Kelly Andrew’s debut novel enveloped the thrill of paranormal and the angst of a forbidden romance in a college-aged dark academia. Through a prose praised as “aching and lyrical” by Hafsah Faizal (We Hunt the Flame) and with a brooding vibe and haunting atmosphere, this story tells of a deaf girl who rules the night and a monstrous boy who holds too many secrets. If you’re looking for a mystery with supernatural elements, and addictive romanticism, you must read this dark fantasy that has been recommended by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments) as “a haunting, dreamlike tale of sacrifice, love, and obsession”. Needless to say, it is a pleasure to have Kelly Andrew —author of The Whispering Dark— sharing how this story was born. To view more such posts by SFF authors, make sure to check out this collaboration, Spring for SFF, spanning over April 2023. This blog post may contain affiliate links. To know more about them, please read my disclaimer.
Deaf Girls, Dead Boys, and Dark Secrets: Kelly Andrew (The Whispering Dark) shares how her debut fantasy with paranormal twists was born.
One summer when I was young, I spent several weeks visiting my grandparents in Florida. We spent our days at the beach near their house, digging ditches until they flooded with little silver tidal pools and defending our snacks from greedy seagulls.
The beach was nothing like the rocky shorelines back home in New England, where the water was cold enough to steal your breath clear out of your lungs, even in the thick of summer. It was the perfect place to pretend I was a mermaid. I’d wade out as deep as I dared and let the incoming waves break over me, until a big enough one came and knocked me head over heels. I did it over and over and then over again, until my eyes were blurry with salt and the rest of the beachgoers had trickled home.
Later that night—long after I’d had a bath and gone to bed—I lay beneath my covers and felt the phantom rocking of the waves. It was dizzying and all-consuming and a little bit magical, and I fell asleep imagining I was an explorer at sea. Adrift in the belly of a ship, the ocean outside as dark as oil.
Years later, I learned that the human brain will continue bracing itself for movement long after the movement itself has come to a stop.
The same thing happens to me with sound. I’ve been profoundly deaf since age four, after a particularly vicious bout of bacterial meningitis landed me in the hospital. It was, I suppose, a little bit similar to being knocked head over heels in the sea. Only instead of salt water, it was spinal fluid. And instead of knocking me flat, it flooded my head. One minute, I heard everything, and the next, there was nothing but silence.
These days, I have no residual hearing in either ear. During the day, I wear a device called a cochlear implant to aid in communication. The implant feeds sound into my head by electronically stimulating the auditory nerve.
It’s sound waves, not ocean waves, but the effect is the same.
Every night, long after I’ve gone to bed, I hear remnants of the day’s noises replaying over and over in my brain. Waves of sound, washing over me in phantom pulses. If I’ve been at a concert, the sound becomes a symphony—strident chords and head-splitting glissades. If I’ve been in the city, the ringing shapes itself into the sustained blast of a taxi horn, the dizzying infrasound of a million human bodies packed close together.
And sometimes, if I’ve spent the day in a crowd of people—the ringing in my ears begins to mimic human voices.
It’s unsettling, to fall asleep to shouts that are not quite right, voices that are never quite recognizable. More often than not, it keeps me awake.
The Whispering Dark by Kelly Andrew
Delaney Meyers-Petrov is tired of being seen as fragile just because she’s Deaf. So when she’s accepted into a prestigious program at Godbole University that trains students to slip between parallel worlds, she’s excited for the chance to prove herself. But her semester gets off to a rocky start as she faces professors who won’t accommodate her disability, and a pretentious upperclassman fascinated by Delaney’s unusual talents.
Colton Price died when he was nine years old. Quite impossibly, he woke several weeks later at the feet of a green-eyed little girl. Now, twelve years later, Delaney Meyers-Petrov has stumbled back into his orbit, but Colton’s been ordered to keep far away from the new girl… and the voices she hears calling to her from the shadows.
Delaney wants to keep her distance from Colton — she seems to be the only person on campus who finds him more arrogant than charming — yet after a Godbole student turns up dead, she and Colton are forced to form a tenuous alliance, plummeting down a rabbit-hole of deeply buried university secrets. But Delaney and Colton discover the cost of opening the doors between worlds when they find themselves up against something old and nameless, an enemy they need to destroy before it tears them — and their forbidden partnership — apart.
Buy now: Amazon US | Bookshop UK
The ancient Greeks were fascinated by the concept of ghosts. Much of their stories revolve around the ataphoi, or the spirits of bodies not properly buried. When Odysseus enters the underworld in Homer’s Odyssey, he is greeted by the troubled spirit of one of his men who begs him to bury his body, lest he suffer the wrath of the gods.
In contemporary horror, much of our paranormal content is the same. The movies we watch and the stories we read tend to revolve around the idea of malevolent spirits who’ve died traumatic or untimely deaths. Poltergeists make themselves felt, seen, and heard through physical manifestations. They’re imprints, like the sensation of waves long after the tide has retreated.
Like the sound of a voice in someone’s head, after everything else gone silent.
There’s no supernatural reason for the ringing in my ears. It’s a medical condition known as tinnitus, and it appeared nearly the exact moment my hearing disappeared. I don’t remember life without it. Most of the time, I find it easy enough to manage. I’ve adapted plenty of meditative habits to help me sleep.
Still, sometimes it isn’t enough. On the nights when the noise is just too loud, I tend to give in and stay awake. There’s a reason I write so much, and so late at night.
Over the years, as I lay there with the ringing in my head playing on a feedback loop, I started to think about a girl who heard whispers in the dark. What if, I thought, the ringing wasn’t an internal source, but an external one? And what if it was coming from another plane of existence entirely?
What if it was a spirit, trapped with nowhere to go?
And thus, the concept behind The Whispering Dark was born.
Delaney Meyers-Petrov is a girl who hears noises where there are none, though much of the time she hears nothing at all. Colton Price is a modern day ataphoi—a boy who was never properly buried, and who no one mourned. Their story is centered around loss, and the way grief remains in the body like an aftershock.
It’s also—at its heart—a story about finding peace.
That night after the beach, the feeling of waves eventually subsided. Everything went still. Most evenings, after I’ve done my stretches and had my tea, my head goes quiet. There’s no more ringing. Moored in silence, I drift off to sleep.
Kelly Andrew lost her hearing when she was four years old. She’s been dreaming up stories in the silence ever since. Andrew lives in New England with her husband and their two daughters and their grumpy Boston Terrier. She has a BSW, but received her Masters in English & Creative Writing. When she’s not writing, she enjoys scouring flea markets in search of vintage microscopes and getting intentionally lost in the woods. You can visit her on authorkellyandrew.com and find her on Twitter @kayaydrew and Instagram @kayaydrew
N O T E
Everything stated in this post is independent of any compensation, and the guest writer’s comments and thoughts are solely their opinion; the formatting was done by the blogger but no changes were made in text.
One thought on ““Over the years, as I lay there with the ringing in my head playing on a feedback loop, I started to think about a girl who heard whispers in the dark.””