Julia North

How I came to write Hear Me

Lissa’s story in Hear Me is one that deals with universal themes of life and death, addiction and the scourge of racism. Addiction, and the ravages it causes in people’s lives, is something I feel strongly about having seen it firsthand in the lives of many that I love and in the society around me. It is a difficult and lonely path for those caught up in its darkness, and I have great compassion and empathy for their struggle. My protagonist Lissa is one of these addicts and her journey as she tries to overcome her alcoholism is one filled with valleys but also hope.

The story is set in South Africa in 1994, the year Nelson Mandela became president and what became known as the ‘rainbow nation’ was born. Having grown up in apartheid South Africa the evil and su?ering of racism was something I had experienced around me, and something my family and I did our best to counter. I will never forget standing in the queue to vote at the first democratic election in 1994 together at last with people of all colors to vote in Nelson Mandela as our first democratic president. It was a truly memorable day and one that my character Lissa also relishes and cherishes. Lissa’s story is a human one and one many of us can identify with as we search for fulfillment and meaning in a life filled with twists and turns, hills and valleys. Ultimately it is hope and the power of love that pulls us through, although keeping a dark sense of humor along the way certainly doesn’t go amiss. I hope you will enjoy the prologue and be tempted to join Lissa on her journey.

Hear me: Prologue

My death comes as a surprise. Not because I find myself in the afterlife ‒ I’ve known with certainty that there would be one ‒ but the problem is I’ve always expected my passing to be a kind of ‘Aha’ moment where everything finally makes sense … Instead nothing does. I don’t look any different, nor do I have any fear. I’m still Melissa Windsor, my twenty-eight-year-old self, even wearing my favourite white lace top and dark Levi jeans, yet I know with certainty that I’m dead. This is no vivid dream, no astral-travel experience; it’s too real for that. I don’t know why, when or how I’ve died. There’s no spinning tunnel, no angel voices, no welcoming light like the near-death stories we hear about – nothing but a mountain of mist, ebbing and flowing all around. The jigsaw of life, with its misty memories, does flash past. I suppose it has to because we live so fast, so superficially. ‘It goes so fast we don’t have time to look at one another,’ Thornton Wilder wrote, and he was right; most of us pass each other by while trapped in self-obsession, indifference and mediocrity. That is until Time snatches us away and throws us to the stars. But where are these stars? I close my eyes and will the mist to give me the answers that I crave … ‘