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?


Absolutely, yes.

Kindling, Are You Seeing Me?, and Munro vs the Coyote / Exchange of Heart have garnered quite a bit of praise for their representation of intellectual disability and neurodiversity. While I am humbled by and grateful for the recognition, the fact is the rep in those works is a long way removed from my son’s lived experience. Coming out of the publication of Munro / Exchange, I wanted to close that gap.

The result is Boy in the Blue Hammock.

And Kasper.

Kasper is a very familiar figure to me. Long and lanky. Fair skin. A few freckles. He likes to jump when he’s happy. He likes to tap out a rhythm on his thigh when he’s daydreaming. He doesn’t like rain, or being wet, unless he’s swimming. He’s not especially fond of physical contact, but he knows it has meaning and he puts up with it. His favourite blanket is milk-chocolate in colour. On occasion, he wears yellow headphones if the noise becomes too much. He loves his family and is very sensitive to their emotions. He is limited in his functional language. He has an IQ of 75.

As you may gather, those last two characteristics made Kasper especially challenging to spotlight in the story. But it also afforded me tremendous opportunity. With his cognitive and communication differences, I could manipulate the reader’s journey, playing on their learned assumptions and inherent ableism. I could surprise them with the truth and level them with the consequences. I could get them to think and reflect and hopefully, when they’d finished the book, talk to others, maybe even change for the better. I could give them something unique.

Unique Kasper was well and truly worth the challenge. And when he arrives on the literary scene next year, I’m confident there’ll be no one else quite like him on the shelves.

Someone very like him is on our couch, though.

That’s my boy.

Boy in the Blue Hammock will be released in CAN/US Spring 2022. You can pre-order it here.