From Simon and Schuster Author Profile:
Sarah J. Harris is an author and freelance education journalist who regularly writes for national British newspapers. She is the author of the young adult series Jessica Cole: Model Spy, written under her pen name, Sarah Sky. She lives in London with her husband and two young children. The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder is her first adult novel.
After I reviewed her latest novel, The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder she was so kind enough to answer some of my questions about her writings.
What got you so interested in synesthesia and face blindness?
Ms. Harris: I’ve been interested in synaesthesia for many years, after first coming across the condition during my work as an education journalist. I’d written a feature about childhood synaesthesia following new research at Edinburgh University, which highlighted a lack of awareness about the condition in UK primary schools. I found the subject fascinating and it made me wonder what life must be like for a child when people struggle to understand their day to day experiences – or simply don’t want to know. Over the years, I’ve kept cuttings from newspapers and magazines about synaesthesia and also avidly read up on another condition that fascinated me – developmental prosopagnosia or face blindness.
I knew that at some point I wanted to write a novel involving both conditions and ideas bubbled away in the background as life, in general, took over – I was raising my two young sons with my husband, working as a freelance education journalist and I went on to write three Young Adult books about a girl spy. When I finished my last YA book, I was no longer under contract with a publisher and I felt a sense of freedom – I could write whatever I wanted and I returned to my initial interests.
I started to research synaesthesia and face blindness more intensively and both conditions played on my mind a lot. The central idea for the book eventually came to me in a dream: I saw a terrified young boy running across a suburban street at night, terror etched on his face. When I woke up, I realized that a particular color could have traumatized the boy. Perhaps he had face blindness and identified people by the color of their voices. What if the voice color of someone he knew well had transformed toa horrific shade as they screamed? What if he had seen the color of murder? The book grew from there and I wrote the first draft in about nine months, continuing to carry out research as I worked.
Is Autism Awareness something important to you?
Ms. Harris: Yes, it is very important to me. Jasper’s father finds it difficult to accept his son’s differences but by the end of the book, he accepts him for who he is and stops trying to change him. They finally reconcile and have a shot of happiness in the future. Hopefully, the message from my book that resonates with readers is that we all perceive the world differently and that diversity is a wonderful thing. It’s OK to be different and to accept others for who they are.
I wanted to make my portrayal of Jasper as accurate as possible and had help from the National Autistic Society. The response from the autistic community following the publication of my book has been fantastic.
In what way do you relate to Jasper?
Ms. Harris: I was bullied at primary school and used to run home to get away from the boy who used to wait for me at the gates, just as Jasper does.
What was the hardest scene to write?
Ms. Harris: Probably the painting scenes – I painted each picture with a local artist to enable me to describe them accurately, which took time. I had to know the exact colors Jasper created when he mixed voice colors together, for example, his dad’s and Bee’s voice colors merge to make “dirty sap circles”.
Since it’s #IndieApril, What is your favorite independently published novel?
Ms. Harris: Still Alice by Lisa Genova. My father-in-law had an early onset of Alzheimer’s in his fifties and eventually died from the disease, so I’ve always felt a personal connection with this book.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!