by Lynn Kelling
The tattooed, bad-ass, and strong-willed main character of this story, Rune, is completely deaf and doesn’t speak. But those are not necessarily his defining features. Rune first appeared in my novel, Bare, in which he leads a key rescue mission with the help of the other members of his biker gang, the Born Soldiers, to save a young man from a conversion therapy compound in which he was held against his will. In that novel, Rune’s quest to stand up for the persecuted, and specifically for other gay men being deliberately attacked by the intolerant, shines through. We did not, however, learn that much else about him. That is what motivated me to write Hush.
I loved the challenge of writing a book from the point of view of someone who can’t hear and doesn’t speak. I knew it would involve re-imagining what it meant to communicate, utilizing technology and the other senses much more than usual. Observation and creative means of expression, rather than verbal dialogue, would need to drive. I did a ton of research into things like sign language, deaf culture, and practical, modern ways the hard-of-hearing navigate our connection-centric world.
Because Rune wasn’t born deaf, he’s learning how to adjust, doesn’t know much sign language, and doesn’t know many people who understand it either. A brutal accident that didn’t seem like an accident at all forced him to do without his hearing after he was thrown from his motorcycle and fractured bones in his inner ear upon impact with the road. That singular moment changed the rules on him whether he was ready or not. One day, he was coasting through life on a drug dealer’s income, playing heavy metal loud enough to rattle the walls, indulging in casual sex, and always choosing comfort over facing challenges. The next day, his usual ways of interacting with everyone around him didn’t work. It created an instant gap between himself and everyone else that he didn’t know how to cross. It left him feeling lost and useless.
Rune isn’t a scholar, or someone with many resources available to him. He doesn’t love studying the nuances of a new language, or setting pride aside so that he can try to meet new people who might help him cope. He doesn’t even have biological family to lean on. Living out of a storage closet in his gang’s clubhouse, he keeps to himself, ekes by and scrambles to hold on to anything other than his anger at the unfairness of it all.
But his feisty personality doesn’t allow him to mope around for long. He seeks out help, and someone who cares enough to kick his ass when he gets out of line, so that he can find new purpose and make a difference in a world that keeps trying to crush those most deserving of a helping hand.