John R. Miller has written and illustrated two children’s books based on the imaginary world he created on his two little hands when he was 5 years old.
“When I was a little boy, I was diagnosed with autism and one of my stims or tics was to play and wrestle with my hands where I created Handom. Handom is an imaginary world where all the creatures are shaped like hands.”
Today, John does live readings, gives motivational speeches and attends college where he majors in Early Childhood Education so he can, one day, work with children. His dream is that his books might be turned into a tv series, perhaps as a teaching tool to help other autistic children.
Tell us about your books, Adventures in Handom and The Magical Heart of Handom.
My first book, Adventures in Handom, is a story of good versus evil and the importance of having a good heart. Brothers Bob and Tony are on a quest to find the ancient Golden Hand Statue to use its power to return kindness to Handom. Will they succeed before General Arnold changes Handom from good to evil?
My second book is The Magical Heart of Handom and it’s about the power and magic of friendship. The story starts with Princess Isabella who discovers a hidden garden while playing with her cousins in the Blue Forest. Handom could be in danger by Dr. Wiseman who has been doing experiments. Will the Princess face her fears and help Handom?
What inspired you to write them?
My mom has told me that I was always a storyteller. I just had to find my own voice and my own way. My family has always been there for me. As I had mentioned, my stim, of playing with my hands was a huge way of communication for me and they were my friends. Several years ago, my mom asked me to tell her about Handom and she ended up writing down 30 characters. She was amazed and said that we should do something with this. That turned into writing the first book, Adventures in Handom.
How does being autistic influence your writing?
Having autism has influenced my books quite a bit. The stories are not about autism but their beginnings are from my autism and more specifically my stim. This is a unique twist because of the fact that stimming in the autism world is usually viewed as a negative. My stimming helped me come up with these cool stories and characters that lived in Handom.
Many kids we have spoken to have told us that they create characters and or play with their hands. I feel that in some small way that I am helping kids come forward and embrace their autism and their gifts. When I was around 9, my parents told me that I had autism. At first, I was confused and then sad for feeling different. But my mom always told me that we all have something and sometimes it gives us great gifts and sometimes it makes things more difficult.
I feel by writing these books and being able to share my story that I am proud of who I am and that I have autism. I tell kids that they should be proud of who they are and who they are inside that counts.
Who illustrates your books?
I am the illustrator of the book and this came to be by chance. I have always liked to draw but we did not think that I would be the one to draw the pictures for the book. Again, my mom suggested that I draw the characters to show her what they look like. We played with different colors for the Handom characters. We ended up with making the Handom people all different bright colors. I knew that they are shaped like hands and had one eye, no nose and a mouth. I ended up doing all my drawings on the I pad pro and people really loved the colorful characters and backgrounds.
I have a simplistic style, customers and fans have told us. Some pictures look like Dr. Seuss. I am proud to say that we have sold over 30 prints from my illustrations from the two books.
Who is your ideal reader and how do you see the books being used?
I feel that my ideal readers are children from 5-8 age range but have had kids as old as 11 or 12 read and enjoy the stories. My stories show the power of having a good and kind heart and the magic of friendship and believing in yourself. These are traits I have tried to have and have been instilled me from when I was little. Having friends is so important and I have learned this even more so in the last few years.
These books are not about autism but are told in my voice and the characters represent me in some ways and my adventures in my imagination. We have had many parents purchase these books because of the fact that they have children or adults on the spectrum and that is incredible.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading your books?
After reading The Magical Heart of Handom, I want people to remember that having and keeping friendships is the real magic in the story. Also, that everyone has more power than they think and you have to trust your inner voice. What I have learned is that you have to believe in yourself and have someone that believes in you and your dreams whatever they may be.
Do you have any proud moments you’d like to share?
I have had people tell me and my parents that my books bring them joy and happiness. Helping to inspire people with my books and my journey is something that I still can’t believe. My books are in 22 states and 6 countries.
I went from being a small kid with autism that struggled to make friends and have conversations to a young man who has friends and has spoken to over 150 people at one time. One of the best moments was at one of my first readings, a young boy, who just happened to have autism, raised his hand and let everyone know that he had autism. He also mentioned to us later on, that he had been bullied and that he was not going to let this happen again. If writing these books has helped one kid or even adult feel better about being who they are and give them the courage and power to go after their dreams it has been well worth it.
What words of encouragement can you offer to other autistic creatives?
So, as my favorite inspirational person, Walt Disney says, keep moving forward and follow your dreams and John Miller says “Dream Big” and always be who you are inside.
Discover more about John Miller and his Handom world:
- Buy Adventures in Handom on Amazon US* or Amazon UK
- Order The Magical Heart of Handom on John’s website
- Connect with John via his website handomadventures.com
If you liked this interview, you may also like:
- Kindness is the Answer in Wiggle Woshers
- Embrace Your Differences in “Why Ball Wouldn’t Bounce”
- 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.