Richard Ford Burley is a Canadian living in Boston for the last seven years while he works on his PhD in English. Five years ago, he found out he is autistic and writing his first novel, Mouse, helped him figure out what the diagnosis meant to him. Mouse was published in hardcover by a small-but-growing publisher called Prospective Press, and a paperback is coming in 2018.
Tell us about Mouse.
Mouse is a young adult contemporary fantasy novel that tells the story of Mouse, a mostly nonverbal teenage boy, making friends, learning about his family, and trying to save the world. Moving to a new town isn’t easy at the best of times, but when an ancient cabal of alchemists and sorcerers tries to kidnap you in the middle of the night because you’re supposedly the reincarnation of the only person that can save them—well, that tends to make things more complicated.
What inspired you to write it?
My work on Mouse began not long after finding out that I’m autistic. When I started writing, I think I was trying to figure out more about myself, having just realized how differently I’d been seeing the world. I think as I progressed, I moved from it being about that to being about giving readers an example of an autistic character who actually does things. By that I mean, just so much of the autism representation in pop culture these days is about simply being autistic, and if you ask me that’s not a story. Being autistic isn’t a plot, it’s just life.
I wanted to give readers a chance to see an autistic character trying to do the fantastic things other characters do, like save the world.
Who’s your illustrator and why is the illustration perfect for capturing the spirit of your book?
I think the credit for the cover (which I love) has to go to the good folks at Prospective Press. We went back and forth over the ideas behind different designs and I think the end result really works. The fragmentation acts as a kind of visual metaphor for the way Mouse sees the world.
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
I suppose I’d like my primary audience to be teens who enjoy a good story. If they’re neurotypical, maybe they’ll get a peek at an experience of the world outside their own. If they’re not, maybe they’ll see a little of themselves in Mouse. And that’s not to say adults won’t enjoy the book, but I was trying to write a book I would have wanted to read when I was a teen.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading the book?
Maybe just that if you can imagine a world with magic and impossible things, you should be able to imagine it with a neurodiverse hero, too.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about Mouse?
I’m a little obsessed with anime, so there are a lot of little Easter eggs in the book for fellow fans.
Do you have a proud moment, inspirational story, or moving fan feedback you’d like to share?
I mean, I’d love to have one, but the best I can manage right now is “I survived 2017,” and I think we all deserve a pat on the back for that, others more than me.
If our readers leave with only one message after reading this interview, what would you like it to be?
If there’s something big you want to do, go try to do it. Mouse was written in twenty-five to thirty-minute chunks in between classes and assignments, before the start of the day or after the end of it. It’s a bit of a gross saying, but there’s definitely something to the whole thing about how you eat an elephant (one bite at a time).
Discover more about Richard and Mouse at:
- Author’s Facebook Page
- Prospective Press Author Page
- Purchase Mouse on Amazon
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