s the type of story that makes you really think about the choices one has to face in their lives. In Charlotte’s case, she’s faced with this dilemma where her choices are hearing or life. One will save her, but will also leave her deaf. So, the price for Charlotte’s life doesn’t come cheap. But even when she thinks she has a decision, Charlotte has to also factor in how her choice will affect her family and her friends.

If you knew you were going to be deaf like Charlotte, what’s the last song you would want to hear?

Ah, another tough question! It would probably be a toss up between a Bruno Mars song or a Coldplay song. If I had to pick one of each, for Bruno Mars it would be “Somewhere In Brooklyn.” Only because he opens the song with a story: “She was covered in leather a gold / Twenty one years old / I lost her in the cold / It’s unfair, she’s out there.” I’ve always wanted to use that first line in one of my stories. But the premise of the song, is him singing about a girl he met at a train station, and his journey of finding her. But what I love the most about this song, is the fact that he doesn’t give up looking for the girl. He searches high and low for her, and keeps looking even when all hope seems lost. Does he find the girl in the end? That’s for the listener to decide. For Coldplay, it would have to be “Life in Technicolor II.” But unlike Bruno Mars, whose song I loved because of the story in the song, I adore this song in particular because of the rhythm. This song – both the instrumental version and the vocal version – is so beautiful to listen to. It lifts you up, it brings you down, and it surprises you when you least expect it. You feel alive when you’re hearing the music, it’s almost like poetry. If I could, I would listen to both songs at the same time before I would go deaf. But hey, if worse comes to worse, “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls is on my list too.

Thank you so much for joining us today and best of luck to your future writing endeavors, Jacqueline!