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Interview with Nissa Harlow

We talk with Nissa Harlow about sibling rivalry, dry grad and seeing the invisible.

Nissa Harlow will be releasing her debut novel, Two between Worlds, shortly.

First of, thank you for taking the time!
While Ephraim is a very special case, there are people like him out there, doing everything with their feet. Are you familiar with someone in his situation, or how did you go on researching about how life would be for him?

Unfortunately, I don’t personally know anyone like Eph. Writing some parts of his character might’ve been easier if I did! I approached writing the disability aspects mainly through online research. But I did also use a fair amount of imagination, trying to put myself in his shoes. When I’d have him do something, I would often ask myself, “If I couldn’t use my arms, how would I go about doing this? Is it physically possible? Does it make sense?” There may be some things that I’ve gotten wrong, but I hope I’ve been able to show Eph as a capable young man.

I was very impressed with him! I also found the way you’ve described Ari’s anxiety very tangible. Do you have previous knowledge about this particular topic?

I was always a nervous child myself, and have since been diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), which is technically an anxiety disorder. So writing Ari’s character wasn’t a huge stretch. I could call on my own experiences and emotions, so it was fairly easy to imagine how she might have reacted in various situations.

I just have to ask – what’s wrong with Skylar? Does she simply enjoy being a bitch, or is this some sibling stuff I just can’t relate to being an only child?

This question made me laugh. Skylar does perhaps come off as a bit of a bitch. Part of it might just be sibling stuff, but in my mind, it’s more that she’s frustrated with the family dynamic. Ari’s anxiety affects the way she relates to her family, but it also demands more time and attention from their mom. She’s got psychiatrists to see, therapists to talk to, medications to try… and all of that can draw attention away from the other kid in the family. (And, yes, Skylar might also be a bit of a bitch. Some people just are.)

For me, the message seemed to be that people are just people, and everyone is alright they way they are. But is there something you would like to stress about the book in case the readers might not catch unto it?

One of my main goals with the story was to show the contrast between a very obvious physical disability and what people might call an “invisible” disability. While Eph’s struggles might be more obvious, Ari’s are just as impactful on her life, even if others can’t see what’s going on under the surface.

That was one of the points that immediately hit me! No one sees Ari’s struggle, especially compared to Eph. Now, I know I’m just portraying my own ignorance here, but while I feel I might have finally gotten the grasp of what Grad night is, I don’t have the faintest idea what a dry grad is. What is it, and how is it different from grad?

A dry grad is a type of party that’s popular here in British Columbia. It’s a supervised, all-night party that takes place after the formal grad event (which is similar to the more familiar “prom”). It’s called “dry” because no alcohol is allowed. What happens there varies, but there’s probably food, activities, prizes, and entertainment… and, at the end of it, a bunch of sleep-deprived teenagers.

Sleep deprived teenagers? That I can relate to, actually! You know, I’ve came to realize that in all the stuff that’s going on, no one ever asked Ari what she wants. Not even Eph – he’s just assuming on her behalf. So, if I could have asked what she wants for herself, what would have been her answer?

That’s a good question. On the surface, of course, she wants to be with her best friend. Beyond that, though, I think she wants what we all want: to be accepted for who she is. Because she’s had experiences where her anxiety has left her excluded or ostracized, she wants people to understand that she’s more than just her anxiety.

Yes! That’s a wonderful thought. And since we’ve talked about dry grad; What is your favorite drink or cocktail (if you do have any)?

I don’t drink alcohol, but I do enjoy a cold beverage on a hot day. I’m kind of partial to root beer.

We have something called malt beer in Germany – it’s brewed like a beer (kind of), but without alcohol. It’s not the same as root beer, but I can totally relate to that! Hot summer, cold beverage, check!

Thank you for your time, it was a pleasure.

By Stefan

father of two, not enough time to read everything I want to read

2 replies on “Interview with Nissa Harlow”

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