Today, author Eric Huffbind is guesting. He’s here to talk about his latest release Surrounded by Silence, a m/m contemporary romance. Be sure to check out my review of the book. And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
A frequent question I have already heard from friends, fans, and other writers is, “As a hearing person, how did I pull off writing about a deaf man?” Yes, it’s challenging, but hardly impossible. As many authors do, I have always pulled inspiration from personal real life history and situations.
To begin with, although I am retired from it, I’m a Registered Nurse. During my formal nursing education, I had this nursing elective class in which we studied the deaf community. This gave me a foundation for understanding of how intwined ASL (American Sign Language) is to deaf culture. This same class also taught me the attitudes, both positive and negative, which the deaf community has towards cochlear implants.
As I have already stated, I pull from real life. Within my extended family, I have 2nd and 3rd cousins who are deaf, albeit they were not necessarily born profoundly deaf. For my cousins, they tended to begin to experience hearing loss around 11 – 12 years of age. Unfortunately, they eventually experienced complete and total hearing loss.
I had a great aunt who fell in love with a deaf man. Her husband’s deafness was related to a genetic cause. From that marriage, there were a number of descendants who inherited the gene causing deafness. One such descendant, a distant cousin of mine, had cochlear implants surgically placed. Since she lost her hearing in late childhood, her ability to speak and understand spoken conversation had already formed. Between her cochlear implants and her reliance on lip reading, it is undetectable that she is deaf with her implants turned on. And being a woman, she is clever to style her hair in such a way to hide the cochlear implants altogether.
Now, I wish I could say that all of the above was all the research I needed, but this was not the case. Since the core of my novel is a romance between a hearing man and a deaf man, I had some holes in my knowledge base as to how I can get my two protagonist’s love affair off the ground with their communication barrier.
I have found simple networking can be immeasurably helpful. I do have the advantage of having a friend in California, I myself am in Ohio, and he’s deaf. I called him one evening via an interpreter service. Most in the deaf community can provide you a phone number to reach them at, which goes to an interpreter service who can listen to you speak, and the interpreter then uses sign language to communicate with the individual you’re calling. Of course, the deaf participant in the call has a screen to see the interpreter on.
Anyhow, I asked him if he happened to know of a couple where one of them was deaf, but the other was hearing. I should say, relationships between hearing and deaf persons are extremely common. Happens all the time. So, I knew my friend had to know of a couple.
In fact, he did. In the acknowledgement page of my book, you will find the name of Richard L. Ray. I owe so much of my research to him. Richard is both deaf and gay, and his partner is hearing. I originally spoke with him via an interpreter service, but since then, I speak with him often via texting. Richard is an absolute sweetheart. He was more than willing to share all the various obstacles he encountered dating and sharing his life with a hearing man.
Another source I used for networking was a simple Facebook post in a neighborhood group. I was trying to reach out to parents of deaf children, as I wanted to learn of the success or failure of their child’s use of cochlear implants. Eventually, I was able to speak with several parents by phone who graciously shared their stories. Not only with their child’s experience with cochlear implants, but also, they shared the kind of feedback they received from members of the deaf community. I will simply say the attitudes towards cochlear implants with members from the deaf community can swing widely.
All the various feelings and emotions I learned from speaking with both the hearing and deaf community, are translated into the psyche of my characters. Again, as I’ve stated, like many authors, you pull from real life experiences. It is through my research, I’m able to make my characters, Samuel Barron and Noah Wagner, feel credible.
Book Title: Surrounded by Silence
Author: Eric Huffbind
Release Date: October 14, 2020
Genre/s: Contemporary Gay Male Romance
Trope/s: Billionaires, Hurt/Comfort, Post-Divorce, Middle Age
Themes: Learning what it means to be selfless rather than selfish.
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 71 000 words/259 pages
Lonely billionaire, Samuel Barron, has finally met someone he finds himself falling for, but can he handle a romance for a gentleman whose entire world is surrounded by silence?
Blurb: After public humiliation, Sam Barron has come to the realization his billions can’t buy him love or happiness. Despondent and feeling like his life is in a downward spiral, he comes to realize he needs some professional help. Despite trepidations, Sam turns to Jason Parker, a social worker who at his heart, is a rescuer. Even though Sam had been so hateful towards him in the past, Jason can’t help but think Sam deserves to suffer. Jason tells Sam straight out, “You’re a spoiled brat without a shred of humility!”
Jason has deep concerns about helping Sam, but might be willing, if Sam volunteers at a soup kitchen. Grudgingly, Sam accepts Jason’s condition, and while performing his volunteer work, meets the flirtatious Noah Wagner. Noah is close in age, attractive, and Sam likes the way he feels whenever he’s around him. Noah is the first person Sam has known who is profoundly deaf. So, how is Sam to navigate a romantic interest with a man who can’t hear a word he says?
Note: Surrounded by Silence, a Contemporary Gay Male Romance, is a sequel to Mr. Huffbind’s debut novel, The Rescuer. However, this book can be read as a stand-alone. If you enjoy a story where the villain becomes the hero, you will love Surrounded by Silence.
Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited
Coming through the front door of their apartment, Jason called out, “Honey, I’m home. Where are you?”
Poking his head out, Christopher announced, “I’m in the kitchen making dinner.”
Strolling into the kitchen, Jason gave Christopher a kiss, and asked, “How was work today?”
“Oh, it was okay, same old same old. Not particularly exciting. How about you?”
Jason took a small step backwards and began rubbing his eyebrows. “Well, an old friend of yours came to see me today, without any forewarning, of course!”
“An old friend of mine? I can’t imagine what old friend of mine would come to see you.”
“I’m being facetious,” Jason said. “Calling this man a friend is a bit of a stretch, and he’s someone I wasn’t happy to see.”
Christopher’s eyes narrowed as he squinted. “Please, tell me it wasn’t Sam Barron?”
“I’d be happy to tell you it wasn’t Sam Barron… but I would be lying. Yes, it was Sam. Admittedly, I was floored! And as you can imagine, especially since he showed up unannounced, I was less than ecstatic to see him.”
“Dear God, almighty! What in the hell did he come to see you about?”
“As you might suspect, I was a bit miffed. Not trying to change the subject, but something smells awfully good. What’s for dinner?”
“Just a frozen entrée of lasagna. Don’t get too excited, but it’s your favorite brand. So, go on, why did Sam show up at your office?”
Jason took a seat at the small dinette table. “As hard as you might find this to believe, he came seeking my professional help. As far as I can gather, ever since all the bad press in the media hit the airways, he’s fallen into a deep depression. Perhaps, a deep depression isn’t the best choice of words. Significant emotional distress is more accurate. Complains of loneliness and being guilt-ridden.”
Christopher said sharply, “And why should you care if he’s guilt-ridden? He deserves to feel guilt-ridden!”
“You’re not going to get an argument from me. Still… I felt bad for him. It was as if he was pleading for forgiveness, and begging for my help. He says he wants to become a better person. The guy was crying. Sounded desperate.”
“Christopher responded, “It sounds like he needs a psychologist, not a social worker.”
“Exactly! That’s what I told him, but he insisted he wants me.”
“No offense, but why does he want your help?”
“You know Sam,” Jason answered. “He always wants the best. In his mind, I’m the best. In addition, I’m gay, which is especially important to him, and I get that.”
Christopher started shaking his head in utter disbelief. “Wait now! Wait just a minute here! After the way that man treated you! And treated me for that matter! He has the gall to come and ask you for help!”
“He said he was a nervous wreck coming to see me! He knew damn well I wasn’t going to be happy having him show up on my doorstep. The thing is, honey, I felt bad for him, and believe me, I hear myself saying this, and yet, I can’t believe these words are coming out of my mouth.”
Christopher crossed his arms against his chest. “Let me guess! Your inner rescuer kicked in.”
Jason nodded his agreement of his husband’s quick and accurate assessment.
Jason waved his hand in a gesture to encourage Christopher to sit down with him. He pushed the chair away from the table giving Christopher easier access to sit.
“He saw how much I helped you. So, he trusts me. That’s why he wants my help. You’re right, of course, my inner rescuer did kick in. I told him I had to speak with you, and I would only help him if you granted me permission to. I wasn’t going to do it without your consent. The guy looks pitiful. He said I could name my price! He even offered to pay me five hundred dollars an hour. Mind you, not during my regular working hours. He knows this is something that must take place outside the realm of my job. He was willing to come here, or I could go to his home. Tell me, what do you think? How do you feel about it? Would you be okay if I worked with him? Trust me, I have my own reservations, and… I can’t lie, the money does sound appealing. I’m not a licensed therapist, but what I do isn’t such a stretch from what a psychologist would do. So, I’m asking, would you be comfortable with this?”
Christopher asked, “The question you should be asking yourself is, how do you feel about it?” Although, I must admit, I know that man. If he wants you bad enough, he’ll pay you whatever price you want. Ever since you sold your condominium and decided to live in my apartment, you’ve wanted to buy a house for us. Remember the model home we saw? The one built by Kirkland Home Builders. That money could help a lot towards a down payment. It’s just so ironic! This is the same man who sent you into a panic attack, and now he comes crawling to you for help. Although, I know what you’re talking about. There’s a side of Sam Barron he doesn’t let people see. I’ll be okay with it—if you’re okay with it.”
When I first read the blurb, I was smitten. Redemption? A super rich and powerful former antagonist getting his own story? Another hero who is deaf? Silver fox men—not one but two? Sign me up!
First, I really liked Sam. I never read the first book in the series, so I didn’t go into this knowing his previous nefarious behaviour or personality. I only knew Sam from this novel. He’s rich. He’s out of the closet after being outed through some kind of humiliating media exposé, dumped by his wife who divorced him, and now he’s now full of remorse.
The novel opens at the perfect moment because Sam’s at a turning point. Whatever he wanted in the first novel, he didn’t get. Even worse, one of his board of directors has died. His only companions are male prostitutes–and even they won’t let him get close. He’s really alone in this world, and he has nobody to blame but himself. He terribly hurt the two heroes in the previous story with his shameless actions.
Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Sam’s determined to turn his life around, so he goes straight to the one person who can help him—the man he hurt in the former novel.
The author did a great job of portraying Sam attempting to claw his way back from the hole he dug himself in. I won’t say too much about what happens or I’ll give away the plot, but the two steps forward and one step back of Sam attempting to find his own path was very realistic. Sam isn’t going to redeem himself in one day, or begin to empathise with others who don’t have his privilege.
I especially loved Noah, the man Sam meets and falls for. Noah is deaf and Sam is struggling to find a way for them to communicate because he’s having a difficult time grasping American Sign Language. This part of the story was excellently portrayed. I loved how the plot focused on Sam’s dilemma instead of Noah and his disability. It was a refreshing from the usual route of authors focusing on the disability of the person who is disabled.
Their chemistry was painted wonderfully sizzling. These two really connected in and out of the bedroom.
My only problem was the sub-plots and secondary characters. I felt they detracted from the romance between Sam and Noah. I’m aware readers probably want to catch a glimpse of the previous heroes, but I didn’t. And the boy Sam helps—although his character is meant to help portray Sam’s change of heart with humanity—cut into the romance between Sam and Noah. A story like this could have easily stood on its own without the sub-plot and other characters taking time up on the page.
Still, I really loved this read. I was cheering for Sam as he struggled and bumbled his way toward redemption, while falling in love with Noah. It was so awesome to read about two heroes over forty-five.
I highly recommend you give Surrounded by Silence a read.
Eric Huffbind is a man of many talents. Over the course of his lifetime, he has worked as a Registered Nurse, a Travel Agent, and an Uber driver. He characterizes himself as a hopeless romantic and is the eternal social butterfly. Among his passionate interests are history, genealogy, romance books, and travel.
Although his novels focus on the romantic relationship of two gay men, regardless of your sexual orientation, his stories are meant to rekindle the spirit and euphoria of falling in love.
Eric is a lifelong resident of Southwest Ohio. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, he currently resides in West Chester, Ohio with his husband Paul and their Pomeranian, Linus.
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