Bruce and I met through a mutual writing friend, Simon Rose. From the moment Bruce was introduced to me I was intrigued. Come along for this wonderful interview and you will surely surf away being inspired.
DMc: What was the hardest part of writing about your own life in Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)?
BA: The most difficult thing for me was to face those painful memories head on. I tend to suppress bad recollections but that just lets them fester like an infection. Lancing those bad memory boils was painful but I now feel a lot better about what happened. I still believe it was absolutely reprehensible for me to be sent 500 miles away from home for months at a stretch but I no longer feel emotionally torn up when a song or a word stirs up those Jericho memories. Even the dreams of being back there don't upset me as they once did.
DMc: In this book, you are candid about your negative experiences at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind. Have you received any backlash from the school or the deaf and blind community? If yes, how did you handle it?
BA: So far, nobody from the Government of British Columbia has contacted me about what I wrote. Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind was closed in 1998 because of the sexual molestation of at least 350 deaf students, perpetrated by both staff and fellow pupils, so I don't have any worries about retribution from the school administrators. I did receive some negative correspondence from a few people who enjoyed their experiences at blind schools and believed that those institutions did them many favours. I quit one e-mail group after I made my case for my views of Jericho and several people thought I was being ungrateful for the education that I received. Fortunately, I've corresponded with other blind school alumni who felt as I do about such institutions. Additionally, I've read quite a few talking books on the subject of blind schools and most of them agreed with my assessment that such places do more harm to the students than they do good. So far, no deaf person has written to praise or condemn my book.
DMc: What inspired you to write Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)?
BA: I had originally enrolled in a www.writersweekly.com course on writing an autobiography. When I was finished, I had enough material for a very thick book. Only my family members would be interested in such a tome so I realized I would have to heavily edit it. Since my exile to Jericho was the most dramatic period of my life, I cut that part out of the manuscript and made that text into a memoir. Various friends also had expressed astonishment when I told them that I was sent so far from home, beginning at age seven. I thought the general public should know about what went on in that government-run school. I realize that what we visually-impaired inmates suffered was minor compared to the experiences of orphans and native children but I still felt that my case was a valid one.
DMc: Please share with us the basis of your first book, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living with Bunnies)?
BA: I wrote this book in memoir form because almost all the books about rabbits are "how to" guides. Before I knew better, I kept rabbits in small cages and treated them as furry amusements instead of as proper companion animals. I wouldn't have bothered reading instructions back in the eighties, since I thought I knew how to take care of bunnies, but I would have read stories about them. When I ventured onto the web in 1996, I discovered the House Rabbit Society at www.rabbit.org and the alt.pets.rabbits newsgroup. I was astonished to learn that bunnies could be litter trained, that they can live up to 10 years, that they behave better when spayed or neutered, and that they have intelligent minds. I adopted Gideon from the animal shelter a year later and he showed me that the posters on alt.pets.rabbits as well as the PetBunny e-mail list were right about the personalities of bunnies. I felt I should write my experiences in a book because my non-rabbit-owning friends were continually amazed when I told them of what I had learned. Though people in general seem to buy instruction manuals, I've found that several hundred readers enjoyed the antics of Gideon and the rest of the bunnies I've cared for. After all, who would expect that a rabbit would hurl rolled-up socks between his legs like a football quarterback? I also related many charming stories and amazing facts about bunnies in that book. Visitors to my house are still surprised at the keen intelligence of my long-eared companions.
DMc: How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
BA: I started with an outline and added to it as memories came to me. For the rabbit book, I watched home videos and read old e-mail messages to remind me of what my fur balls did as well as how they reacted to things. For the Jericho book, I had to rely more on memories since I had no other records of what happened. Listening to old songs from the sixties brought back the ambience of the times and a flood of half-forgotten memories. As for how I wrote my manuscripts, I worked with WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS as it's such a reliable program and operating system. Because my vision is so poor, I have special software and hardware that lets me hear what I've typed and what's on the screen. When I finished writing each chapter separately, I combined them and edited the entire manuscript. After I hired an editor to spot any mistakes that I missed, I had the books self-published.
DMc: Please share with us your latest project(s)?
BA: I'm currently writing a third, and most likely final, memoir called How I Was Razed (And How I discovered Authentic Christianity). When I became a Christian in 1969 at a vacation bible school held in the basement of my sister's friend's house, I had nobody to mentor me. Consequently, I had no idea of what being a believer was all about. Through a series of circumstances, I was brought to a house church that met in the basement of a woman's home. They claimed that they had an anointed teacher of God who knew more truth than any other minister or denomination. I believed all sorts of things that aren't in scripture since I didn't know any better. Because they kept condemning me for not being healed when they laid hands on me and prayed for my miracle, I turned my back on God for nine years. I came to my senses after I realized that I was making a mess of my life and that it was nobody's fault that I had poor sight. Now, I want to reach out to all those who have been hurt by legalistic pseudo-churches and judgmental leaders to tell them that Christianity is not like what they experienced at all. Eventually, I want to learn how to write fiction. There are a few stories floating around in my mind that I believe would be worth publishing. I also want to build my own web site, have my own domain, and join Facebook.
Bruce Atchison - author of Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind
School) and When a Man Loves a Rabbit ((Learning and Living With Bunnies)