After reading ‘Song for a Whale’, I had the pleasure of interviewing the author Lynne Kelly to get a detailed “behind-the-scenes” access of the book, learn more about the characters and how her day as a sign language interpreter has helped to play a part in shaping this book.
The interview contains no spoilers so if you haven’t had the chance to read ‘Song for Whale’, you must get yourself a copy of the book, and you can do that below.
You can listen to the podcast interview below, or you can read the transripts by scrolling down:
- My review of ‘Song for a Whale’
- Lynne Kelly’s Official Website
- Lynne’s Twitter Profile
- Lynne’s Facebook Page
- Lynne’s Instagram Profile
- Amazon UK link to ‘Song for a Whale’
Opening: This is The Hear Me Out! [CC] podcast, a place to hear stories from the d/Deaf and hard of hearing people, and from your host, Ahmed Khalifa.
Ahmed Khalifa: I had the pleasure to interview Lynne Kelly, who is the author of a book called Song for a Whale. A book that I’ve recently read and really enjoyed as it really touched with me.
Even though it’s a book that’s mainly targeted for young children, it’s still a really great read. I’ve written a review about it, you can access it in the show note where there is a link to take you to that review.
I talked with Lynne about the book, we get into more of a behind the scenes aspect of it and also about her day job and how as an interpreter, she also managed to use that to help with her book as well.
Let’s get into it. Let’s get straight into the interview with Lynne Kelly.
I really wanted to speak to you as an author and also your day job as well as an interpreter. If we can get started, I just wanted to know more about your background. Just tell us a little bit more about, as a hearing person, obviously, your link to the whole topic of deafness and deafhood.
Before we get into the book, can we talk about your background about that deaf side of your expertise?
Lynne Kelly: Actually, both things I do writing and interpreting I stumbled into. Neither one was a field that I had planned on getting into. In college, I majored in psychology and I think I was getting pretty close to the end, it was my junior year and I took a sign language class just because I needed an elective.
I had to pick some class to take and I thought, “Sign language looks fun, I’ll do that” meaning for it to be only one class. Then I was fascinated and that wasn’t enough.
As anyone knows who’s taken any language course, you know that one semester is not enough to have anything but maybe a simple conversation, and I wanted to know a lot more, so I took another class.
That was all that was offered at the time in that school, which, of course, still wasn’t enough. I took courses outside of college that were taught by deaf people. That’s where I learned the most. We were in small groups, lots of one on one attention. Of course, people who had been using the language their whole lives, those were the best teachers.
I took that course many times. We would just pick up where we left off last time, and then by the time I graduated, I knew that was the field I wanted to stick with. I loved it enough to continue learning. Also, as it is with languages, it’s a lifelong education, you’re never finished learning. There seems like an infinite spectrum there, fluency.
I wanted to stay in the field that would allow me to keep learning that and keep using the language that I became fascinated with and did a little bit of interpreting then. Looking back now, I wasn’t quite ready, but I didn’t know that and neither did the people doing the hiring at the time. Then I stayed in it.
Wherever I was, there was a need for interpreters and I continued learning with courses, and workshops, and of course, picking it up from deaf people I knew. That was in the late ’80s, so I’m pretty much in it now just to say.
Ahmed: Wow. Just to clarify, obviously, you’re talking about American Sign Language.
Ahmed: I find that funny. You literally just stumbled into it, it wasn’t planned. It just happened to be your love at the end and I love that. Just because you’re not originally wasn’t to do it but you’re hooked into it, later on, I think it’s great. I think it’s awesome.
Lynne: I’m so glad I found it, yes.
Ahmed: Yes, luckily.
Lynne: I don’t know what I’d be doing. I might be an unhappy psychologist if I didn’t find it.
Ahmed: Yes, you could have been a psychologist. Who knows what your life would have been like instead of doing what you’re doing right now. I can’t imagine what your life would be like.
Lynne: I know.
Ahmed: Obviously, because of that experience that allowed you to do, which is what I want to talk about which is to write a book and to write ‘Song for a Whale’.
Just for the listener and people who are reading the transcript, if you want to read the review, I’ve written about it. The link is in the show notes, and they can read more about why I enjoy reading that book and why I wanted to talk to you, Lynne.
Also, instead of talking about your inspiration and how did you come up with your ideas, I know you’ve talked about it in a number of places, so, again, check out Lynne’s website and the links to resources. You’ll find the inspirations behind the story.
I know you’ve written at the end of the book about how did you come up with this story and what was your inspiration behind it, which is, spoiler alert, kind of based on a lonely whale, which exists [crosstalk].
That’s all I can spoil right now, I don’t want to spoil it anymore.
Everyone can check out your website about your inspiration and stuff like that, but what I wanted to talk about was more about just the finer details about the characters and the story because I resonated with it a lot. I’m someone who calls myself deaf, and I immediately connected with Iris and Blue 55, the whale.
It’s just something that really connected with me so much that I just couldn’t stop reading even though it’s for middle-grade, that kind of stuff, but it doesn’t matter.
I should let you know that before I started recording, my wife said to let you know that you made her cry when she read my review.
Lynne: That’s great. Sorry for crying, but not really. [Laugh]
Ahmed: No, it’s not a bad thing. I think it because she knows who I am and she read the reviews. It really touched her and I’ve put a few quotes about what is the whale thinking from his perspective, and I think that touched her a lot. I haven’t told her though that you’ve got another book about an animal that she loves, so I’m not even going to mention that.
Lynne: You don’t want to mention elephants to her then, do you?
Ahmed: Oh, God, no. You don’t want to mention anything about elephant because she also loves the elephant. It’s just too much.
Lynne: Some people say, “The cover just made me cry. I don’t know if I can read this,” but they do. Some people do want to ask me, “Just tell me the elephant will be okay.” I don’t mind telling them, “Yes, I don’t kill the elephant calf. I’m not a monster.” It’ll be a rough journey, but I’ll tell you she’ll be fine.
Ahmed: Yes, okay, fair enough. I will maybe nudge it to her that “By the way, Lynne Kelly had another book about another animal.” I’ll nudge it.
What I wanted to really get in too deep is just to learn more about the characters just from your own perspective. Iris is the main character, she’s the deaf girl, and she’s obviously, the only deaf person in most of her peers really, in her family, and school.
What made you decide that Iris is a bit of a radio technology geek fanatic person? Because at the end of the day, if it wasn’t for that, it would have been a completely different story. Why did you choose her to be into radio?
Lynne: Well she is, as you mentioned, she is isolated, especially at school like it is with many deaf kids there. For her, there isn’t anyone else at school who’s deaf and that does happen, some kids just have a few other deaf kids at school.
For her, it’s hard for anyone to see that she’s a really intelligent girl if she can’t communicate with them, and they don’t know what she’s saying. It’s hard for her to show that.
I know I wanted her to have some sort of skill that would show that she is a really smart girl and that was one skill that I thought, well, I didn’t know at the time it would be so important for her solving the problem. That actually came later.
I actually had a student I worked with who was a college student at the time. He’s now an engineer and he had been the deaf kid who at 12 years old was fixing things like antique radios and TVs for people.
I always thought that was fascinating, but it’s true that if you know how that old technology works, if you know what an electrical circuit is supposed to look like and what connects where and what’s not working, you can put it together, and you can fix it, and you can tell when it’s working or when it should be working.
I always thought that was an interesting skill, and so I gave it to Iris and really didn’t know till later how she would use that to solve her problem.
Then it ended up working out well at the end for that. I thought it was a good tie into that she does work with these devices that they’re meant to make sound. It doesn’t matter to her that she can’t hear the music or the shows that those play, but it was a good tie into this whale too that she’s working with sound in two different ways.
The point for her is not that she wants to hear these things, just that she wants them to work, and that’s something she has to face too about this whale like her brother points out to he, you can’t treat him like he’s one of your broken radios. Does he need fixing? She has to face that too that is that really why she’s doing it?
Is this really for him or is that for herself because she wants to be heard and that’s why she’s reaching out to him or if she’s treating him like he’s broken? Is that something that she wrestles with also?
Really, one, I thought it was an interesting skill to have an unusual one for any kid working with antique radios and other electronics, and then even more so for a deaf kid and a good tie into the whale who sings this song that others don’t hear.
Ahmed: It makes a lot of sense now that I hear you say it, especially when you said about you want to be heard.
It’s true from my own experience and I’m sure many deaf experience is that you do want to be heard. In a way, I feel like the fact that you put in the antique radio in there, for me, it’s like a modern equivalent of using technology to communicate with other people.
I find that sometimes certain technology online, maybe not auto caption because they’re not great, but certain technology can really help you to connect with people and they help to make communication work as well.
I just find that really interesting that you managed to put that in there and make Iris connect with, well, not people, but with the whale, but you can connect with the people in a way. The person who work in the antique shop and fold it to her, and then, as you say, her brother and stuff like that. Yes, it doesn’t make sense.
One thing that I’ve noticed of the whale is, you’ve mentioned about how he is feeling isolated and her relationship with different people, I find it quite interesting. Especially you talked about her own family, everything in her family members, her relationship is different, especially because she’s the only deaf person in the family.
It varies a lot and obviously, for example, it varies like her relationship with the father. Even though he loves her, it’s different. It’s, to be honest, quite distant as well.
Also from your own experience, why did you choose to have a hearing parent and a hearing brother, but deaf grandparents as well instead of obviously hearing grandparents? What were you hoping to portray and what can we learn from that as well?
Lynne: As you know too, the deaf population is diverse within itself. Every deaf person is different and there are similarities and there are differences within the population.
For most deaf people, the deafness is not hereditary, so they don’t have deaf parents. That’s the case for most deaf people. For so many, this is the first deaf person the family has ever met as when they find out they have a deaf kid, but for her, I did choose to give her deaf grandparents for a couple of reasons.
One, I thought if she is, like so many deaf kids, doesn’t have family members who sign, well then she’s isolated at home, she is isolated at school.
For one, there wouldn’t be that contrast, and also, I think it’d be a little too depressing if she’s just isolated everywhere. Also, I wanted to show too that she doesn’t wish that she can hear, even though, of course, there are challenges she wishes for better communication, but she never wishes that she could change who she is.
I didn’t want to give that impression that she would want to change.
For people who are unfamiliar with deafness and sign language, I think they probably would give that impression if she had literally no one to talk to, no one who knew her language.
I wanted to show through her deaf grandparents, her grandmother specifically, how rich and fulfilling that relationship can be compared to the others when she does have someone who understands her experience and who understands her language. They have this rich language they share with their own stories, and history, and jokes, and things like that.
For those reasons, to show the contrast in the relationship she can have. It gives us an idea of what kind of friendships she could have if only she did go to a school with other deaf people, and then to show too that she has this very satisfying part of her life that she would like to have more of when she does have someone around who knows her language.
A lot of people are surprised that her dad does not know sign language. It’s one of those things I had to do a late edit to clarify why that is. It’s something I forgot that’s surprising because it’s so common for the deaf people I’ve known to have one or both parents who just never learned sign language or never learned it very well.
For me, it’s perfectly normal for him not to know sign language and I forgot that’s surprising to people. They would think, “Of course you would learn sign language as soon as you find out your kid is deaf,” I was thinking, “No, of course, he doesn’t know it.”
So I had to add something in there about him saying, “I’m just more of a numbers guy, not so much a languages guy.” He knows it somewhat and I think there are different reasons for that. I think it’s getting better hopefully with better access to sign language courses.
There are still professionals who advise parents of deaf kids not to learn sign language, sadly because they think it will interfere with the kid picking up spoken language. Meanwhile, we have parents with hearing babies teaching them sign language because they’ve heard that will help them acquire language. Deaf people have not missed that.
The irony of that like, “Wait, our kids aren’t supposed to learn sign language but now the hearing kids are? Why is that happening? Does it help language or not?” We know that it does, it doesn’t hurt your language acquisition to learn one language and then pick up another. I think it’s getting better, I hope it’ll continue getting better.
That was another thing too, to show the difference there that in those relationships. Grandparents know sign language because they’re deaf and grew up with it, mom knows it because she grew up with them, dad learned a little bit, not so much because he didn’t grow up learning it and hasn’t really taken the time to. Another way to show those different relationships.
Ahmed: It’s based on true stories that happens across the world, does it?
Lynne: Yes, very common.
Ahmed: As you say, it’s not always hereditary. There are a lot of cases where it’s either the child is the only one who’s deaf and has to fight that barrier or you could be a CODA or ‘child of a deaf adult’ like the mother. Obviously, the mother has that language and it makes a lot of sense.
I guess maybe we’re both naive about it, I don’t know, but the fact that people are surprised that the father doesn’t know, I guess for us we’re thinking, “Of course, he doesn’t know it, this happens.”
Lynne: It happens so often, yes. I’m glad that it surprises people because they would think, “Doesn’t that make sense to learn sign language when you have a deaf kid?” Yes, you want to communicate with your kid and that doesn’t mean you don’t expect him to speak and read English or whatever your spoken language is, it means that will be one of his languages that he uses.
It takes a lot of training, and practice, and a lot of time for a deaf person to learn to speak and to lip read, and even then, it’s not 100% accurate, not close to that. There’s certainly nothing wrong with having another way to communicate then or meanwhile or along the way.
Ahmed: Having multiple language skills I think is beneficial for many reasons, isn’t it? Social or for work or career or for cultural, whatever it is. They have nothing negative I can think of in my head about knowing more than one language.
Here’s a classic example as you say, and I think people are also surprised that, as you say, sometimes for some people to learn a language, it’s time-consuming, it’s hard work, it’s a lot of effort.
The parents in this situation maybe they tried to seek the best advice and speak to a doctor and the doctor would say, “You should try to encourage your deaf child to speak her language instead.”
I’ve interviewed people in the past of the podcast where they’ve had that experience. They grew up being told you have to use oral language and not sign language, but I do say, it doesn’t always work at all.
Lynne: Right, and, of course, you listen to the doctor, this is something you’re unfamiliar with. Any condition a child has and you’re unfamiliar with it, of course, you’re going to listen to the doctor.
Good to get advice from more than one person there and that’s probably what that doctor has learned who knows how long ago. Yes, I think it’s good to get advice from more than one place. If they can, talking to deaf people is helpful also to see what they think.
Ahmed: Absolutely, I totally get that. It’s just interesting that family dynamic and I guess I don’t have access to that family dynamic. To read about it and to see it as if you are there is quite interesting. The dynamic in school with teachers and classmates, I find that quite interesting as well, especially by Nina who is annoying, even if she had good intentions, but annoying.
What I love in that is just she is trying to almost show off and be in your face about knowing sign language when she really doesn’t and she’s being a bit too much in-your-face and trying to help Iris but she doesn’t. Annoying in that sense, but I like that character mix in there.
From your perspective then, what do you suggest, in terms of the character of Nina, what do you suggest teachers and students need to do to better accommodate deaf students? What advice do you have for them?
Lynne: A lot of readers, several anyway, have been annoyed that Iris wasn’t nicer to Nina who was trying to communicate with her. Maybe I could’ve added a little something at the end.
I added a little bit like, “Okay, I guess she’s not horrible” or I could have added a thank you, I guess, but really, there isn’t a reason to be polite to someone who is invading your space and not allowing you any agency and really taking your power away, and that is super annoying.
There’s one thing to make an effort to communicate. Of course, that’s always good, but then to take away that person’s agency by forcing yourself on them and literally getting in that person’s face.
Yes, she shouldn’t have shoved her, but she snapped and got a little too annoyed with her. That does happen and for all I know, I might have been a kid like that in elementary school. If I had picked up a little bit of sign language, I wanted to show off my skill. Just a good rule anyway, don’t invade a person’s personal space.
Find out what the person does want rather than just jump in and either speak for them or do for them when you’re trying to help, but maybe it’s not the kind of help they want. Of course, it is good to try to communicate with someone, but if you try to read or they’re getting annoyed with it, it’s a little too much, so take the lead of the deaf person.
It’s good to ask what they would like for accommodations for example. I’ve been to some assignments where I’ve shown up because I’ve been hired as the sign language interpreter for an assignment, and then I find out the deaf person doesn’t know sign language.
It’s nice, it’s better than a doctor’s office saying, “No, we don’t provide sign language interpreters” when they are supposed to. They knew, “This patient is deaf, we’re going to call an interpreter,” which is great, but they hadn’t asked the patient “Do you want a sign language interpreter?” I get there and this person doesn’t know what I’m doing flapping my hands around.
Ask, that’s always good. Find out what accommodations they do want rather than telling them “Here’s where you need to sit and here’s where the interpreter needs to sit.”
Find out from them like anyone else, like any other student in the class, for example, they can choose where they want to sit. Do they want to be in front where they can see better? Things like that. Taking their lead, asking what accommodations they want, what works for them. We do that even now as interpreters, finding out what communication style the person wants, where they want the interpreter to sit, that kind of thing.
Not taking over and explaining things for them or for another person, but letting them do that. I think just respect goes a long way for anyone else. Keep their lines of communication open even if there is that communication barrier, you don’t know the same language, but you still make an effort to communicate as best you can with the person to find out what their needs are.
Ahmed: Yes, it makes a lot of sense to me. I remembered even at school and it’s actually my parents who actually had to ask for me to be just sat closer to the front so that I can lip read. Easier for me to consume that information, but they wouldn’t had known until we asked. You’re right, it’s about ask but don’t assume.
That interpreter example as you said, they try to do the good thing. I think there is a courtesy there and they try to help as much as they can, but maybe that person didn’t want an interpreter or maybe a family member can interpret for that person for example. As you say, ask but don’t assume and I think a little bit of just awareness will help with that.
That’s the [crosstalk] of sharing information, your story, and all these things. For example, don’t invade in a person’s private space and that applies to everyone, not just a deaf person. It just makes a lot of sense from that perspective.
That’s why I find it a bit interesting when you then went the other way and Iris managed to build up a very close relationship with…I forgot her name. What’s the girl’s name on the cruise ship?
Lynne: On the ship? Benny.
Ahmed: Yes, Benny, that’s it. She’s not even able to learn any sign language until met Iris. She’s a hearing person and managed to bump into Iris and they built a close relationship, but it’s a deaf and hearing one.
I’m guessing people might find that a bit weird or how can that work, but there’s a lesson in there, isn’t there? There’s a lesson in that hearing people can learn how to communicate with deaf people better, isn’t’ it?
Lynne: Sure, yes, so that’s an important contrast too between them, the way Nina takes things on and then Benny who’s there willing to learn. Even though she wouldn’t articulate it this way as a kid, but Iris is the expert in her own language and she does take her lead, and she is learning from her, and she’s someone who learns from her mistakes and doesn’t get defensive if she makes a mistake, which is important for learning any language.
If you are going to question someone who’s an expert in the language or get defensive when they offer you a correction, that’s not going to go very far.
That’s not going to help you in your learning, so that’s part of any learning process if you’re picking up any skill, take the feedback and use that. She’s someone who’s doing that even as a kid and learning what she can from her, and writing notes with her when they need to, and picking that up as they go along. They do have a pretty good friendship there just in the short time they’re on that cruise ship together.
Ahmed: I think this is another example of sometimes adults can learn from kids. The situation is like there’s no judging, there’s no impatience, and there’s no criticism, it’s just by helping each other, being patient, and just be there for each other and making it work, and they made it work.
I feel like sometimes from my own experience, from an adult to adult, there’s no patience and there’s an attitude of “I can’t be bothered” or “Why can’t you do it this way?” or whatever. It’s amazing that I think in the book anyway, we can learn from children and not adults, which from your case is true.
Lynne: Iris is so happy that she’s not afraid of her when she finds out she’s deaf because she’s noticed that there’s sometimes this panic that people get, that adults get when they realize that she’s deaf. That does happen also, even I see with interpreting.
If there’s some kind of activity going on and if participant realizes “My partner’s going to be this deaf person” and you can see them just panic and think “No, this isn’t going to work out.”
Then after a short time, hopefully, then they see it does go pretty much the same as it does with anyone else. There’s this third person there, but there’s nothing to run away from or be afraid of.
I bet a lot of the impatience comes from that, they’re really just afraid of interacting with someone who they aren’t familiar with, interacting with someone who’s deaf when they aren’t familiar with that, and are more awkward about it I think and that fear manifest his impatience.
Ahmed: Yes, totally. I can definitely resonate with that. Again, the reason why I love the book, I resonated with that, people who got that fear, and then for some reason just run away. I don’t know, I just don’t understand that. As a hearing person then, you may be an interpreter, but you’re able to convey Iris thoughts, and her feelings, and her, obviously, communication, you’re able to convey very, very well on paper.
Were there any steps that you had to do or you had to follow to make sure that Iris is acting as an authentic or not acting, is an authentic deaf person, but it’s coming from you as a hearing person? Was there anything in there that you had to prepare for to make it work?
Lynne: Yes, and even though I have worked with deaf people for a long time, I acknowledge that’s far different from living the experience. Even though I did work to make this authentic, I wanted deaf people to read it.
I wanted people who did grow up with that lived experience to read it because I knew there were things I would probably overlook, and editors would overlook too, and so we needed that experience, that knowledge there.
So we had two deaf women read it, and one is now a sign language professor, but when she was a kid, her experience was a lot like Iris’ I think, in that she was the only deaf kid at school.
Her school would not even provide a sign language interpreter, and the parents had to sue the school to try to get them to provide it, they still wouldn’t. They ended up moving to a different state so that she could go to a school with other deaf kids.
She did start out at a school like where Iris goes, and then ended up going to one like Iris does want to go to, so I thought she was a perfect reader for that. Another one is a deaf woman and also a writer.
They both gave really good feedback and different things that they notice. They each had different comments. I was happy that we had two people read it because maybe one noticed something that the other wasn’t bothered by.
One had said that Iris fixing the radios bothered her a little bit because she said she is working on something that’s not for us. It’s to benefit hearing people and I hadn’t thought of that because I was thinking, well, she just wants to fix stuff, so it doesn’t matter that they benefit hearing people.
She just likes putting them on a shelf because they look cool and she loves electronics, but because of that, I added that she fixes other things too and builds other things. She builds alarm clocks for herself and her brother, and she set up the doorbell so it’ll have a flashing light when someone rings it. Because of that feedback, I added more things that she fixes all kinds of electronics, not just radios.
Other things too maybe about the interactions that they noticed, thankfully nothing huge that was like, “You have to throw this away, it’s horrible representation.” Because I was worried when I first got one of their letters that started out, “Unfortunately…” and I went, “Oh, no, this is something thrown away,” but it was, “Unfortunately, this is a very accurate representation of school life for deaf kids.” Unfortunately, but in a good way for the book.
Ahmed: It’s like when you say, “We need to talk,” it’s like, “Oh, no.”
Lynne: Yes, that’s never good. That was such a valuable feedback they both gave. The one other deaf person who read it was that engineer who had been the deaf kid repairing the electronics, but he was mainly reading it as my radio expert too, so he could point out things that I had wrong about those antique electronics.
Ahmed: Wow, it just shows that, I know I’ve mentioned it earlier, but you did your research about whales and the hertz of sound, the frequency of sound that they use, all these things, but there’s a lot more to it. I think it shows that, not just in your book but in a lot of fiction books, and obviously, not fiction as well, but a lot of books in general, even if they are, if it’s a novel, if it’s a story, it requires a lot of research as well.
It’s not just about what’s in your head and you write it down. You have to get the right people to give you the right information and make it as authentic as possible. That’s the idea. It did feel that way to me and I’m only learning the sign language at the moment.
When I was reading the way you were describing the handshapes, and the sign language storytelling, and I found it’s quite poetic as well the way you did it.
Is that something you learned yourself as an interpreter or did you invent this way of storytelling or that’s something you have observed or someone told you? What was the inspiration and your idea, the way you describe those handshake and sign language storytelling?
Lynne: That was one of the things I put in the story to show, again, the relationship that Iris has with her grandmother, and how they play around with their language because sign language isn’t just replacing a spoken word with a sign, it’s its own language itself.
That’s the impression a lot of people have because there’s an assumption, well, of course, it’s universal because you’re just replacing that spoken word with this thing you do with your hands. No, there are deaf people who do gorgeous poetry.
I wrote those poems knowing, okay, here are some signs that would use a similar hand shape, and I know a deaf poet could do something amazing with that.
It’s not something I do myself, it’s one of those don’t try this at home warnings because it’s just something a deaf poet can do. That’s something people could look up also if you look up def poetry, there’s deaf slam poetry also, and those are fascinating to watch.
They don’t all use the same hand shape, but that’s one way of telling a sign language poem to give it a rhyming effect that the hands remain in the same shape through the whole thing, so it’s a challenge to do it. It’s kind of a game some people can do as a challenge. I wanted to have that as one of those things Iris and her grandparents share.
Ahmed: That’s why I love the fact that the grandmother and Iris, together they joined in this journey, and they were having fun together, and sharing stories together, and laughing together and it’s nice. I just love the way the communication between too, it’s just brilliant, and the way you described the storytelling part as well.
I find that really authentic, but then on the other hand, in my mind, I’m thinking, then how did you do that for the whale? Because it has its own chapter and I love the way you have dedicated a chapter, and the way that the whale is thinking, and what it’s going through, and what its emotion, how it’s feeling. I can’t imagine you going to a whale and asking.
Lynne: [chuckles] I interviewed them.
You made it if you can that, you do that in style. How did you do that? What was your inspiration behind that thinking about what emotion that particular whale is going through?
Lynne: I think that’s where the story started really. I’m thinking that’s one of the first things that I wrote down because I was thinking, “What is life like for this whale who can’t talk to others?” I think because the story idea started from there is when I learned about this whale who has a song unlike any other, and I just started writing notes about it.
I was thinking, “What is life like for that whale?” A lot of people resonate with this animal, they wonder what is that experience like. We certainly project a lot of human emotions onto this animal. Maybe it’s more about us than it is him.
Maybe he’s fine and he just likes singing his song even though nothing in the ocean is going to answer, but that’s where it started. I was writing down notes about it before I even came up with who’s the character who’s compelled to go look for this animal?
I was writing down things about what those whales life might be like. In an earlier draft when I first wrote those, they were more like poems, so they were even shorter than they are now.
My agent had said, “I think those would be better if you wrote them in prose and not just in these short poems.” I didn’t know if that would be possible, but I tried that and they end up sounding really poetic anyway.
They still have that feel of a poem, even though it’s written in little bit longer prose than it was. Then I knew, okay, now and then we’re going to check in with the whale and see how he’s doing, and they would have a parallel journey going on there.
Ahmed: That’s the keyword I feel I was thinking because I know that I get the impression anyway that you wanted to discuss two things. One is the issue of loneliness and the importance of human relationships. That’s the one topic that I definitely got a hold of.
Then the other side is the parallels between animals and humans. That’s the other thing I got a good feel of as well. Maybe, other people, they got it differently, maybe I’m wrong, but just the way I felt.
Hopefully I got the idea from your perspective. I think that makes sense. Overall, in terms of if people get the book, and they should and I’ve put the link in the show note where you cannot only read the review but also where you can buy the book.
For those who are going to read it, what are you hoping that the readers will gain from reading the book in general?
Lynne: For one, I hope, as always, I hope they enjoy reading the story and also feel more connected.
As I mentioned, when I first learned about this whale, I think it was in 2015, and he’s been out there since the late ’80s. I was surprised I hadn’t heard about him.
So then I started researching him and found that a lot of people just feel connected to him. I think it’s a universal feeling and we look for that as writers.
Of course, every story is specific. Most of us are not going to go on a journey like this where we just take off with our grandmother, and get on a cruise, and go look for a particular whale.
The story is always very specific, but we look for a universal connection and those feelings are universal. A lot of people can relate to that feeling of not being heard, not being understood and just wanting connection, and so I hope people feel that when they read it that they feel connected.
Ahmed: I’m really sure, I’m quite positive actually that they will feel connected. Pick up the book, don’t be annoyed or pushed off or confused by the fact that it mainly targeted for younger children, it’s completely irrelevant in my opinion.
I think a lot of people will enjoy it and feel more connected and understand more about the whole topic of deaf culture, deaf community, and all these things.
It’s a great book and I really enjoyed it, and just want to thank you for writing that and thank you for, well, maybe not thank you for making my wife cry, but more like how she can also feel a bit more deeply connected from another’s, not just for myself as well.
I think it’s powerful, I think it’s powerful that a story can do that. I just want to thank you for doing that, for writing the book, and I’m sure people will enjoy it.
If people want to find you and connect with you online, where is the best place for them to do that?
Instagram also, I’m on those everyday probably more than I should be, but I learn great stuff. I pick up good things like learning about this whale that can’t talk to others, so sometimes procrastination, it works out.
Ahmed: Do not give me an excuse to procrastinate. I do not need any more excuses at all, but I’ll make sure I’ll put the links to your social media accounts and also your website to learn more about inspiration about this story.
Lynne: My website has a contact page also so that has where to find me on my online presence and my email also if people have other questions.
Ahmed: Perfect, I will link to that in the show note and make sure you check it out. I think just to end it like that and just to thank you, Lynne, for your time. Thank you for the book and hopefully, we’ll speak again soon.
Lynne: Thanks so much for having me and for sharing this book with everyone.
Ahmed: Thank you, Lynne, for appearing on the podcast. I really appreciate your time. I hope everyone enjoyed it as well, listening to Lynne’s insight on the book. Make sure you grab a copy as well. I’ll put the link in the show note and I’ve said it a few times.
While you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you can leave a review on what you think about the podcast. I really appreciate it and also help to raise more awareness of this topic. It really would be awesome. In the meantime, I will speak to you soon.
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