I was lucky enough to get Jennifer Roy’s book MindBlind for the first round of Nerds Heart YA. I’ve read Jennifer’s first book, Yellow Star, and was more than excited to read MindBlind. (You have to wait until tomorrow to see what I thought of it, though.) And when I noticed that she was still available for an interview as part of the whole Nerds Heart YA event, I jumped at the chance. You can learn more about Jennifer and her books at her website.
(Photo credit: Mark McCarty)
MF: What was the inspiration for writing a book about a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome?
JR: The inspiration for Nathaniel, the main character, was my son (an Aspie) as well as all the people on the Spectrum that I’ve met and read about. My son is only nine, so the teen part is fictional. But many of the anecdotes are real!
MF: Was it difficult to get inside Nathaniel’s head at times? Or did it flow fairly naturally, once you got the character?
JR: It would have been impossible for me to write from the point-of-view of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome before I became a Mom. But my son has been so quirky, hilarious and – most importantly – honest and open about his thoughts and the way his brain works. I adore and envy the way he processes things! Through parenting and homeschooling him, I’ve kind of “absorbed” his personality enough to create a character based on him. It’s the opposite of how I think (neurotypically), but I had a great time writing Nathaniel!
MF: Nathaniel’s father has some major issues with Nathaniel’s diagnosis and condition. Why did you decide to include a character — especially one so close to Nathaniel — like that in the book?
JR: First, as my son is quick to say, the father in MindBlind is nothing like my son’s real-life Dad! I even dedicated the book to my husband to make sure no one thought I based the jerky dad on him. But I am very aware that denial and anger are common in family members of Aspies and other people with “differences.” Although I wanted to whack Nathaniel’s father and tell him “get over it and just enjoy this kid,” I knew it was crucial for there to be a (sadly) realistic villain.
MF: I wanted to whack his father as well! Though I do agree that a villain was necessary… Which leads me to wonder, do you have a favorite character or scene?
JR: Please skip – I can’t choose!
MF: LOL! I would have a hard time choosing as well. Out of curiosity, how did you come up with all the math formulas?
JR: The math and science knowledge that I tapped into when writing this book is all due to having to keep up with my son’s homeschooling. He’s profoundly gifted, and suddenly I was learning all the things I didn’t “get” in high school. At warp speed! I sometimes joke that my book is smarter than I am.
MF: What would you like your readers to take away from their experience reading MindBlind?
JR: What I’d like people not to take away from MindBlind is a blanket statement about people – (e.g., all Aspies are gifted, all mothers are understanding while fathers stink) – because each Aspie family is unique. What I would like people to gain is a little validation or insight or compassion or enjoyment. Or all of the above!
MF: Your first novel, Yellow Star, was a novel in verse. What are the similarities/differences between writing that and MindBlind?
JR: Writing Yellow Star, I had to get into the head of a young girl trying to survive the Holocaust. Obviously, and thankfully, I didn’t experience that directly. But my Aunt Sylvia did, and it’s her true story I wrote about in Yellow Star. Like Nathaniel in MindBlind, I had to put myself in someone else’s shoes and view an incomprehensible world through his/her eyes. But, in a more general way, I too have anxiety and confusion about the world and people in it. So in that way, I can relate. The different writing styles reflect the way I felt the characters expressed themselves best.
MF: Who, or what, inspires you to write?
JR: Writing can be hard! So I have to draw inspiration from wherever I can. My favorite author, Madeline L’Engle, was my first literary inspiration. I am one of those “voracious” readers – hundreds of books a year. Being an author has allowed me to be around book people – bloggers, kids, librarians, educators, teens, parents – people who love reading. And, I still get star struck meeting other authors. So, the opportunity to be with book nuts inspires me!
MF: What’s the last book you read and loved, and why did you love it?
JR: The last book I read and loved was Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys. It tells the story of a girl who survives WWII in Siberia. The reason I loved it was because my father and his family also made the same journey from Poland to Siberia in 1939. My Dad was too young to remember the details, but when I read Between Shades of Grey, I could finally have an idea what my Grandma and her five kids went through. Frankly, it was horrifying and heartbreaking. But it was well-written with compelling characters, and while I wish, of course, my family hadn’t suffered, I’m grateful that Ruta Sepetys helped me understand my family history a bit better.
MF: If you don’t mind telling us, what can we expect from you next?
MF: Next up – Book 4 in the Trading Faces series, which is about identical twins who switch places (co-authored with my identical twin sister Julia DeVillers). My character, Emma, is academic and socially awkward, while my twin’s character is an outgoing fashionista. The books are cute and fun with a positive message. My sister and I hysterically laugh our way through the books.
On the more serious side, I’m doing another literary book for Marshall Cavendish. It’s set in the early 1950s and incorporates both sides of my family’s history. (My Mom grew up Quaker, and my Dad was a Holocaust survivor. Certainly not typical…) I’ll keep you posted!
MF: Not typical is an understatement! I’ll be interested to see the final product. Thank you so much for your time!
JR: Thank you so much for noticing and recognizing MindBlind. We heart nerds back!