By Rev. Rebecca L. Holland
Previously Published on BeckieWrites.com
The Bright Side of Darkness is an award-winning novel. It is available on Kindle, Audible, Barnes & Noble, and Book Share.
The Bright Side of Darkness Includes One of the Best Depictions of a Blind Character in Fiction That I’ve Ever Read.
As a person with sight loss, I am always searching for books that include characters with disabilities, especially characters who are blind or have low vision. The Bright Side of Darkness by J.E. Pinto is one of the best depictions I have ever read of a blind character in fiction. Often, characters who are blind are written in a way that is both flat and two-dimensional. Many times, authors fall prey to the temptation to characterize a blind character simply by his or her lack of sight. I have become so weary of reading insulting depictions of blindness in literature that at this point I will refuse to read a book that includes a character who is blind if the author is not blind or visually impaired.
The Bright Side of Darkness is an incredibly well written book by an author who understands that blindness does not define either herself or the characters that she writes. I absolutely loved Daisy. She was my favorite character and one of my favorite aspects of this book was the fact that Daisy’s blindness was not her defining characteristic. Daisy is a three-dimensional, fully-formed character, and a great representation of blindness in literature.
While Daisy is not the protagonist of the book, she plays an incredibly important role in the plot. The plot centers on a group of young friends as they do their best to rise above their circumstances. This group of friends, who call themselves, “The Crew,” look out for one another. They support one another as they all fight in their unique ways to escape from the cyclical system of systemic poverty.
J.E. Pinto’s skilled writing brings all her characters to life. They seemed to jump off the page and take shape before me. I read the Audible version of this book and the narrator did a great job. His narration also helped breathe life into the cast.
The Bright Side of Darkness has a powerful message. I loved the elements of faith that were clearly at play in the text; however, readers who are not Christian will still be able to enjoy this novel. The text is written by a person of faith, but the author does not proselytize. Instead, she presents a deeply moving story that speaks for itself.
I recommend this book for anyone and everyone. Anyone who loves to read should pick up a copy of The Bright Side of Darkness. I wish that there were more books like this one.
One of my favorite parts of starting my own website (BeckieWrites.com) is that it has given me the opportunity to interview so many talented authors. I was particularly delighted when J.E. Pinto agreed to allow me to interview her about her inspiration, writing process, and future writing plans.
Rev. Rebecca: I just want to say that I really enjoyed reading your book. I loved all your characters, but my favorite character was Daisy. Could you share a little bit about your inspiration for writing Daisy? Also, what would you like other writers to know when they attempt to portray a character with a disability?
J. E. Pinto: Writing Daisy was a little like walking a tightrope. She had found her strength early in life, but not only because of her blindness. She’d cared for a mom who died of breast cancer and lived with an abusive, drunken father, probably moved around too much; she’d learned to shoulder a lot of responsibility for a teenager. Then she’d been placed with a foster mother who insisted on treating her like a china doll because she was blind while at the same time opening the world to her by helping her get a guide dog. Her circumstances were different from mine growing up, but I could relate to the tug of opposing forces in her life—independence versus overprotection, self-advocacy versus respect for authority, freedom versus fear.
When writing about a character with a disability, the temptation is to make the disability the defining trait, which leaves the character flat on the page. Once you view the disability as only one of many facets of the whole person, as it should be viewed, you open yourself to creating a character who is neither superhero nor damsel in distress. The character is free to be tough when she needs to be and vulnerable when the time comes. Other characters might be drawn to or pushed away from the character because of the disability at first, but eventually they will react to deeper aspects of her personality.
Rev. Rebecca: One of my favorite parts of writing a book blog is that I have the opportunity to interview authors about their writing process. Would you share a little bit about your writing process? Do you use an outline? Do you start with the characters or the plot?
J. E. Pinto: Characters make a book for me every time. A book can have the most thrilling plot in the world, but if I don’t care about who’s having the adventure, I won’t stick with it. I didn’t really know where The Bright Side of Darkness would go, especially since it began as a short story. This group of loyal, smart-mouthed, struggling teenagers hanging out on a set of splintery wooden bleachers at a high-school baseball game just popped into my head and wouldn’t leave. Actually, the original short story ended at a very tragic point. I showed it to my husband at the time, and he said, “Hey! You can’t leave those kids like that! What happens to them?” That’s what inspired me to think, “What if?” That’s where the mentoring ideas came from.
Rev. Rebecca: Although your book had a relatively large cast of characters, each one had a unique voice. How did you make each character come to life? Do you have any tips for writing dialogue?
J. E. Pinto: Making characters come to life is a tricky balance of dialogue, mannerisms, and back story. Dialogue is probably the most important of the three. My biggest tip is to eavesdrop on real people regularly. Don’t bother with what they say, but listen to how they say it. People don’t speak in complete sentences. They don’t give up a whole lot of information at once; it comes out in short bursts, if at all. And men and women speak differently, but that doesn’t mean men don’t care.
Rev. Rebecca: Your book had a beautiful message about how mentorship can make a huge impact on the lives of young people. How have mentors impacted your own life? Have you ever had the opportunity to be a mentor to someone else?
J. E. Pinto: I got married at age twenty. Six weeks later, my husband fell ill with what turned out to be Lou Gehrig’s disease. We were living in a pretty rough neighborhood, struggling to get by; I was in college and my husband couldn’t work. So since we were at home a lot, our house became the hangout for kids and teens who needed fill-in meals and bits of advice, help with homework and laundry, air for their bike tires and Band-Aids for their skinned knees, while their parents were either off working or doing crazy stuff. I had started writing The Bright Side of Darkness as a short story for a high school English class. But the experiences I had mentoring neighborhood kids over the next several years broadened the scope of the tale as I lengthened it into a novel. The deepest takeaway of the book is the importance of mentoring. Not everyone is cut out to be a foster parent, but everyone can reach out to their neighbors or nephews or their children’s friends. Some people can be tutors or coaches, some can offer to drive kids to church outings or cook hot dogs at Scout camp, some can put away school library books behind the scenes and never see kids face to face. The point is, our world will be better if everybody pitches in. Nothing will get done while people choose to sit around and complain about how kids are lazy and disrespectful, and the crime rate is too high.
Rev. Rebecca: Will there be a sequel to The Bright Side of Darkness? Are you working on any either projects or other books right now?
J.E. Pinto: People have asked for a sequel to The Bright Side of Darkness. That may happen someday if the inspiration strikes me. So far, it has not. That may be because I have a day job as a freelance braille textbook proofreader and an eleven-year-old daughter who still needs a lot of time and attention. Right now, I’m promoting this book and working on blog posts and other small projects. To write a novel, I have to completely immerse myself in the characters for long stretches of time. I’m lucky if I get an hour here and there to myself these days to write. When times are different, I may feel differently.