Today we’re very excited to introduce you to Olivia Rivers and her YA Contemporary Tone Deaf, which is slated to release Spring 2016!
- Why did you choose the setting for your book? Did you draw from any real places to create your world?
TONE DEAF is a road-trip book, but most of it takes place in San Jose and in the South West. My grandparents lived in a small town around Phoenix, so my childhood trips to the area were a big inspiration for the setting. As a Cali girl, there was always a bit of culture shock involved when I visited!
- What was your inspiration for TONE DEAF?
A lot of different things came together to inspire TONE DEAF. I wanted to see more disabled characters represented in YA books, so writing a deaf character really appealed to me. I was also interested in doing a story about music, since the professional world surrounding the art form is so unique and crazy. Then one day, I was jokingly brainstorming terrible band names with a friend, and “Tone Deaf” was one I came up with. It led to a light-bulb moment—what if I combined a music story with the story of a deaf girl?
- What was your favorite part about writing TONE DEAF?
Even though he’s a minor character, I think writing Killer was my favorite part. Killer describes himself as “the geekiest and gayest rockstar in existence,” and he gave me an excuse to include a bunch of subtle nods to Doctor Who and Pokemon. Since his boyfriend is his polar opposite and utterly baffled by geekiness, their relationship was also very fun to write.
- What was the hardest part about writing TONE DEAF?
For some reason, everyone likes to mistakenly call it TONE DEATH. It’s developed into a strange pet peeve of mine, and not strangling people when they call it that is incredibly hard! 😛
- Who is your favorite rogue character from a book, TV show, or movie?
Tyrion from Game of Thrones. The dude absolutely cracks me up, and I just love how kick-butt his character is.
- As well as being represented by Laurie McLean, you’re also her assistant! How has your experience as an agent assistant informed your writing?
Working for Laurie and all the lovely people at Fuse has taught me so much, I don’t even know where to start! There are the more obvious lessons related to writing, of course—who’s buying what, which genres are hot, which tropes to avoid, ect. But working at Fuse has also given me a deep appreciation for the writing community, and taught me all sorts of ways to spread the love within the book community.
- As you’ve already mentioned, TONE DEAF’s protagonist, Ali, is deaf. Did you find it challenging to write a deaf character? What resources did you turn to while writing and revising?
Well, yes, it required a lot of intense research and a bit more work than I usually put into characters. But at its core, no, it really wasn’t more difficult than writing an abled character. I’ve always seen Ali as being shaped more by the things she has—a passion for art, a snarky sense of humor, a love of geeky things—than by the things she doesn’t have—like normal hearing. Because most of her core personality traits are things I’m familiar with, writing her character wasn’t necessarily more “challenging”—it just took a bit more time than usual.As for resources, I found medical journals and articles on Deaf education to be helpful. But probably the most helpful resource were forums for the Deaf community, since those gave me a clear window into real-life experiences of people with hearing impairments.
- You posted on Wattpad the first couple chapters and they were just a little popular (*cough*). How did TONE DEAF’s success on Wattpad affect you and the book while you were writing?
At first, it was really cool and fun. But it quickly made me start to feel uncomfortable when I realized I had all these people reading an unresearched first draft. I had started posting in the hopes of getting critiques, so it was very unpolished. And because my writing process involves doing most of the research during the second and third drafts, the aspects regarding Deaf culture were poorly researched at the time. So while I appreciate all the readers who read that ugly first draft, I’m super glad for a chance to present a more polished and fully-researched version when Skyhorse publishes it in Spring 2016.
- What’s one thing you want readers to know about TONE DEAF?
Everyone with a disability has a different experience with it! This is something I can’t stress enough, especially since many people in the Deaf community don’t consider themselves disabled. Sometimes when we read about minority characters, it’s easy to mistakenly think they represent the personality/opinions/experiences of the entire minority. But really they just represent a single individual, so even the most well-researched character is going to have different experiences than a lot of real-life people.
- Describe the type of reader you hope picks up this book when it’s on the shelves.
Anyone with a love for the arts, and hopefully some people who like to talk about books! I absolutely adore getting messages from my readers, so I’m looking forward to hearing readers’ thoughts on this story.
Olivia Rivers is a Young Adult author who writes in multiple genres, ranging from Epic Fantasy to Contemporary Romance. Her fascination with technology led her to become a hybrid author, meaning some of her works are independently published, while others are traditionally published. She has a passion for representing diversity, and you’ll often find disabled main characters in her novels. Olivia is represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary.