Writing ‘The Rules of Seeing’ with Joe Heap

There were several inspirations for writing The Rules of Seeing, but one thing stands above them all. Halfway through work on the book, I became a father for the first time. Sam arrived in the early hours of a frosty February morning, and from the beginning it seemed that he was trying to take in everything around him.

Of course, I knew he could barely see a handspan beyond his face, not to mention the fact that everything would still be upside down. Nevertheless, he looked with a sense of urgency, watery-blue eyes wide to the world.

Through the months that followed, the highs and lows of sleepless nights and developmental milestones, I couldn’t help but try to see the world as Sam was seeing it. In some ways it was frustrating – here I was, writing about a character learning to see for the first time, while living in the same room as someone who was doing it for real, who couldn’t tell me anything.

But often his curiosity spoke for itself. Watching Sam track an aeroplane as it crossed the sky and disappeared into a cloud, I realised that he had no idea that some solid-looking things were not solid at all. Watching his fascination at his own legs through a few inches of soapy bathwater, I realised how confusing the concept of transparency must be to him. Why are some things see-through, some opaque, some reflective? I watched him as he saw fire for the first time, and the ocean, and falling snow.

There are several cases of people who have lived blind for much of their adult lives, only for an operation to restore some of their vision. They are remarkable stories but, watching Sam, I was constantly reminded that this is a stage we all go through, at least once. It’s just that very few of us remember what it was like.

The Rules of Seeing is, in part, a book about the things we take for granted, or fail to see through over familiarity. Sometimes life shocks us out of that trance, and we stand, looking with the same urgency as the day we were born, eyes wide to the world, and really see.

The Rules of SeeingThe Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time. 

Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.

But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.

When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.

As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?

Posted on August 20, 2018 by

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"Writing ‘The Rules of Seeing’ with Joe Heap"

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