*Season #SIX (Summer 2019)
How did you come to know Hank and Masie?
In a general sense, I knew I wanted to write a story about a boy with autism and a girl with epilepsy because I have a daughter with both of those conditions, and I wanted her to see something of her experience on the page. But Hank and Maisie are much more than their disabilities, and I didn’t really come to know them until I wrote—and rewrote—their story. In doing that, I began to hear their unique voices, and those voices became more distinct as I thought about their motivations and desires. That’s how we always learn, right? Through writing and rewriting?
What do you think are their most admirable qualities?
I think Hank’s most admirable quality is that he feels things very deeply, and like so many of our gifts, that’s a double-edge sword. It allows him to challenge himself and try to help others, but it also causes him to feel overwhelmed, and—paradoxically—it can make it seem like he only cares about himself.
I think Masie’s most admirable quality is her determination. She is determined to save Booler at any cost. Like Hank, though, that wonderful quality also causes her to make some poor choices, but her motivation is always pure, and I love that about her.
Is there anything you wish they would have changed or done differently in their story?
I wish they would have done almost everything differently because they really blow it again and again. But I also love that they make mistakes and try. They’re kids. They don’t have all the answers, and they don’t even know the questions to ask sometimes. But they want to help, and they believe they can help. In that respect, I wish I were more like them and that I had so much confidence in my ability to stand up for what’s right.
What do you think Hank and Maisie can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what they went through?
I think Hank and Maisie offer a roadmap of what NOT to do. Don’t steal a dog. Don’t burn down a bathroom. But learn from Hank and Maisie. Ask questions—lots of questions—and make sure you have your information right. Take responsibility when you make mistakes and forgive when you’ve been wronged.
But Hank and Maisie also offer a roadmap of what to do. They remind us that sometimes we need to take a leap of faith and believe in each other as well as ourselves and our potential. We could all be heroes.
How did you research these two characters and the circumstances they found themselves in?
I didn’t have to do a lot of research because I know a lot about autism and epilepsy from my family’s experience. And that was a good thing because I think it’s only recently that researchers are coming to understand what parents have long known: People with autism have deep reserves of empathy—so deep that, in some cases, it can be painfully overwhelming. I did have to research a bit about rocks! That was just a delight, and I was grateful for the Internet.
Do you and Hank and Maisie share any similarities?
I love this question. I think all three of us really value acceptance and love dogs.
What was the hardest scene to write about them?
The scene where Maisie experiences a seizure in front of Hank was hard. Seizures have been a constant part of my family’s experience for a long time now, and they aren’t fun to revisit in real life or on the page. But about three million people in the US have seizures. One third of them will struggle to find a way to keep them at bay. We need to see resilient, fun, and lively kids like Maisie who also have chronic health conditions. People with those conditions need to see them, but just as importantly, people without those conditions need to see them.
Who do you think were their biggest supporters and why?
Hank and Masie are lucky to have very supportive families. But they are actually awash in people and animals who care about them. I want to mention just one: Ms. Vera, their teacher. She can seem prickly, but she is always pushing them to never accept less and to never see themselves as capable of less. Every child needs a teacher like Ms. Vera.
Why do you think some young people are able to establish friendships with others who are different from themselves, while others can’t and exclude those who are different?
Wow. That is a powerful question. And now I’m going to have to try to stay off my soapbox. I think many adults have biases against people with disabilities. I think many kids absorb those lessons. I also think that, in some communities, kids are taught early that they should try to figure out how they measure up to their peers, and because some disabilities present physically, that becomes a way of measuring. Finally, I think many people fear what they don’t know, and they often don’t understand why a peer might seem physically, cognitively, and emotionally different from themselves, and that scares them.
But some kids, for a variety of reasons, have deeply compassionate souls and are wildly accepting of everyone. They are my heroes.
What do you think they are doing as the present time?
Let me see. Well, I think Hank had a really hard time when he got his puppy because that was a big change in his life, but now he loves his dog and can’t imagine living without it. And I think Maisie is plotting to rule the world. I’m rooting for her.
Interview #86 with Shaun David Hutchinson (Author of The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried)
SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)
Interview #122 with Tamara Bundy (Author of Pixie Pushes On)
Interview #123 with Lindsay Lackey (Author of All the Impossible Things)
Interview #124 with Tae Keller (Author of When You Trap a Tiger)
Interview #125 with Jamie Sumner (Author of Roll With It)
Interview #126 with Hena Khan (Author of More to the Story)
Interview #127 with Phil Bildner (Author of A High-Five for Glenn Burke)
Interview #128 with Leslie Connor (Author of A Home for Goddesses and Dogs)
Interview#129 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Queen Bee and Me)
Interview #130 with Jody J. Little (Author of Worse Than Weird)
Interview #131 with Jenn Bishop (Author of Things You Can't Say)
Interview #132 with Kaela Noel (Author of Coo)
Interview #133 with Rebecca Stead (Author of The List of Things That Will Not Change)
Interview #134 with Gae Polisner (Author of Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me)
Interview #135 with Emily Blejwas (Author of Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened)
Interview #136 with Joy McCullough (Author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost)
Interview #137 with Kim Baker (Author of the Water Bears)
Interview #138 with Erin Entrada Kelly (Author of We Dream of Space)
SEASON #ELEVEN (Fall 2021)