That’s My Boy

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Us

Readers familiar with my background know that I have an intellectually disabled, neurodiverse son, and readers familiar with my work know that intellectual disability and neurodiversity feature in the novels Kindling, Are You Seeing Me? and Munro vs. the Coyote / Exchange of Heart.

Inevitably, the question has arisen:

“Is that your boy on the page?”

The long answer is I used aspects of his manner, language, attitude and interests as a jumping-off point to create characters that assumed their own living, breathing, authentic fictional lives. The short answer is no.

My new novel Boy in the Blue Hammock will be out next spring and, surprise surprise, it centres an intellectually disabled, neurodiverse protagonist. And already I can hear the question again, distant but persistent, making its way towards me like I’m a destination on Google Maps:

“Is that your boy on the page?”

My answer this time around?

Yes.

Absolutely, yes.

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Square Peg…No Hole?

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Sans round hole?

“Not a great fit for us…”

“Doesn’t really fit our list…”

“You’ll find a better fit elsewhere…”

Any author who’s ever had work rejected is familiar with these statements. Over 20 years and eight novels, I’ve had my fair share of ‘fitness’ fails and I’ve come to understand it’s sometimes literal, more often publisher shorthand for ‘We don’t think it will sell’ or ‘We don’t love it’ or ‘We don’t love it enough’. Typically, I would shake it off and saddle up for the next response, hope springing eternal from decisions not yet made.

The eighteen months of contractual futility that haunted my upcoming 2022 novel, Boy in the Blue Hammock, though? It was different. The parade of passes based on fit seemed to be communicating a new shorthand, not so much a situation of square peg / round hole.

It felt like square peg…no hole?

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Wear It With Pride

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An imaginary jacket worn by failed guide dog protagonist, Tao, plays a key role in Boy in the Blue Hammock. It gives him courage and strength in moments when he might falter. It brings with it the voice of Trainer. It permits him to do things beyond the limits of his lesser self.

He is proud of the jacket.

As I am of this one:

Many thanks to the Nightwood Editions team and their designers for this beautiful cover. And to my CAN/US agents, Olga Filina and Ali McDonald for their expert input during the process.

Boy in the Blue Hammock will be published April 30, 2022.

It is available for pre-order here.

‘Boy in the Blue Hammock’ – The Teaser

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Spring 2022, to be specific.

In a time of isolation and scarcity, a regressive regime rules with absolute power, turning neighbour against neighbour, and crushing dissidence with deadly force. A microcosm of this monstrous time: the tiny Pacific Northwest town of Gilder.

In a house on the fringes of the decimated hamlet, Tao – a failed service dog turned pet – wakes to find his leash tied to the stair, his hind leg broken and his family killed. With the world he knows shattered, there is one course of action: lay with his slain masters and wait for the enemy – the “hounds” – to return and end his life.

But it is not the hounds that find him – it is Kasper, fifteen years old, disabled, limited ability to speak, sole survivor of the family. With the discovery of Boy, Tao understands he now has a duty: guide the last living member of his pack through the ravaged streets of Gilder to safety. The destination? The only refuge he can conceive of in a world gone mad?

The site of his training five years before.

Boy in the Blue Hammock is an epic tale of loss and loyalty, of dissent and destruction, of assumption and ableism. With a powerful narrative and evocative prose, the novel poses one of the important questions of our time: when evil silences the people, who will protect those without a voice?

COMING SPRING 2022  

Five Years On, Still Seen

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AYSM - Cover With Quote 2

It doesn’t seem right, but it’s the fifth anniversary of Are You Seeing Me? coming into the world.

The little novel about Justine and Perry’s last glorious vacation together was released August 2014 and things would never quite be the same for its grateful author.

It managed to do amazing things, including this.

And this.

And even this.

Perhaps most impressively, it has managed to stick around, still getting read here, still being discussed there.

To celebrate AYSM’s continuing journey, I thought I’d share a little bit of the behind-the-scenes that shaped the novel we know today. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about AYSM.

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Grimm Pickings

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IB Cover

Infinite Blue — a collaboration between myself and younger brother cum San Francisco Giants tragic, Simon Groth — has now officially hit the shelves. As this little fabulist novella makes its way into readers’ hands, I thought I might provide some insight into the IB inspiration we derived from our brothers-from-another-mother: Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm.

It’s short.
Despite what Disney would have you believe, The Brothers Grimm fairytales were brief affairs. So brief they crammed 86 tales into the first edition collection. We weren’t into that level of abbreviation — IB comes in at just under 180 pages — but we did want to honour the Grimm tradition of concise legend.

It’s archetypal.
Characters in IB, though contemporary in construct, should still call to mind those populating the pages of Grimm lore. The Caregiver, The Hero, The Villain, The Mentor, The Sage, The Jester, The Orphan. Even water — our constant presence and ‘shadow narrator’ — could be tagged as The Ruler, perhaps even The Lover.

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Teen Fiction Travels: Interview With Amy Mathers

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At the beginning of May, I had the privilege of touring Ottawa, Rideau Lakes and Hamilton as part of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Book Week Tour 2018. Look out for a post or two soon about this mighty adventure.

In the meantime, enjoy this interview I did at the Hamilton Public Library with the incredible Amy Mathers. Amy and I connected up at the end of Book Week and discussed coming to Canada, magic realism, neurodiversity, disability, writing from personal experience, and how I need to stop writing about dodgy mothers.

Enjoy!

LISTEN HERE!

 

Fireproof Garage #13 – Jane Aaaaiiiiiiirrrrr

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FG

LISTEN AND WATCH HERE!

Fireproof Garage #12 – Made From Coke Cans and Bud Light Bottles

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FG

LISTEN AND WATCH HERE!

 

Rapture in Blue

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IB Cover

Behold the cover for Infinite Blue, a contemporary fable penned by Simon Groth and his dodgy older brother. It’s hitting North American shelves September 11, 2018.

All credit for this beauty goes to the brilliant pair responsible: artist Iveta Karpathyova and Orca Books designer Teresa Bubela. If you’d like a peek inside the creative process, Iveta has posted a couple of cool videos here and here.

Counting the days!

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