We’re back with the awesome Lyn Miller-Lachmann! Let’s get ready to rock!
Lyn’s latest novel, Rogue, debuts TODAY! Woot!
To celebrate, we’re giving away ONE SIGNED COPY of Rogue!!! Yeah, baby! More on that later.
El Space: Happy Release Day, Lyn! What do you hope readers will take away from Rogue?
Lyn: If you are the kind of young person I was growing up—isolated, often excluded from activities, feeling that you don’t fit in or the other kids don’t care about you—this novel will show you that you are not alone. I’m not going to say that it all gets better when you grow up, because I continue to struggle with isolation, exclusion, and miscommunication, but the things that make you different can also lead to joy and accomplishment. You need to find the things that make you happy, and through your unusual skills and interests, you will find a place in the world.
Erika, a teen reader from California, wrote, “It was interesting to see how someone who is usually looked down upon in society is finally given a chance to show who they are.” People who have special needs and challenges usually have a different way of seeing the world, and their ideas may be the key to solving a difficult problem. We don’t move forward if we all think alike and agree with each other. Often, it takes the outsider—the one who sees the world in a different way—to suggest the solution.
Part of Lyn’s Lego city
El Space: What would you say to your teenage self if you could?
Lyn: I was a straight-A student, but it was hard for me to concentrate in school because of bullying. Because I saw my A’s as the only measure of my worth, I sought out the easiest classes—the ones where I could get an A without expending too much mental energy—and skipped subjects like advanced math and physics, which interested me but seemed too hard. Now, most of my characters—Kiara; the protagonist of Gringolandia, Daniel; and the main character of my current work-in-progress—are all into science, math, or engineering. I see this as a kind of wish fulfillment, which we, as writers, get to do in our stories (as long as we don’t overdo it). However, I’d like to tell my teenage self that if you love science, math, and physics, pursue them, and look for support among your teachers and other caring adults both within and outside of school.
El Space: What advice do you have for someone who wants to write a book with an autistic character?
Lyn: There’s a saying, “When you’ve met one person with autism . . . you’ve met one person with autism.” Avoid stereotyping—assuming that everyone on the autism spectrum shares the same characteristics and behaviors. Kiara, for instance, is basically an extroverted person who wants to connect with others and have friends. The stereotypical portrayal of someone like her on the spectrum, however, is of a person who is withdrawn and has social anxiety. That’s not true of all of us. Like Kiara, I saw myself as outgoing and friendly. I wanted to be in the middle of things, rather than always on the outside looking in. By the time I finished high school, I had experienced so much bullying that I wanted nothing to do with my fellow students. I just wanted to leave town and never come back.
To the best of my knowledge, Rogue is the only novel for young readers featuring a protagonist on the autism spectrum that is written by someone on the autism spectrum. A lot of the novels with characters on the autism spectrum are written by parents, siblings, or other close family members, or by educators who work with children with special needs. For that reason, they do show an understanding of the diversity of backgrounds and personalities, but whether we’re writing from the outside or from the inside, all of us need to be aware of the baggage that we bring.
For more information on the pitfalls of creating characters with autism and other developmental and emotional disabilities, check out the essay I wrote for the Children’s Book Council’s Diversity 101 blog.
Lyn signing books at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival (May 4). Photo by Nancy Castaldo.
El Space: What genre would you like to tackle next?
Lyn: After finishing Rogue, I returned to YA with a very intense novel about a boy living in poverty who loses his place in an elite academic program and his shot at a college scholarship after sustaining a severe concussion as a result of a bullying incident. Now that that project, titled Ants Go Marching, is done, I’m trying my hand at humor in a middle grade novel with a boy protagonist.
Humor is a challenge for me, because having Asperger’s, I don’t get a lot of other people’s jokes, and things I find funny often don’t have the same effect on others. But my main character in my current work-in-progress (which has the tentative title of Krill) is close to the autism spectrum, if not on it, and his friend and co-conspirator is definitely on it. The humor comes from the situations they get themselves into, because they’re great with computers, but clueless when it comes to matters of the human heart. The story also has a somewhat European sensibility, because I started it when I was living in Portugal, and I also read a lot of middle grade novels in translation.
And that’s a wrap! Thanks again, Lyn, for being a gracious and inspiring guest!
ALL commenters will be entered in a random drawing for a signed copy of Rogue. You must comment TODAY, however. The winner will be announced on May 19. For those who don’t win, Rogue is available here:
Barnes and Noble
Book release image from roamingthroughromance.com. For another great interview with Lyn, check out Through The Wardrobe.