My first novel didn’t have diverse main characters. I always wanted to write about hearing loss. Silly me assumed—and we all know what assuming does—that readers wouldn’t be drawn to Deaf and Hard of Hearing characters. Therefore I put my diversity in my supporting character. The closest I got was a primary supporting character who was a CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults).
I was influenced by what was out there. I hid my true self in hearing characters. I failed to embrace what made me, and therefore my writing, different.
My second novel was little better at first. Once again, I had a strong supporting Deaf character. But my main two were both hearing.
A funny thing happened when a rejection letter pointed out my opening needed a hook: I realized my male was Deaf. And in edits it became clear: he was always meant to be Deaf, I hadn’t realized it. Suddenly the story had more power, weak plot points solidified, and I fell deeper in love with the story.
A second funny thing happened: this revision gained more attention than my original. Perhaps it was just the hook my opening needed. Or it boils down to diversity is wanted. Diversity is needed. And even as the publishing world struggles with how to make it happen, we all see the need and have the desire to make it work.
When I finally put my diverse angle front and center, with both main characters with a hearing loss, the novel gained more attention than any other. I’ve received such love for this concept from so many directions. Only this time it means so much more to me. My main character has a hearing loss. She begins the novel with the identity of hearing impaired, although I never call it such because I don’t like the term. Throughout the novel she grows comfortable with herself and her hearing.
This was me. I hated my hearing loss for years. Until I took an ASL class in college and it changed my life. This journey was my initial concept for the novel. I created characters and gave them stories that differed from mine, but the underlining theme remained the same: hearing impaired girl becomes Hard of Hearing (capitalized to denote part of the culture).
The story has my heart and soul all over the pages. It has parts that are so important to me, and important to others with hearing loss. And to have people express interest and give me positive feedback? Huge.
I won’t go back to writing non diverse novels. At least, I don’t think I will. I have one work in process that I love, even though both main characters are non-diverse. Maybe this, too, will change in revisions. I struggle since I’m not sure I can write every novel with main characters who have hearing loss. But I do plan to continue with my initial goal: every novel will have hearing loss somewhere in them.