“Sway” by Jennifer Gibson is an amazing read for young adults. Without fancy vampires it is a simple, character driven story about a girl at school; a girl that’s not incredibly popular but not a hopeless outsider either, a girl with a family and most of all, one with a hearing aid, which determines to some extent how she lives and perceives her life.
She has hard times, like when she plays some team sports, but also good and inspiring moments, like the relationship with her cats and with some other youngsters. We’re made to see the entire spectrum of her life experience with her – a wonderfully kept balance between the bad parts and the good. Gibson shows the difficulties in Jessie’s life but also the good moments; we’re not made simply to feel sorry for her, nor are we dealt a super heroine whose life turns up roses over night. She comes of age in this marvel of a story and grows stronger, which makes the book both realistic and inspirational.
A read I can only recommend.
Interview with Jennifer:
How did you come to writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a child. I often wrote poetry and short stories which were published in school newsletters, newspaper and books. Throughout school, I’ve had several teachers ask me if I had considered a career in writing. Even though I enjoyed writing, it never occurred to me to go into that particular profession since I was more interested in sports and art. While I was at Sheridan College studying illustration, my creative writing teacher pulled me aside one day and told me that I should change my studies to focus more on writing instead of art. To me, that was a huge surprise. After I graduated, I became more and more interested in writing stories and decided to go back to school and study creative writing. Even though it was a challenge, I persevered and kept going. To this day, I’m glad I did that.
How did you come up with your stories?
I knew that when I wanted to write a book that it had to be unique. I wanted to produce a story that was deeply heartfelt and original, especially for young people with disabilities. It turned into a series about inspiring a sense of hope and rising above the challenges by staying strong and believing in yourself.
I incorporated scenes from many segments of my life that left a lasting impression on me from when I was a young child and throughout high school and college. Even the most recent experiences went into my books. It was heartbreaking at times to write some of those scenes but I knew that it was necessary to show the world what it really is like to be hard of hearing in a social world. While I was writing these difficult moments, it made me realize what I’ve had to overcome and how much I have progressed since then. Going through those experiences really shaped the person who I am today. It was an incredible revelation to look back at my life and see those changes happening and truly discover who I really am on a deeply personal level.
You have created great characters. Which one is your favourite?
It’s so hard to choose! I personally love Jessie although my heart leans towards Ethan. He is my dream boyfriend and the ideal person that I want in my life – someone who embraces me and my hearing loss as a complete package.
Who would you cast to play the characters in a movie?
Oh my! That’s a tough question. For Ethan, most likely Sam Clafin who plays Finnick Odair in Catching Fire or Paul Wesley from The Vampire Diaries or perhaps Alex Pettyfer from I am Number Four. Elle Fanning or Dakota Fanning are possible choices for Jessie.
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
I absolutely adore Jessie since she is so close to my heart. She is literally a piece of me. Although she is a much better person in the books, she is more trusting, more open-minded and has such a beautiful soul.
Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?
The first book in the series, Sway, set the tone for all of them. Since all three represent a sense of direction, a journey for Jessie, it helped me create individual arcs in the storyline for each book as well as one big, connecting arc to tie all three together. When I was working on the second novel, Compass, it helped formulate the next step for the third book, Destiny. I pretty much knew how it would go for each book since they had specific situations happening to Jessie during that time period. For the most part, I knew that she would mature and grow as I wrote the series, in the final novel, she becomes a much stronger person and has a better idea where to go next.
What is your main reason for writing?
I absolutely love writing. There’s so much joy in coming up with unique ideas and being able to write it all down in a confident manner. To me, writing is very much like painting, you never know what the end result will be but the process will be an exhilarating one. It’s a very therapeutic process.
I‘ve only read one of the books so far. What is the idea behind your series?
When I wanted to write a book, I did some research to determine what was missing from the market and discovered that there were very few young adult books featuring teens with a disability, particularly hearing loss. To me, that was a wonderful niche for me to tap into and an incredible opportunity to do something truly unique.
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
The best aspect of writing is being able to come up with wonderful stories for me to share with the world. I simply love doing it. The worst is the reaction from the readers; some will rave about it and give positive feedback whereas others will react very strongly to it a negative tone that can be rather harsh. Growing up with a disability like mine has, in some ways, made it very difficult for me to deal with negative criticism since I’ve already been through so much in life. It’s not easy.
How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?
Ha! By getting up early in the morning and getting involved with the social media, reaching out to potential new readers. I do a lot of promo work through Twitter, Facebook and my website as well as advertising in numerous magazines and online sources for books. I tend to do my best work in the afternoon and evening, even as late as midnight, and like to do my writing at that time. However, when inspiration hits me, I will sit down and write it all out so that I don’t forget it – those are my favourite moments where some of my best stories come from. I’ve been doing a lot of short stories lately and really enjoying it. It’s a nice break from writing full length novels.
What do you do when you don’t write?
I’m also a freelance photographer, illustrator and book cover designer. Sometimes it can get extremely busy, other days it’s a nice balance. I’m very fortunate that I enjoy doing that kind of work. I’ve been getting more requests to design covers for authors which is an honour and absolute thrill to do!
Tell us one odd thing about you and one really mundane thing.
That I sometimes like to write in silence, I often do not wear my hearing aids when I’m working at home. I know it’s weird but it does take away a lot of distractions which allows me to focus on my work. Although there are times when I need more inspiration that I will put on my hearing aids and listen to music to lift my spirits.
When I’m not fencing or exercising, I like to watch a movie or tv show at night. I know it’s a bit boring but I like having the ability to turn off my brain for a little while.
What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?
One of the most unique features in my books, aside from Jessie being hearing impaired, is that her cats are her guardians. They reveal themselves as spirit guides, usually at night when she’s dreaming. I incorporated that into the books as a special way of giving Jessie hope when she needs it at her darkest moments. Her cats are pretty much like mine, which is where their personalities came from. One of them recently died and I am so glad that I included him in my books so that I can remember him fondly.
Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?
Both of my parents get first crack at reading and editing my books since they offer unique viewpoints. Then I hand it off to my official editors at Black Opal Books where it goes through several more people. I have learned that process works well and helps me narrow the focus to what really matters and appeals to the readers. It was hard at first to accept the advice but as I became more experience I have found their insight to be rather valuable.
How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?
While I was writing my first book, Sway, I spent over a year trying to get a publisher in Canada. It was a daunting process that took away a lot of time that I could spend on writing stories. After doing some research, I decided to go ahead and self publish Sway at KOBO. It was not easy. As a beginner, there was so much to do and I really felt alone and extremely intimidated. However, when Sway hit the Top 50 bestseller list, I realized that I was onto something good. I went ahead and self published my second book Compass. Now that I was more experienced, I was much more confident of the overall process and was able to enjoy the ability to have control over everything. Shortly afterwards, Black Opal Books picked up my books. I was immensely relieved to have someone take over the helm. Having a publisher has certainly introduced my books to a much larger market in terms of more bookstores and worldwide access. That’s exactly what I wanted, more options for my readers.
What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favourite thing?
I love coming up with the ideas. It’s an exhilarating experience and quite a rush when I sit down and start writing it all down onto paper. It’s hard to explain but I feel more complete when it’s done. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment. My least favourite thing is when I’m stuck or my creativity doesn’t seem to flow as well usual. I’ve found that if I try to force it that it can make worse. Sometimes I just have to walk away from that situation and go do something else such as going for a drive, doing errands, or some photography to get a fresh perspective.
What is your advice to new writers?
Always have a notepad nearby, inspiration can hit you at anytime. And that’s a good thing! That’s where those awesome ideas come from. Just follow your heart, do what speaks to you the most. I know it sounds corny but believe in yourself and your talent, it will all come together like pieces of a puzzle. It will make sense when everything is done.
Who are your favourite independent writers?
I would have to say the ones that I work and interact with the most. I know so many of them! I need to give a nod of thanks to Kim Scott, Joss Landry, Christoph Fischer, Paul Rega, Van Heerling, John Rose Putnam, Daniel Garcia, Lisa Calell, Steve LeBel, Wanda Hartzenberg and everyone who helps me promote my stories. I adore many of the authors from Black Opal Books who also pitch in with the marketing of my trilogy series including Nana Prah, Aneta Cruz, Tonya Royston, Melissa Groeling, Debbie Christiana, Carole Avila, Debbie Lee, Steven Rosenstein, B.K.Stevens, and many more. Thank you everyone for reviewing my books and being so supportive of me!
Who are your favourite authors?
One of my top favourite authors is J.K Rowling and her Harry Potter books, such an amazing imagination! I’ve always loved reading Janet Evanovitch’s hilarious tales, particularly the Stephanie Plum series. They are a fun and easy read. Somehow she’s always finds something to blow up or go wrong in her books. Jim Butcher appeals to my geek side and I’ve really enjoyed reading the Dresden Files. One of my long time favourite authors is Elizabeth Peters and it was actually my mother who got me hooked onto those books. I’ve recently discovered Deborah Harkness, A Book of Life, which is a pretty cool story about witches. I just stumbled onto Veronica Roth’s young adult series.
What is your favourite book?
As a child, my favourite novel was A Wrinkle In Time by Madelaine L’Engle, the tales that she wove were simply stupendous. Growing up, I also enjoyed the Bruno and Boots series by Gordon Kormon, those were simple a lot of fun to read.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (ebook/paperback/hardcover)?
I just finished the hardcover version of Insurgent by Veronica Roth and would love to get a paperback of her novel, Allegiant.
What makes you laugh?
Definitely my cats! They do the silliest and sweetest things that make me smile! I also have to admit that these movies make me laugh: 17 Again, Miss Congeniality and Get Smart (Steve Carell version). Whenever I need a pick me up, I watch those!
What (not who) would you like to take to a lonely island?
Lighter, notepad and pen, books to read, dark chocolate, soft pillow and a knife.
Who would you like to invite for dinner?
John Edward, the medium or Nick Vujicic who has no arms or legs. Both are very interesting people!
Hot or cold?
I prefer the heat, it’s like a warm hug.
Salty or sweet?
What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality?
My best quality would be that I’m generous and honest. Although sometimes I can be too honest. My oddest quality would be that I’m very creative in terms of my thought process, it’s hard to keep up with me or even figure how I got to that point. I tend to see the world in a different way than most people due to my hearing loss: I’ve learned to appreciate my surroundings in a more visual way since I use my eyes more than my ears. I love watching the play of light and shadows, the patterns it creates when it shifts and moves as well as the colours of nature. Everything is much richer in detail because I’m seeing everything in an entirely different way. That is particularly evident in my books, I’m very descriptive visually.
What would you chose as those qualities?
My kindness, including my love for animals.
Tell us about your other books?
One of my short stories is being featured in a local Anthology which is coming soon. Since I’ve written several fun short stories, I would love to publish them. I have had my eye on creating a science fiction book and currently writing down the ideas.
What song would you pick to go with your book?
Definitely Coldplay, my favourite band.
How do you handle criticism of your work?
It’s not easy, I take it personally since I’ve dealt with so much harsh criticisms growing up. I do try to keep it in mind that since my books are so unique, not everyone will appreciate them and that’s okay. It’s all about finding the right book that suits you and your personality. It’s like a holding a treasure in your hand when you discover one that sings to you.
Website > http://www.jennifergibson.ca/jennifers-books.php
Facebook Author page > www.facebook.com/AuthorJenniferGibson
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Gibson/e/B00CAWK4TS/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_nu_X7.ArbA48F9A4
Jennifer is an award winning photographer, freelance Illustrator, graphic designer and published author.
Her photography & graphic design has been featured extensively in many media formats including CHEX TV, National Geographic, SNAP magazine and Watershed Magazine as well as various local tourism/promotional materials. Jennifer’s current line of work features professionally designed book covers for authors from around the world.
Jennifer was selected as one of 12 winners for the prestigious 2010 Oticon Focus on People Award and the only Canadian to have won in this national competition (North America). She was nominated as an outstanding individual with a hearing loss and for the portrayal of a hearing impaired teen in her young adult novel entitled Sway. Her first book in the series just won Silver for Young Adult at the Literary Classics Book Awards!
The trilogy series was based on a true story featuring snapshots of the author’s life growing up with a severe hearing loss. Many real life scenarios have been incorporated into the story to provide a rich and sometimes, gritty setting that can be shocking at times to read. Aside from the moral lesson of dealing with a disability, it offers an amazing sense of appreciation of how much it takes to persevere through a difficult time in life.
From the very beginning we watch Jessie as she tries to find her place in the community. She does a lot of soul searching, trying to find ways to fit into a society that has trouble accepting her. In Sway, we begin to see her change and make interesting decisions based on what happens to her. Gradually, her path in life begins to shift and goes towards a new direction in Compass. She becomes more aware of who she is as a young person. In the third book Destiny, it becomes a pivotal turning point that sets her on the right path where she becomes empowered and emerges a stronger person.
Throughout the turmoil in her life, Jessie discovers that she has friends in the most unexpected places. Together they guide her through some of the darkest moments she has to endure and they help her rise up and believe in herself once again.
Synopsis for SWAY, Book 1:
Based on a true story, the novel “Sway” is about a hearing impaired teenager named Jessie who tries her best to blend in at school. Every day proves to be a test of her resolve when she is constantly plagued by the ruthless pranks of her classmates who are determined to make her life miserable. When a handsome stranger arrives in the nick of time, Jessie wonders if he is too good to be true. Is Ethan’s attention genuine, or will he betray her trust, too?
“Being a teenager is hard enough. To be hard of hearing on top of that is like being stuck in the middle of a never ending soap opera.”
In Compass, the sequel to Sway, Jessie’s life begins to change its course, sending her towards a new reality. When her world is ripped apart by an angry rival, the one person she trusted to stand by her side, simply walks away. With her composure shattered, Jessie questions everything she believed about herself, and as her life takes her on a new path, it becomes a perilous journey, full of surprising twists and turns.
Synopsis for DESTINY, Book 3:
“Jessie’s journey began in Sway and Compass. As we continue to follow her in Destiny, she stumbles across a revelation that could change everything and finds herself standing on the precipice of life.”
Jessie is determined not to let her hearing loss hold her back. She aims her sights even higher as she ventures in a new direction. With a Black Belt on the horizon, and so close to achieving it, she is unaware of the danger closing in on her. Will she be strong enough to hold on or will she succumb to the darkness that surrounds her?