Emma Viskic: on Resurrection Bay

Resurrection Bay Emma Viskic book rec

Caleb, the protagonist in Resurrection Bay, first caught my attention because he is deaf and the possibilities that opened up in the narrative as such, particularly in those situations of heightened danger. How would the author work around that?

Reading over the interview once Emma Viskic returned it to me, I realised that was such a negative point of view to have — as she points out below. There’s a new world of positives, ones I realised I should have thought about first.

Read on to learn more about this debut novel from an author who is an accomplished musician and teacher, and is now (slightly less terrible) at Auslan.

What are you reading right now?

Good Money, a debut Australian crime novel by JM Green. It’s wonderfully witty, but with a nice, dark undertow.

You’re a teacher, classical musician and a writer – how did you find your way to writing? It’s such a contrast to a performer or teacher.

Writing was my first love, but music took up most of my time through my twenties. I missed writing, but felt I didn’t have the time, ideas or skills to pursue it. Eventually I got so irritated by myself that I decided to write a book. I gave myself permission for it to be bad, and it was, but it was such a relief to be writing again, that I’ve barely missed a day since.

Performing and teaching have both been great foundations for my writing. The detailed work of writing is so like classical music. It’s about rhythm and pace, subtleties of tone. I read my work aloud, the same way I practise the clarinet, playing and replaying phrases, testing an emphasis here, a pause there. And teaching? Well, so much of teaching is about psychology, particularly when you teach instrumental music. It makes you a great observer of human nature.

How did Resurrection Bay begin? What sparked the idea for it?

I began Resurrection Bay with a single image: a man sitting in a bloodied suburban kitchen, cradling his dead friend’s body. Everything came from that image. Who was he? What had happened? What was going to happen next?

Tell us about Caleb and the inspiration for him?

I grew up on books by Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton, so I’d always assumed that when I finally wrote the crime novel that was burning inside me, it would feature a kick-arse female detective. Instead, Caleb showed up. He was driven, self-deprecating, lovelorn and incredibly stubborn. I realised early on that he was deaf, but was terrified at the prospect of writing a deaf character. There were so many reasons not to do it: my love of dialogue, a myriad of technical problems, and most of all, a deep fear of getting it terribly wrong. Luckily, Caleb’s character was stronger than my fear, so I gave in, threw out what I’d written, and started again. I spoke to people in the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, learned to lip-read (terribly) and learned Auslan (slightly less terribly.)

Emma Viskic author of Resurrection Bay interviewWhat were the unexpected difficulties in a character who is profoundly deaf?

Being an expert worrier, I managed to imagine every difficulty well ahead of time. But one thing did take me by surprise – the unexpected advantages of writing a deaf character. Caleb is far more observant than I would have made a hearing character. And it’s made me more observant, too. I notice more of the world around me, the scents, the light, people’s expressions, their body language. I think I used to walk around in a bit of a fog.

What drew you to crime as a genre?

I’ve always loved crime fiction. It’s a wonderful excuse to delve into people’s lives and explore their motivations. I enjoy seeing how characters react under pressure. And then a little more pressure. And then a little more.

What do you think makes a good crime novel?

For me, it has to have an engaging and believable plot, and characters I care about. If I’m not interested in the people, I’m not interested in whodunit.

I’ve read that a book 2 will follow Resurrection Bay – is each book delving into a part of Caleb’s character or is there an overarching arc/story for him over several books? How did you approach writing this?

I’m planning a series of books, all with separate plots, as well as an overarching story line. I’ve got a broad plan for the through line, but I don’t like to pre-plot the details too much. I started the second book the same way I started the first – with a single scene.

This is your debut novel – what do you wish you’d known about publishing before you started?

Two things: that people in the writing world are incredibly generous, and that Twitter is a great way of connecting with them. Two years ago I was writing in a vacuum, with no support or feedback, but then I hooked into the writing scene on Twitter. I found my mentor, my publisher and two of my closest writing friends through it.

What is coming up for you in 2015?

Lots of writing! Also writers’ festivals and panels, teaching and performing. Also, Angela Meyer from Echo Publishing has promised to teach me how to appreciate whisky.

What was your first thought when you read Caleb was deaf? Another one to add my to TBR list, and finding new reserves to my patience as I am being good, dammit! 

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