I get asked one question above all others about Resurrection Bay – why did I set out to write a deaf protagonist? The truth is, I didn’t. Although Caleb was always deaf, it took me a long time to catch on.
When I first started writing Resurrection Bay, Caleb strode onto the page almost fully formed: he was strangely obstinate, isolated and hyper-aware. But I didn’t know why. His relationship with his parents went some way to explain it, but didn’t seem enough.
Halfway through the second draft, I began to see glimpses of someone from my childhood, a girl I’d gone to school with. She shared many of the same qualities as Caleb: she was watchful, proud, frustrated, and profoundly deaf. I began to wonder if Caleb might be deaf, too. The idea terrified me. I’m a classical musician; sound is central to my world. I couldn’t imagine writing a book where dialogue and nuance of tone were absent. And how could Caleb function as an investigator if he was deaf? How could he be independent? So I pushed the idea aside. It wasn’t a case of ignoring the muse, so much as slamming the door in her face and sprinting in the opposite direction.
But the idea kept nudging the back of my brain. Two drafts later, things still didn’t feel right, so I gave in and experimented with a single scene. That scene became two, then three, then a chapter. By the end of it, everything about Caleb had clicked into place. After that, he took over, ploughing ahead whenever I faltered, driving the story with a blatant disregard for his own happiness and safety. To my surprise, his deafness created as many boons as it did problems. His observational skills made him an excellent investigator, and dialogue became more, not less, important. Even my niggling worry that Caleb’s deafness would become too central to the plot was alleviated: although it’s an important part of who he is, it isn’t all he is.
While Caleb barged on, I was left to answer myriad technical questions. Could he lip-read or did he use sign language? How hard was it to lip-read anyway? Very hard, it turned out, but some people have a gift for it. Caleb was going to have to be one of them because there was no way he’d agree to being paired with an interpreter. But the idea of using sign language intrigued me. If Caleb could sign, it would be a perfect opportunity to show him at ease, and to explore his relationships. So he became bilingual. He speaks English with most people, but signs with those closest to him.
Decisions made, I set about learning Australian sign language (Auslan) and spoke to people. I learned the difference between being culturally Deaf, which Caleb isn’t, and small ‘d’ deaf, which he is. I spent hours walking around with ear buds in my ears, trying to do day-to-day things like shopping and catching public transport. And failing miserably. The more I learned, the more I understood Caleb’s character and what drove him. He might have been giving me a slow clap and muttering ‘About time’, but I got there in the end.
by Emma Viskic
When a childhood friend is murdered, a sense of guilt and a determination to prove his own innocence sends Caleb on a hunt for the killer. But he can’t do it alone. Caleb and his troubled friend Frankie, an ex-cop, start with one clue: Scott, the last word the murder victim texted to Caleb. But Scott is always one step ahead.
This gripping, original and fast-paced crime thriller is set between a big city … Read more.
About the Author
Emma Viskic has won the 2016 Davitt Award for Best Crime Adult Novel, Best Crime Debut Novel and the Reader’s Choice Award. She has also won two of Australia’s premier crime fiction short story awards: the Ned Kelly S.D. Harvey Award, and the New England Thunderbolt Prize.
A classical clarinettist by training, her musical career has ranged from performing with Jose Carreras, to a backyard wedding where the groom demanded to know where the fourth member of the trio was. She lives in Melbourne’s inner north with her family and divides her time between writing, performing and teaching.