Max Toper is a young autistic writer from London, who released his first book – an autobiography called ‘Why is he still here?’ – earlier this year.
Having recently finished his second book, this time a novel for pre-teens, Max put together his second blog for Autism Together to explain all about the process of writing his new book…
“When I decided to write more books, I was faced with a challenge. In my chosen genre of “special needs,” how do I write for a wide audience with vastly different experiences to my own? At first, I thought it best to abandon the genre altogether and call it a day with what I’d written already. But shortly, I found my answer in my latest release, “The Messed Up Life Of Johnny Moore.”
“Although when I started writing, I hadn’t yet realised the potential of such a titular protagonist – it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I truly learned my lesson. Whilst a fictional character, Johnny can’t appeal to the entire spectrum, he does have a lot in common with what I call the human experience.
“Thus, rather than a blunt focus on autism, I focused on Johnny as a character and a story that the target audience (10 to 12-year-olds) could relate to, even if they’re not “on the spectrum” themselves. In my view, this allows for the story to take centre stage while allowing young people to draw their own conclusions based on the experiences of Johnny and other characters.
“I suppose this raises a question, one I certainly did consider throughout the writing of this book: “What if this approach does more harm than good?”
“At the end of the day, people will always have different takeaways from a story. It’s not possible to have everyone come away feeling the way I or others want them to. Gauging if a ‘less blunt’ approach to awareness is ineffective is likewise impossible, primarily because of the difference in thinking and worldview between each person. For me, this is a positive. A different way of thinking and perceiving the world is precisely what makes telling these stories possible.
“If human beings all thought and felt the same way, it would be impossible to invent characters like Johnny Moore. It is reading about the experiences of others, fictional or non-fictional, and then the takeaway from said experiences that enhances our worldview for better or worse. And, if young people can learn from Johnny’s story, fictional as it may be, perhaps they will develop a more well-rounded and understanding personality.
“A relatable setting, protagonist, and circumstances are equally important factors here – and that is what I hope I’ve achieved with The Messed Up Life Of Johnny Moore. It’s different from the things I’ve written before, but I am proud to have branched out, especially as this has enabled me to have a much wider reach.”
By Max Toper
The Messed Up Life of Johnny Moore is available to pre-order via Amazon now, ahead of its release in Septmeber 2021. Click here to find out more and order your copy.