One of the things my editors (and beta readers) really liked about my book was the relationship between my protagonist, Jessa, and her older brother, Danny.
Danny is a person with autism. And no, it’s not what I like to call “Superhero Aspergers” autism – a trope that gets used and overused a lot, especially in fantasy and sci-fi. You don’t see enough people on the spectrum in books as it is, and a lot of the time when you do they have these superhuman powers and/or are incredibly verbal and pedantic. It’s not very often you read about someone on the spectrum who’s a person of average intelligence but has difficulty with communication and social cues, or overloads on sensory stimulation.
I know all too well how to write that because I live that every day. I have son on the autism spectrum. He mainstreamed in with his peers at kindergarten level, but he’s just not like them in so many ways. He wants to be, though. He really, really wants to be.
Along with that son, I have a daughter who is neuro-typical, who struggles with the balance of an often embarrassing brother vs. the need to love and protect him fiercely. It’s a lot for a sister to have to take on, and the dynamic between the two of them is alternately exasperating and heartwarming.
For Jessa, her relationship with Danny gives her compassion and resilience and perseverance well beyond the level of her peers, qualities that will help her excel and overcome so much as she goes on this grand adventure.
And when she meets a guy who doesn’t bat an eye at having an imaginary sword-fight with her older brother, who treats her brother like a human being instead of an oddity, she knows she’s found someone worth hanging on to.
Write what you know, they say.
Sometimes, you write who you know.