I wrote a blog post once about how I came up with the idea of the ghost and flower for The Architect of Song. Short version: I was in a 19th century graveyard and saw a tiny fenced-in plot with a lone headstone and a flower growing beside it. It struck me odd that the grave was isolated, and my muse started dancing around, coming up with all sorts of scenarios as to why it might be. Then I asked myself: "What if the person buried there was somehow tied to that lonely flower? What if their life forces had intertwined?"
All my contemplating birthed a story of a young woman in the Victorian era who touches the flower and awakens a nobleman's spirit. To bond her with the ghost immediately, she would be deaf due to a childhood illness, and his is the first voice she's heard in eleven years. I based Juliet's communication off of a deaf librarian assistant who worked at my elementary school years ago. She read lips so adeptly it was amazing (she'd been reading them/ practicing her whole life). I was so inspired by that ability that it left an indelible impression, so I wanted my character to be a tribute to her.
I had the unique opportunity, since my book didn't get published for several years, to do a little extra research on lipreading, because my memory was based on a fifth grader's faulty point of view. I stumbled upon an incredible woman named Tina Lannin, a forensic lipreader. After studying up on her, I knew that Juliet's skills would only be as good as the people she was communicating with. So throughout the book, I adjusted it so that in Juliet's scenes, the people who were closest to her, including the viscount she doesn't quite trust, would make an effort to not speak too fast, to provide adequate lighting, and to face her when talking. Ms Lannin admitted to lipreading since she first opened her eyes, and that she relied on lipreading because she was "treated as a hearing person in a hearing world." Juliet shares the desire to be treated that way, so it fit into her character profile. One of the things that stuck most with me, was Ms Lannin relaying that, "[When] I’m in a noisy place and hearing people are shouting at each other 'Pardon? I can’t hear you!' I am able to carry on communicating." I knew then that I could move forward with Juliet's lipreading abilities – although there would be times people would speak too fast or out of her line of sight, when her ghostly companion would need to translate what was being said for her.
In my story, Juliet uses her lipreading to try to hide her deafness in the beginning because she lives in a discriminatory era and is judged on her differences by ignorant members of society. In the end, she has to learn to embrace as a strength what other people see as a weakness to overcome their prejudices and show herself for the strong, intelligent woman she is, deafness and all. So that becomes her character arc which plays out through her solving a tragic and dangerous mystery. Sadly, I don't know where that librarian from my elementary school is now, or even if she's still alive (she was in her early fifties all those years ago), but hopefully I did her justice through Juliet. ;)
For more insights into the making of the book, you can find character interviews, excerpts, glimpses into what music inspired what scenes, and other revealing posts here:
7/27/2016- Fiktshun– Character Interview
8/1/2016- Once Upon a Twilight – Exclusive Excerpt
8/2/2016- My Friends Are Fiction– Fashion Post
8/4/2016- Bookiemoji– Exclusive Excerpt
8/5/2016- Two Chicks on Books– Official Playlist Reveal
For visual inspirations, visit The Architect of Song's pinterest board.
1. My Mother, Javier Navarrete
11. Far From Home, 2002
12. Love Scene, Airlock
17. Lullaby, Falcon Hunter
22. Dark Moon, Gemma Hayes
28. Youth, Daughter