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Sarah Loudin Thomas reflects on writing new novel 'The Right Kind of Fool'

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
To write her latest book, “The Right Kind of Fool,” Sarah Loudin Thomas says she had to think differently.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - To write her latest book, “The Right Kind of Fool,” Sarah Loudin Thomas says she had to think differently.

Thomas would sit alone in a room and think about her surroundings. She practiced doing sign language, an attempt to put herself in the shoes of a deaf 13-year-old boy who lived in 1930s West Virginia.

“My husband would walk in, he’s like, ‘What are you doing?’” Thomas said. “I spent a lot of time thinking, well, if I couldn’t hear, how would I perceive what’s happening around me? How would my sight and smell and those other senses be ramped up?”

Thomas writes books set in the “not-so-distant past” to complement historical storylines she researches. Her setting reflects her current and former homes: small-town communities by the Appalachian Mountains.

Thomas is the seventh generation of her family to hold property by a 100-acre farm in French Creek, West Virginia.

An unsolved 1932 murder of Mamie Thurman, whose body was found by a deaf teenager in Holden, West Virginia, drew Thomas to her next plotline.

“What was that like in the 1930s, and how did he communicate, and what was it like for him to find a body, and how did he tell people about it?” Thomas said. “That was just the seed of it, and then from there, it took off.”

Writing from the boy’s perspective was a challenge.

“Man, I’m nuts trying to write not only a teenage boy, but one who’s also deaf,” Thomas joked.

Aside from her “part-time job” as a writer, Thomas is a development and human resources officer at Black Mountain Home for Children. Since 2014, Thomas has written eight novels.

Her 2014 novel, “Miracle in a Dry Season,” won an Inspy Award, which was created by bloggers to “help recognize the best in inspirational fiction.”

In writing “The Right Kind of Fool,” Thomas said she didn’t realize how her story could be inspiring to others.

“That’s really something that I hadn’t even necessarily thought about. I was just exploring this area, and it turns out there are a lot of people very interested in sign language in the deaf community,” Thomas joked.

Despite no direct connection to the deaf community prior to “The Right Kind of Fool,” Thomas said she also didn’t realize how much she read lips “until people started wearing masks, it turns out I’m pretty dependent.”

Thomas held an online launch for the book with Black Mountain Library alongside New York Times bestselling author Lisa Wingate. Though she says she has held book launches before, she says the idea for a virtual launch was complemented by the library’s recent success to draw more diverse audiences.

In addition to discussing her writing process with Wingate, the event was signed by nationally certified interpreter Ashleigh Krivulka.

Participants learned to sign basic phrases before responding to dialogue in sign language.

Writing “The Right Kind of Fool” brought Thomas back to learning sign language when she was younger.

“I learned some basics of sign language when I was a kid, and I’ve always been captivated and intrigued by it,” Thomas said. “And I love watching people sign. I think it’s just beautiful.”