Colin Dray’s thrilling novel Sign has just recently been released by Allen and Unwin and was originally shortlisted for the prestigious Vogel literary Award. Today we are talking to Colin about the inner workings of his novel and the characters within it.
So Colin, your main character Sam, is a boy who has just recently lost his voice, as a result of an operation to remove his throat cancer. What inspired you to write about this experience?
The original inspiration came from wanting to experiment with having a completely non-verbal narrator. I was excited by the limitations that would force upon the narrative, and the sense of dread that it could create when that character was placed in danger and was unable to communicate with anyone around them. As the book developed, however, I became far more interested in the personal trauma that Sam had gone through, and the strength that he would have to discover in himself in order to come to terms with his loss.
How do you hope readers would perceive the character of Sam? Were you hoping they might find some aspect of his situation relatable?
I think everyone remembers the sensation of young adolescence – of being on the cusp of adulthood, shedding the comforts of childhood. It’s that time when you really start to realise that the world is larger and more dangerous than you had previously realised, and that the adults around you are a lot less reliable than you had always assumed. I wanted to take that revelation and expand it out as much as I could, showing two children – Sam and his sister Katie – in a circumstance in which they realise that their aunt Dettie, who has taken them on an unplanned, unsanctioned road trip, might actually be unstable. Adolescence is also a period in which young people can feel ignored, when they have a certain awareness of the world around them but are still being condescended to as a child. I also hoped to explore that sensation through the way in which people treat Sam, who despite (or perhaps because of) his silence, perceives more than the people around him realise.