Friday, February 13, 2015

When Characters Have Disabilties

Warkworth resident Jennifer Gibson is the recipient of the HearStrong Ambassador Award. Gibson is an award winning author, photographer, illustrator and designer.  Gibson also fences with foils and sabers.  A very accomplished woman and deserving of the award. - Evelyn Mcleod/For The Community Press
  I am so honored to introduce you to Jennifer Gibson. She was born with a severe to profound hearing loss due to congenital Rubella in 1970. Growing up, she needed to wear two hearing aids and recently went deaf in her right ear from antibiotics. Even that didn't stop Jennifer from pursuing goals in a wide variety of sports and creative aspects including photography, illustration and writing.  Recently, her books have been gaining recognition for their uniqueness. Sway just won Silver in the 2014 Literary Classic Book Awards for Young Adult which was a fantastic surprise!

Product Details

I love that you wrote about a hearing impaired teenager. Why did you feel compelled to make this your main character?

 After meeting Michael Buble in Toronto a few years ago, I was inspired to go after my dreams of writing a novel.  After doing some research, I realized that there were not very many books for teens with disabilities. It was at that point that I wanted to provide a compelling story about a young teenager with a hearing loss and base it on my experiences. What a difference that made! Having realistic scenes in the books created an immensely strong bond and connection with the readers.  I’ll admit that there were times when it wasn't easy writing down some of those poignant memories but I felt that they were necessary so that others go on that journey with me to discover what it’s truly like being hard of hearing.

What do you hope readers of all ages will come away with after reading your books?

My biggest goal was to provide a sense of hope and inspiration, particularly for teens with a hearing impairment. There are many enchanting scenes and moments of surprise that help give Jessie a sense of direction in her life, especially when she feels lost.  Having a severe hearing loss is one of the most isolating disabilities and sometimes it can seem incredibly overwhelming at times. That’s actually a very common occurrence and I wanted to show the audience just how difficult it is being hard of hearing. By providing such an in-depth look into my world, especially through the eyes of a teenager, it has opened the eyes of many, many readers around the world about the truth of living with a disability.

How does Destiny, the sequel to Compass, follow Jessie?

Destiny is the third book in the series and a continuation of the story where we follow Jessie as she discovers what it’s like to work in the real world. She finds out that it’s not as easy as it appears to work in an art gallery with kids.  At first, everything seems like it’s going swimmingly until someone gives her a difficult time because of her hearing impairment. Then she decides to try a different venue where she volunteers at her local hospital. She learns very quickly how to deal with an assortment of experiences and wide range of emotions working in a new environment. On top of this, she is absolutely determined to get her Black Belt even after her life suddenly changes for the worst.  She never saw it coming.  It seemed like one thing happened after another, making her doubt herself and her own strength. Through all of this, she relies on her boyfriend Ethan to help her get through it. Will he stay by her side or will everything fall apart?

What does your writing day look like for those of us who struggle to find time to squeeze in that next story plot?

I often keep a journal nearby since inspiration can strike at any time. Sometimes it appears during the most innocuous moments from when I’m eating lunch or even when I’m taking a break and watching TV. It’s often a mad scramble to grab a pen and write it all down. It’s those moments that I treasure the most since they are so exciting! I have been known to sit in bed late at night and write an entire short story or a chapter simply because I couldn't wait to get it all down. If I’m in a hurry, I will write down the most important points or specific sentences that capture the scene I want. Often for a full length novel, I will have a very good idea of the overall arc and story-line. I make a list of ideas for each chapter and include key scenarios that I want to focus on. I try not to force these ideas and instead choose to let them write themselves.  Some days I can write several chapters, other days maybe only one chapter which is fine.

Do you ever get stuck when writing? How do you refresh and keep going?

Yes, I do get stuck.  Even after trying to write a chapter and realizing that it didn't feel right, I would stop and go do something else.  Sometimes it means getting out of the house to get groceries, do some gardening or even raking the lawn, to take that necessary break. As soon as I let go of trying to write something, inspiration will come to me later on, when I least expect it and that’s always a wonderful surprise.

I love finding out about the quirks, habits and hobbies of my favorite authors. What makes you unique?

Aside from my hearing loss, I’m a fencer in Foil and Sabre. I fence at two different clubs in two different cities. It can be mind boggling at times to have two coaches and juggling with two weapons, it’s also a great challenge that I enjoy pursuing. It has pushed me to go further than ever in sports even though I have tried out for the Women’s Team Canada in Ice Hockey and Women’s Team Canada in Grappling. I think it’s more personal this time since my mother was a fencer in Foil and that I’m following in her footsteps.

So where do you go from here? Any big projects on the horizon?

I've been actively designing book covers for authors around the world and enjoying the thrill of doing such exciting work with them. I've also been writing short stories which is such a nice break from producing full length novels, although I do have plans to do a science-fiction book soon which is an entirely new field for me. I hope that goes well.

Social Media Outlets: I’m everywhere!
You can find me at my website:
On Twitter at: @charmedchickJG

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.  

For some exciting news click on the link below!



  1. I love the comment about inspiration. You're right, ideas come at odd moments. I'm glad I'm not the only one who experiences this.

  2. A fantastic interview, ladies. Jennifer, you books sound wonderful. The message of learning to succeed in spite of physical challenges must resonate with readers of all ages, not just teens. Best of luck

  3. Great interview and what an inspiration! Jennifer, I want to wish you the best. It's so great for those who suffer from physical challenges to know they are not alone and that others with physical challenges have in fact succeeded. Amazing!

  4. What a wonderful and insightful Interview, Ladies!!! Jenn wishing you much success in 2015!!!