Have you ever wondered what’s beyond the clouds?
More sky and then stars, right? Everyone knows that.
But only because they’ve been told.
Imagine never having been told anything though. Imagine being deaf from birth. Undiagnosed, so everyone just thought you were stupid.
That’s Neil, the character in my novel, “Counting the Clouds“. Bullied, laughed at and finally ignored by everyone. Left alone, with no words in his head, because he’d never heard any, never learnt any.
We think in words. In our heads, we plan, we remember, we love, mainly in words. It’s called our “internal voice”. But if you don’t know any words, what do you do? What does your brain run on?
Some deaf people think partly in sign language, which is a cool idea. But what if you don’t know how to sign either? What if you’ve never learnt how to communicate at all? You think in pictures, apparently. It’s all you’ve got.
I tried it. It’s really difficult. I tried blanking out the words in my head (which are quite obvious once you’ve realised they are there) and just using pictures to think. I did it to try to understand how my character might feel. I can only guess, but I decided that bright colours might be important. Also unusual or striking shapes. Or things that changed, things whose appearance varied in interesting patterns.
You might like to test this now, to see how you think. Close your eyes (no, not yet, read the rest of the sentence first…) and see which of the two pictures above comes to mind.
Done? Was it the landscape at the top, all blues and greens, waves on the sea that never repeat and sunlight that tricks you into thinking it’s not about to rain? Or was it the magazine cover below, with its bright colours and firm, bold text? We’re all different. I’m 18 in that picture and even at that age I’d happily lie on the ground for hours and watch the clouds, preferably through sunglasses. The patterns never repeat and you can never guess what will happen next. Dreadful haircut…
Neil (my character) grows up on a small Scottish island, with big skies and plenty of rain. So I decided that clouds might mean a lot to him.
So here it is then: my second novel. (Never thought I’d write those words). “Counting the clouds” is about a young man who is deaf, thinks himself stupid and who wants to become a photographer. He’s got talent but he’s hasty and very unsure of himself. And he doesn’t listen to the women in his life. So not auto-biographical at all…
But I have been a photographer, as well as a model, (a long time ago!). Please, click here to read the beginning of the book or read on to see where the inspiration came from.
www.youmaynowkissthebride.co.uk for more of my wedding photographs.
And being hasty started this novel off: four years ago I went to Switzerland to speak at a pain conference… and broke my leg. Yes, very funny and my own fault entirely: I should never have been on a red run in deep, wet snow. I clearly remember the horror as the ski dug in, I somersaulted and felt the bone snap in mid-air. The funicular train ride that got me off the mountain was painful, (although on time), but Swiss hospital food is excellent so I put my feet up and started writing “Counting the Clouds“. Actually just the one foot, it was horribly swollen and the surgeon kept lifting it higher, telling me that “gravity would be my friend”. Eventually I pointed out that it was gravity that had got me into the mess in the first place and he went off in a huff so I ate some grapes and started on the plot.
And still by the sea…Cocoa beach, 27th May 1999,
2 minutes after lift-off for the space shuttle Discovery. Even ten miles away, the crackle of the engines was deafening, only surpassed by the sigh of relief as the solid rocket boosters fell away correctly, 91 seconds after they cleared the pad. Discovery launched at sunset and nobody moved even after the vehicle had disappeared. The whole crowd just stood and stared at the huge vapour trail arcing across the sky and turning pink as the light faded. And that’s where the title comes from. Here’s the beginning of Counting the Clouds.