Benjamin Ludwig's debut novel tells the story of Ginny, an adopted autistic 14-year-old who's determined to return to her abusive birth-mother's house to retrieve something hidden under her bed. The author talks to us about the inspiration behind his work and the desire to break the stereotype that all people with autism are somehow "geniuses".

About the book 

It’s hard for me to talk about what inspired my novel, Ginny Moon, because the very word inspired suggests (to me, anyway) a certain singleness of causality, an almost inside-out approach, as though there was a spark somewhere inside me, a seed, that grew and grew. 

The truth is rather the opposite. I was engulfed, as it were, by something much, much larger than any idea I could have possibly come up with on my own. 

It was 2013, and I’d just come home from my daughter’s Special Olympics basketball practice. I came inside, put my keys down on the counter, and was surprised to hear a voice in my head. It wasn’t my daughter’s voice, nor was it the voice of any of the other athletes or parents with whom I’d just been talking. It was an insistent, quirky, driving voice, one that bounced and swayed between points of logic and sensation.

It was Ginny’s voice, of course, and I was powerless to resist it. I sat down at once and started typing at my computer. You can imagine my delight when the first few passages and scenes emerged. In the days and months to come, I tried to impose a plot onto what I’d written, only to have Ginny dash the larger scaffolding, the narrative arc I’d proposed, in favor of her own.

 

 

"My failed efforts to control the direction of the book are, for me, proof of the pudding"

 

 

But please understand: Ginny’s voice came to me, not from me. My failed efforts to control the direction of the book are, for me, proof of the pudding. Writing the first draft of the book was an exhilarating, bewildering process that often left me downright giddy. It was by far the most mysterious thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’m grateful for it.

Now that the book is out in stores, I still hear her voice. So do a lot of other people as well, it seems. Readers write to me regularly to say that they’ve picked up some of her speech patterns and some of her catch-phrases (i.e. “This is tedious,” “Well dang!” and “But that was more than one question.”). In order to give Ginny the space she demands, I let her take over a section of my monthly newsletter, in which she describes her further adventures. It’s a way for me to remain close to someone who I regard as a very good friend, someone I hope many readers will enjoy meeting as well.

 

The Excerpt 

"6:54 at Night,
Tuesday, September 7th

The plastic electronic baby won’t stop crying.

My Forever Parents said it’s supposed to be like a real baby but it isn’t. I can’t make it happy. Even when I rock it. Even when I change its diaper and give it a bottle. When I say ush, ush, ush and let it suck on my finger it just looks dumb and screams and screams and screams.

I hold it close one more time and say, Nice and gentle, Nice and gentle, in my brain. Then I try all the things that Gloria used to do whenever I went ape-shit. After that I put my hand behind its head and move up and down on my toes. “All better. All better,” I say. From high to low like a song. Then, “So sorry.”

But still it won’t stop.

I put it down on my bed and when the crying gets louder I start looking for my Baby Doll. The real one. Even though I know it isn’t here. I left it back in Gloria’s apartment but crying babies make me really, really anxious so I have to look. It’s like a rule inside my brain. I look in my drawers. I look in the closet. I look in all the places a Baby Doll might be.

 

 

"The brain is in the head. It is a dark, dark place where no one can see a thing except me"

 

 

Even in the suitcase. The suitcase is big and black and shaped like a box. I pull it out from under my bed. The zipper goes all the way around. But my Baby Doll isn’t inside.

I take a deep breath. I have to make the crying stop. If I put it in the suitcase and put enough blankets and stuffed animals around it and push it back under the bed then maybe I won’t hear it anymore. It will be like I put the noise away inside my brain.

Because the brain is in the head. It is a dark, dark place where no one can see a thing except me.

So that’s what I do. I put the plastic electronic baby in the suitcase and start grabbing blankets. I put the blankets over its face and then a pillow and some stuffed animals. I’m guessing that after a few minutes the noise will stop.

Because to cry you need to be able to breathe."

 

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig is out now (Hardback £12.99, HQ)

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