Bradley Wright works full time as a technology director and teacher at a school who says he writes books in his (very limited) free time. He grew up in Seattle but has been slowly migrating south living in Portland, Eugene, San Francisco, and now Los Angeles. He enjoys SoCal life with his spouse, six-year-old son, and JiJi the cat (named by his son after the cat in Kiki’s Delivery Service).
His first book, Old Gold Mountain, a mystery novel set in San Francisco and the south of France, was released a year ago. I caught up with him to talk about the release of The Place Inside the Storm, a YA SCI-FI novel with an autistic protagonist. Having close family members on the spectrum and also identifying as neurodivergent, Brad’s always wanted to write a story featuring a strong autistic character. He shares more details in our interview.
Tell us about your book, The Place Inside the Storm.
It’s 2038. Tara Rivers is fourteen years old, socially awkward, and a bit rebellious. Her family has recently moved to Los Angeles from the Pacific Northwest ‘rogue’ clusters. Tara feels alone and confused. She doesn’t have any friends here, except her cat, Xel, a sophisticated robot with artificial intelligence. She knows she should try to make friends but the social rules other kids seem to understand without thinking don’t come to her as easily.
Without warning, the corporation where Tara’s parents work makes an offer they can’t refuse. They tell Tara’s parents she is autistic. They want to put an implant in Tara’s brain to ‘cure’ her autism so she can fit in with the corporate culture. If her parents refuse, their jobs will be in jeopardy.
Tara overhears her parents speaking with the doctors and decides to run away with Xel. She plans to head back to the Pacific Northwest and her grandmother, but first she must escape Los Angeles and the corporation–with all their high-tech locating devices–dodge street gangs and wild dogs, and traverse an unknown wilderness full of unimaginable dangers. Will she ever find a place where she is accepted for who and what she is, or is she doomed to be an outcast from society forever?
What inspired you to write it?
I was inspired to write this book after reading several blog posts on an amazing site called Disability in KidLit. Unfortunately, the site seems to be gathering dust now but there are some excellent posts by Elizabeth Bartmess, Corinne Duyvis, and Bogi Takacs about autistic representation in literature and how to do it right. After reading their advice I decided to accept the challenge and see if I could write a book that gets it right.
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
This book is written primarily for a young adult audience. To me, that means kids aged 12-18 but I hope adults will read it too. I like reading young adult literature and I think the division of books for kids vs. books for adults is largely artificial. For example, Jane Austen’s protagonists in Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey are teenagers but these books are counted among the greatest works of English literature.
I hope the book will be meaningful for autistic kids and adults. I also hope neurotypical people will read it and that it will help them gain a better, more nuanced understanding of autism. I would love it if this book was added to middle and high school library collections.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading the book?
I want readers to know that there is a lot of variation among human brains and all brains are valid. This idea is commonly known as the neurodiversity paradigm.
There are many kinds of difference. If you group some of those differences together in one person, they might get a diagnosis of autism. Another set might result in a diagnosis of ADHD. Some people might be dyspraxic or dyslexic but not have issues with social interaction or sensory overload. Sometimes autism is associated with other co-occurring conditions like anxiety, sleep disorders, gender dysphoria, intellectual disability, and mutism but not always. All of these things can be disabilities in one situation but not necessarily in another.
What Tara learns by the end of the book is that her brain works differently from a neurotypical brain but that’s okay. In the right environment, it can actually be a benefit. Minor accommodations together with acceptance can make all the difference. More broadly, she learns not to let other people tell her who she is or who she should be. She gets to figure that out for herself.
Do you have a proud moment, inspirational story, or moving fan feedback you’d like to share?
The book has been up on NetGalley since December and I’ve had a few advance reviews come in. A couple of them have been really touching. One reviewer said she “fell in love with the book.” That made me smile all day. Another reviewer said: “I’ve honestly never read a book with a main character who’s so much like me.” I loved that one too. That was one of the big things I hoped to accomplish with this book: reaching people who often do not see themselves represented in literature.
If our readers leave with only one message after reading this interview, what would you like it to be?
Keep reading and writing diverse books! Every form of diversity needs to be reflected in literature. This is especially true for children’s literature. To create a new generation of readers, we need to reach everybody.
At my school we talk a lot about window books (books that let you see how someone different from you lives and experiences the world) and mirror books (books that mirror your own experience). We need both kinds and we need a rich variety. Every kid deserves a mirror book.
Discover more about Brad Wright:
- Buy The Place Inside the Storm on Amazon*
- Bradley W Wright website
- @rabbit_fighter on Twitter
- @bradleywwright on Instagram
If you liked this interview, you may also like:
- Akea, the Power of Destiny
- Secret of the Songshell
- More books by autistic authors
- More curious interviews with interesting authors and entrepreneurs
- Shop in our Amazon Influencer Autism Book Shop
*The links to buy the books are our affiliate links. By purchasing using these links, you will not only support the author, you’ll be raising funds to support our autistic team of contributors for their work too.
Listen to an audio version of this article