An interview with our June Challenge Winner and WEbook Author, Alina Voyce aka Sue Grainger!



This June we set you a rather tricky challenge! We asked you to write us a story which omitted the senses of sight and sound - two of the most commonly used sensory descriptions. Many of our WEbookers found this a bit tricky, but it did nevertheless produce some beautiful results - which is, after all, what we're after. With the focus resting on what we feel emotionally, what we touch, taste and smell, a whole new view on the world was opened up...



The brief was interpreted in many different ways, and out of our six winning entries, no two followed a similar strain. The focus on the emotional really let people delve into their inner feelings and exploit these for the benefit of their characterisation. 

Well done to everyone who entered!

Our stand out winner, Sue Grainger, is also one of our wonderful WEbook authors! Her book, Lifelights, is written with the same beautiful descriptions and emotional observations that you have seen her craft in, 'A Friend Like No Other'
We sat down with Sue (virtually) and had a chat about how she approached the challenge, and how she was able to craft such a wonderful, winning entry...


WEbook: Congratulations on winning the June challenge! Your entry, 'A Friend Like No Other', was written from the perspective of a deaf-blind woman, did you find writing from this perspective challenging?

Sue Grainger: Very much so. Sight and sound are an integral part of how most of us live. So taking that away, and experiencing the world around us without them, is always going to be hard.  There were several points when I had to just sit, with my eyes closed, and try to recall all the details that I could use to describe an action clearly—like the feel of a seat belt, movement, and the texture and smell of different foods. The details were all there in my head, but it took a while to pull them forward.

WB: I think we are very used to using words and sight to communicate to interact with other people, WEbook were very impressed with the way in which you were able to create such feeling and interaction between your characters without the use of verbal communication. Do you feel that the way in which they express their feelings makes their relationship more intense? 

SG: Absolutely!  In a way, I think that sight and sound are the ‘easy’ senses. Taste, touch and smell add depth to our life experiences, so a relationship where these are in control and physical contact is a necessary part of daily life—for simple things, like making a person aware of something new in their environment, right through to showing strong emotion (a passion-filled glance isn’t going to be much good!) is bound to be more intense. 

It’s not a one-sided experience either. Men like to feel valued as much as women do, and in this story the trust that’s essential in any relationship becomes an even bigger necessity. Jake will have to focus on his partner’s needs more than most men but, at the same time, he’s found someone who won’t judge him on his looks or whether his clothes are the latest fashion; she won’t hate his taste in music, be disapproving if he shouts obscenities at the TV whilst watching sport, find his laugh annoying or complain if he snores. She’ll always have a sense of what really matters. She’ll love him, and appreciate his efforts without any of the usual visual/sound ‘markers’ - and that’s going to strengthen/deepen the relationship for both of them.

WB: By removing the sight and sounds from the story you clearly show how deep human feeling can be, do you find when you write you use your own experiences to help to convey those deep emotions?

SG: Without a doubt.  I always use my own experiences in my writing, and don’t mind admitting that.  I’ve heard writers say that you shouldn’t put ‘yourself’ into your work, but I honestly don’t see how that’s possible. How do you write about an emotion (with any conviction) if you’ve never felt it for yourself or at least a variation of it?  Yes, it’s possible to put yourself into the shoes of a character who’s going through something you’ve never experienced, so you have to guess what their response would be… but the actual emotion needs to be something that’s touched you personally at some point, otherwise you haven’t a hope of describing it.

There’s a well-known pearl of authorly wisdom: ‘Write what you know’ – and that’s the best bit of advice any author could hope for if they want their writing to have depth.

WB: You can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of joy from your story, but at the same time, do you think this is mixed with a sense of sadness? 

SG: It depends on how you interpret the story.  When the female protagonist wonders about how other people see the world, she’s actually showing a keen interest in how they live their lives and feel about certain things, which is something writers spend a lot of time wondering about, especially when creating new characters. Perhaps she is sad that there are some things she’ll never experience for herself, but there’s more to it than that. I wanted the reader to realise that, even without vision and hearing, she’s found other ways to be happy, and other ways to enrich her life.  How many people, when watching the view from an open car window, would also spend time appreciating the smell of the air, or the sensation of the wind tugging at our hair?

This character isn’t someone to be pitied – she’s someone to be admired. 

WB: Finally, do your characters live happily ever after? 

SG: Of course they do!  In fact, they grow so close, even though they’re very different, that their relationship becomes almost symbiotic… They get married, have kids and grow old together and, through it all, they’re true partners. 


Thanks to everyone who entered the Challenge, submissions for the July Challenge, 'How it feels to be feee', have now closed - but the August Steampunk Challenge has opened today. To enter head on over to the Challenge page and see if your entry will be enough to crown you our next winner!

- The WEbook Team

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