The Single Feather

For years I have avoided writing about disability. Being disabled myself with spinal cord injuries I felt too close to the subject to write about it.
However, with Welfare being a topic frequently discussed I was thinking about how this would play out in a novel. Generally I’ve found that people don’t like to admit to the level of abuse disabled people face. From stares, to questions such as ‘what’s wrong with you?’ (often from complete strangers) to direct abuse. Youngsters nowadays are more likely to have been taught about disability and have had the benefit of disabled classmates. Whereas many years ago, disabled schoolchildren were not in mainstream schools and disability was rarely discussed.
With the debate about Welfare, it is the case that although older people often face similar issues to disabled people they are being treated very differently within the Welfare system. Older people are not described as ‘scroungers’ for being in receipt of the State Pension, but disabled people under 65 are called ‘scroungers’ for being in receipt of disability benefits.
Thinking about all of this I came up with the character of Rachel, a disabled young woman who has not yet fully accepted her condition, and has escaped a difficult situation. I make her move to a small village where she knows nobody. The village demographics mean over 60% of residents are older. She joins an art group where there are two other younger disabled and the other seven members, are older.
The novel explores what happens to Rachel in her first year. How she learns to accept her past. How she learns to integrate. It also looks at Janine, Rachel’s carer and how Janine builds up her own confidence during the year. It looks at Mike, who feels the brunt of welfare changes. It also looks at Anne, an older lady Rachel feels is the total opposite to her and how these two women become friends despite their differences. It’s a novel, with a good old-fashioned twist, as Rachel’s reason for being in Carthom is discovered at the end of the novel.
I’ve enjoyed writing this book and enjoyed living in Rachel’s world, but it is fictional. I’m not Rachel, and have never been in her situation, thankfully. The next book is going to look at Anne, the 71 year old member of the group who has a complicated family structure. I can’t wait to get started!

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6 thoughts on “The Single Feather

  1. Katie says:

    Great blog post. Your novel is amazing and I love the title too. I look forwards to hearing more about your next one!
    Take care.
    Katie.

    1. electrasmoped says:

      Thanks Katie! You are one of the few people who knew my novel by its old name! Thanks for your comment and I’m looking forward to reading your book once it’s out too!

      1. Katie says:

        Hi Ruth.
        Aw thanks 🙂 cool I feel honoured to have know both names. I can’t wait to real both your novels too
        Take care.
        Katie.

  2. Tom Gold says:

    I heard an interview on the radio this morning with Hugh Laurie discussing the character of Dr House who he played for eight years. He said that when the programme first aired nobody was casting or writing central characters unless they were conventionally attractive and virtuous. That was back in 2004. He went on to say how much this has changed in recent years and although he didn’t cite any examples I can think of a few.
    Looking forward to reading this, perhaps this is Rachel’s time.

  3. Marianne Wheelaghan says:

    Hi Ruth, I echo what Tom says, this could well be Rachel’s time and good luck with it all. I’m looking forward to reading the novel and being immersed in Rachel’s world. 🙂

    1. electrasmoped says:

      Thanks to both Tom and Marianne for your comments. Like all things, disability needs to be something better understood before it can be fully accepted. The Spinal Injuries Association said that up to 70% of people with an injury get depressed at some point and I believe part of the problem is how people with disabilities are treated in society. Hopefully the more disability is discussed, the better this situation will get. Thanks again!

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