Interview with a Synesthete

Moonday Madness

a blog on the craft of writing

Welcome to Moonday Madness on Jessica Aspen Writes. Today we have a special treat, author Brinda Berry shares how she did research for her very interesting YA novel The Waiting Booth. I’m just going to whet your whistle by saying it’s about “A missing boy, government agents, an interdimensional portal…” and as you’ll read here Brinda has included so much more.

Interview with a Synesthete

by Brinda Berry

Find The Waiting Booth here

There are many types of research that I conducted while writing the first book in the Whispering Woods series, The Waiting Booth. In today’s technological environment, most research can be conducted in the privacy of my own home. I have a library of information at my fingertips through resources found on the internet.

In a recent writer’s group meeting I attended, one author mentioned that she missed the days of interviewing people for information. Before the widespread availability of online resources, a writer would either telephone or visit an individual face-to-face and learn about a certain occupation or experience. The writer in my group mentioned being totally charmed by the helpful nature of one such person when she did some research about cowboys. (Get your mind out of the gutter. This was all very innocent.)

People love to share their knowledge and experiences, and it may be within reason to locate those experts. On the other hand, there is an alternative. I used YouTube to find interviews that would help me develop the main character in The Waiting Booth. I had already located written resources online about a condition called synesthesia, but I wanted more. Synesthesia is a neurological condition where two or more of  the five senses are intertwined.  For example, a person with synesthesia may taste colors and see musical notes.

I haven’t met anyone with synesthesia, but my main character, Mia, is a seventeen-year-old synesthete. I wanted to have a “feel” for her point of view as the story is written in first person. So, I went to and typed “synesthesia” in the search bar. How many videos are online about this topic? As of 9/27/2011 at 11:54 CST, there are 14,600 results. Are they all relevant? No, of course they aren’t. Did you know there’s a band called Synesthesia? I didn’t either.  To filter those videos out of my search, I changed my search term to “synesthesia condition.” The results of that search listed 101 videos. Now, it’s a much easier task to browse the documentaries and other short clips that are more relevant to my research.

You can see by the number of views whether the video is a popular one or not. You can also determine if you think the source might be a reliable. Anyone can upload a YouTube video. The owner will be listed along with the number of videos uploaded by that person.  Another interesting aspect was reading comments to certain videos. A warning here for you- comments may be not be moderated.  Here’s a terrific example of a short video I came across today on synesthesia:

In The Waiting Booth, I did take liberties by embellishing Mia’s condition of synesthesia with an extra ability to sense portals. The video listed above demonstrates how the synesthetes could see some things more easily than the non-synesthete, so I took that a step further. The YouTube videos gave me some great ideas on how synesthetes view the world.  There’s a chance to see the emotions that might be tied to the subject’s answers, and I would miss that in a written piece. Seeing and hearing the video interviews made a huge difference in my understanding and the development of my character.

I’ve already used YouTube again in research for the second book in the Whispering Woods series. It’s a fun way to learn about people and experiences. The biggest risk for you as a researcher is getting sidetracked. YouTube videos can be so darned entertaining.


Brinda Berry lives in the southern US with her family and two spunky cairn terriers. She has a BSE in English and French and a MEd in Learning Systems Technology. She’s terribly fond of chocolate, coffee, and books that take her away from reality.  She doesn’t mind being called a geek or “crazy dog lady”. When she’s not working the day job or writing a novel, she’s guilty of surfing the internet for no good reason.

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We’re still celebrating October and my upcoming novella Little Red Riding Wolf (soon to be released from Passion in Print Press) with my Halloween Treats Contest! To enter just leave a comment for Brinda and I’ll draw a winner for today’s book Enemy Lover, by Karin Harlow (drawing announced Thursday October 13th). Don’t forget we’ll be drawing for 3 grand prizes on Halloween!

Saturday’s winner is Elaine Cougler! Congratulations Elaine and send me your address through my contact page and I’ll get your book to you!


Filed under Moonday mania, writing craft

19 responses to “Interview with a Synesthete

  1. Thank you, Jessica, for having me as a guest today!

  2. I’d be lost with the internet, or spending all of my time in the library combing through books. I actually do a lot of research as well. For my last book, a youtube clip about elevators helped me make a scene realistic. I’ve never actually been on top of an elevator, but with youtube so much knowledge is at our fingertips.

    I have Waiting Booth :). Now I need to get through some of the other books on my list so I can read it.

  3. Brinda Berry

    Isis- I’m glad to hear that you haven’t been on top of an elevator. I’d be wondering what you do in your spare time (lol). I can empathize with you about the TBR pile. Thank you for having The Waiting Booth in your stack!

  4. Thanks for sharing. I like research and I think it is still fun interviewing people instead of using the internet. But, you can meet people over the internet to interview lol.

  5. Brinda and Jessica, can you smell my anxiety about spelling Synesthete correctly? No? Well. Pooh. You must not have it, then. GREAT post. And, no I won’t steal the Synesthete concept…for this novel.

    I have a new wrinkle on my brain! I never knew there was such a condition. Your book? On my list. The cutie on the front cover? Sigh. To be that young again. Can’t wait until our SURPRISE Wednesday, Brinda! Bad form to promo my own blog on anothers so (like Forrest Gump) that’s all I have to say about THAT. 😉

  6. Hi Kerri! Yes, I wish I could meet a synesthete in person. That would be great!
    Gloria- You are a hoot. Try saying “synesthete” three times really fast. 😉 Yes, I have to double-check my spelling every time I type it. I’m looking forward to SURPRISE Wednesday.

  7. Wow, Brinda, talk about originality. I’m sure there will be readers who will think this condition is so unusual you must have made it up. Thanks for sharing youtube as a resource, so much faster than reading about an event or whatever, and more entertaining. When it comes to movies, I’d rather read the book, but when it comes to research, I’d much rather watch a movie! Fabulous tip! Must be careful not to let sudden need for imaginary research take hold. I make enough excuses watching faves like CSI and Mentalist under the guise of mastering suspense and pacing.

  8. What a great article, Brinda, and character trait! I never thought to use You Tube videos as a resource. Thank you for sharing this fabulous idea!

  9. Sherry- YouTube can be WAY too entertaining so it does require discipline. *wink* I’m sure that many will think I made it up the condition synesthesia. I hadn’t heard of it before listening to a podcast on the way to work one day.

    Sharon- Thank you for your comment. I think it makes Mia an interesting character. I watched several videos with teens discussing their experiences.

  10. I remember watching a news item about this condition years ago (before youtube!) and thought it was rather cool. I’ve only read one book (a children’s book) that had a character with this condition though so yours is interesting to me.

  11. And the winner of Enemy Lover is Kerri! Send me you address through the contact box on my contact page and I’ll ship you your book! Congratulations!

  12. goldfish

    I have music -> visual synesthesia. I described it here: I’m curious to read about a character with synesthesia, but I’m also wary since the author doesn’t have it and every fictional account that I’ve ever seen about synesthesia is dead wrong. Hopefully, you did us synesthetes proud.

    • You should definitely contact Brinda on her site, , I know she would love to chat with you and find out how she did. Thanks for dropping by!

    • Hi Goldfish,
      I understand your wariness! I tried to research thoroughly and was amazed by the range of experiences as documented by synesthetes. I’ll be checking out your blog, and I’m excited to talk with you about your specific perceptions with this fascinating condition!

  13. Pingback: Expert Advice on Finding Experts | JessicaAspenWrites

  14. Pingback: Discover Three Rockin’ Videos From my Paranormal Pals | JessicaAspenWrites

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