Susan Adrian writes books for kids and teens, and lately, she’s been reimagining fun retellings and sequels to favorite classics. A fourth-generation Californian, she now lives in the Big Sky country of Montana. She’s always had a lifelong fascination with all things British, especially stories for kids. Her book, Forever Neverland has Peter taking two siblings—one autistic and one neurotypical—on a new adventure to save the mermaids. It’s a story that will delight a new generation of readers and one, we believe, even J.M. Barrie would enjoy!
Tell us about Forever Neverland.
FOREVER NEVERLAND is the story of a brother and sister. Fergus, 11, is autistic, and is particularly interested in mythology, especially Greek myths. Clover, 12, is neurotypical, and wants to be a singer. She struggles with anxiety and trying to control everything around her, including her little brother.
The two go to London to visit grandparents they’ve never really known, and learn they are descendants of Wendy Darling from Peter Pan. When Peter hears Clover singing to Fergus, he offers to take them to Neverland for an adventure.
This Neverland reflects the experiences of those who visit, so Clover and Fergus’s Neverland has mountain lions, bats…and Greek myths come to life. When a sea monster starts stealing mermaids, Fergus and Clover have to help Peter come to the rescue. They also discover new things about themselves: Fergus’s autistic traits are accepted without question by the Lost Boys and Girls, whereas usually competent Clover keeps failing at everything. If they do manage to save the mermaids, and each other, will Fergus even want to go home?
What inspired you to write it?
These two characters came to me as a duo, almost fully formed. I knew I had to write about them, and their relationship as it grows and changes. I also did NOT want to write a book from the sole point of view of the neurotypical sibling. It was critical to me that Fergus not only get equal time, but that he was a little more the hero…and that his autism was not the point of the story, but just a natural part of who he is. It took a while for me to figure out that Neverland was the perfect setting for them, but once I did all the pieces fell together beautifully. Clover is a natural Wendy, even though she doesn’t want to be—and Fergus finally had a chance to be utterly himself with no judgment.
Who’s your illustrator and why was he perfect for capturing the spirit of your book?
The cover designer for FOREVER NEVERLAND is George Ermos, and if you go look at his other drawings, you’ll see how perfect he is for this story. He draws pirates and knights and all sorts of wonderful things. I absolutely love the cover he envisioned.
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
My ideal reader is always me, which may sound silly, but it’s true! I write books I would’ve liked to read at that age (and still would love to read). But I’d love to see this in the hands of both autistic and neurotypical kids, both boys and girls. I’d love to see it start discussions: who are they most like? What do they relate to with both kids? I hope to see it in classrooms…but I’d also love to see it checked out of the library a lot, for those kids who want to see themselves, or those kids who just want to read a fun adventure.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading the book?
My ultimate message is the one I put in the dedication: For all the kids who may seem “different” from the outside: You are perfect as you are.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about Forever Neverland?
It’s a lot of fun. It’s not a “message” book or an “issue” book, ultimately. It’s an adventure. It has mermaids, ghost pirates, mountain lions, a sea monster, a Greek goddess, a magical island, Lost Boys AND Girls, and of course Peter Pan. I had a wonderful time writing it, and I hope kids love reading it too.
Do you have a proud moment, inspirational story, or moving fan feedback you’d like to share?
I did a ton of research for this book with #actuallyautistic people to make sure I got everything as right as I could, and I sent it to several of my friends who are autistic writers and editors. I definitely held my breath waiting to hear what they thought of it, and I was so, so happy when they all responded positively. Two of them blurbed the book, and another said this:
“Fergus is one of the best representations of autism in middle grade literature. The subtle truths of being autistic are peppered throughout this thoroughly engaging adventure, which makes this beautiful book so very special…A must purchase for all children who love magic and adventure, especially those who have longed to see someone like Fergus on the page.” –Lizzie Huxley-Jones, editor of STIM, an anthology of autistic authors
That makes me just burst with pride, that I got it right for Lizzie, and hopefully for some autistic kids who will see themselves on the page.
If our readers leave with only one message after reading this interview, what would you like it to be?
You are perfect as you are. And if you read FOREVER NEVERLAND and enjoy it, please pass it on to someone else, and let me know!
Connect with Susan Adrian:
- Buy Forever Neverland on Amazon*
- Susan Adrian, Author website
- @susan_adrian on Twitter
- Susan Adrian Facebook Page
- Penguin Random House Forever Neverland Page
If you liked this interview, you may also like:
- Neurodiversity, Sibling Rivalry, and a Big Blue Blanket!
- Overcoming Loss and Finding Closure in “Mockingbird”
- Find 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.