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Interview with "Speechless" author Hannah Harrington

Hannah Harrington is a 25-year-old Young Adult author. Her debut YA novel “Saving June” was released in 2011, followed by “Speechless” which was released in 2012. She is currently working on her third novel. You can visit her site here, or follow her on twitter here.

What made you want to tell Chelsea’s story in “Speechless”?

“I just thought it was an interesting story, and maybe something people could relate to. I think we all go through that period of figuring ourselves out and making hard choices. Writing a character who goes through a somewhat sped-up transformation like that due to her circumstances was really appealing to me—I’m a big fan of redemption stories. The idea of writing a novel where the protagonist doesn’t speak for the majority of it was also a fun challenge.”

Because of “Speechless” did you get connected to Love is Louder, or is it the other way around?

I had heard of Love is Louder before, but it’s only recently I’ve been involved with them. I’ve been really excited about the partnership between their organization and Speechless, since they do a lot of wonderful work in raising awareness for all kinds of issues.”

For those who aren’t aware, can you explain what the Love is Louder moment is?

“The Love is Louder movement was founded to promote awareness and provide support for anyone suffering from issues such as bullying, negative self-image, discrimination, and depression. You can check out http://www.loveislouder.com for more information on how to spread the word and get involved.”

Was any part of the book based off personal experience?

Mostly no. Chelsea is a very different character from myself; I think our only similarities are the red curly hair and the fact that I once worked for a restaurant as a teenager, too. It pretty much ends there! But I really liked branching out and writing a character so different from who I am, and going through experiences I haven’t been through exactly myself, but could relate to in a more general way.”

What was your favorite scene to write?

I really, really loved writing the scene with Chelsea and Sam in her bedroom. It was just a fun, very playful, sweet tone, and a nice reprieve from some of the bumps in the road they both faced along the way. I liked playing them off of each other in a more comfortable dynamic.”

How did the story come to you, what inspired you to write it?

I don’t really know where I originally came up with the idea, just that I had this thought of using a vow of silence as a hook for a story. Then I started asking myself questions about what would make a story like that interesting, what kind of person would have the most trouble with taking a vow of silence, and what would compel them to do it? The story sort of built itself up around those questions.”

*SPOILER* The scene where she finally speaks really stuck out to me, was that always your end game or did that come to you while the book developed?

Actually, no. I knew going in that the obvious choice would be for her first words to be to Noah—but that felt too predictable to me. Originally in the first draft, her first words were to Andy, asking for his help in getting back at Lowell and Derek. But that didn’t feel right, either. I think it wasn’t until maybe the third draft that I had the idea for what ended up in the final book. I’m really pleased with that since it was a somewhat late addition to the story, but I think it was the most fitting conclusion to cap off that part of the story in a lot of ways. In fact, I kind of kick myself for not having realized that earlier!”

Did you listen to specific songs for character development?

I am always listening to music when I write, or am thinking about writing! With Speechless, I think I listened to a lot of pop music while writing. Maybe because I imagine Chelsea listens to a lot of top forty. Lady Gaga’s entire The Fame Monster album was probably on repeat for a lot of that. Also songs like “When I Grow Up” by Garbage and “Raw Sugar” by Metric. A lot of lady music!”

What are you working on now that “Speechless” has been released?

“I’m working on a third novel, but it’s too early to give many details yet! I will say it is another contemporary YA romance. I love that genre too much to stray from it!”

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