Why Genevieve?

I’ve received countless emails and messages asking me why and how I came to decide on Genevieve. Why autism? What was my reasoning for this? Yesterday, I received an email from the lovely Kathie asking me how I started writing about autism. That finally got me to sit down and write this post. Thank you, Kathie!!

To be honest, it feels like a lifetime ago when I was on my treadmill pondering this series I wanted to write. I knew I wanted to write the type of book I enjoyed reading. Something with an intriguing mystery, well-developed characters and with a smart sense of humour. Also I wanted to write about the topics that interested me – psychology, art, politics, music. A tall order. So, I got on my treadmill and started walking through this challenge. Hee. Pun totally intended!

My choice was both practical and personal. The practical side had to do with the writing – finding a character people would love. I wanted someone who was interesting, smart, strong and with a great hurdle/challenge/obstacle that’s holding her back. I decided on a woman, because I’m all for equality, strong and independent women, etc. It also added the extra layer of vulnerability that as women we have to contend with every day. No matter how strong we are.

I wanted my main character to have something holding her back. Something real. Not the usual (and very real) family issues, alcohol, gender discrimination, etc. Something new, different and interesting. That’s when I thought of mental or physical disabilities. It wasn’t a hard choice for me. And this is the personal part of my decision. In my life, I’ve had many people close to me suffer from depression (in all its forms), bipolar disorder and a few other painful challenges.

Mental health is so vastly misunderstood, misrepresented and not talked about. For a long, long list of reasons, we are scared of talking about our mental state. That means we often suffer alone because we think we’re the only ones going through this specific experience, not knowing that our brother, sister, neighbour is experiencing something very similar and also suffering in silence. I wanted to address a neurodevelopmental disorder that the average person on the street know very little about. A disorder people walk wide circles around, causing even more hurt in the already confusing world these individuals live in.

And that was the birth of Genevieve. I wanted her to have had to deal with the discrimination that so many people on the spectrum experience. Hers came from her snobbish family.  But I wanted her to be strong enough to walk away from it and create her own path. Which she did. She understood her disorder and instead of fighting it, worked with it.

Most people on the spectrum have great difficulty recognising nonverbal cues. Genevieve realised that and became a world expert in that topic as well as studying psychology. She empowered herself with knowledge, using her analytical mind to help her understand neurotypical people. It took the mystery, the fear out of her environment and made it easier for her to function within society. Not that she chose to be part of society. But that choice was made when she had the knowledge of how society functions and she made the informed decision to stay on the peripheries of society. She didn’t feel forced out, ignored or avoided. It was her choice.

And I wanted to challenge even that. I wanted to push people into her life who would challenge all the stereotypes she had formed. That strong division between right and wrong, good and bad. I wanted people who she normally would never associate with to accept her, love her and help her develop, grow into an even stronger individual. And I wanted her to struggle with that.

I wanted all the things I just named in the above three paragraphs because from the core of my being I believe that we can achieve our dreams no matter the many things holding us back. For Genevieve, it is something we can name – Autism Spectrum Disorder. But for most of us, it is our own thoughts limiting us. If Genevieve, who has a diagnosed and recognised neurological disorder, can face her fears, grow, learn how to be a friend and lover, then we (who do not have a neurodevelopmental disorder) can surely find a way to face our own fears and push to become the best person we can be.

When I started writing Genevieve, I’d hope people could identify with her, connect with her on some level even though she is extremely different to most of us. I didn’t expect so many readers to connect to her. Every time I receive an email or a message about this, I’m amazed how many people find a smaller or bigger part of themselves in her. I know she reflects me in certain areas. But then again, so does Colin, Vinnie, Nikki, Manny and even Phillip! 🙂

Another question I’m asked very often—and always very gently, is if I am autistic or have a loved one who is autistic. The answer to that is no. But for some inexplicable reason, I have an intense understanding of and empathy with people on the spectrum. My social communication (related to gestures, jokes and flow of conversation); social interaction (related to making friends, knowing how to act in social situations); and social imagination (related to understanding and interpreting people’s ideas, thoughts, feelings and actions) are too developed for me to have ASD. But there are other traits that I can definitely claim as my own. Then again, I think all of us have a bit of a non-neurotypical side. Right?

I hope my very long and chatty post gave you an insight into why and how Genevieve came to be. Thank you so much for all your emails about Genevieve! I treasure each one.

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26 thoughts on “Why Genevieve?

  1. Thanks so much for the Why Genevieve article. I’ve often wondered about the whys and wherefores of her! I have read all the books two and sometimes three times! And they still please and intrigue me…..I also see parts of me in Genevieve, that often make me wonder if I have some bits of autism! But, no I don’t….altho I am hyper aware of people’s presentation and body language, and I always have been, but now I understand much more of what I see. People watching has always been a hobby of mine, and I have recently realized that I am a dyed in the wool introvert, no wonder I prefer to watch than interact! Frankly I find reading horses much easier…..they don’t hide or lie! Oh my, I did go on some, eh? My thanks for listening….. ,ps i enjoy the other characters too, but identify with G.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You had me giggling at reading the horses, Maureen. 🙂 Yup, as interesting as human are, we really are very complex. That’s also why I love nature – it sometimes seems so much simpler.

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  2. Thank you for the explanation and for the disorder choice . My son was on the spectrum and reading about Genevieve helped me understand him a bit better. Sometimes I think we are all on the spectrum.

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    1. Judy, I also think that we all have a bit of the spectrum in us. That is why I love the words neurotypical and non-neurotypical. It gives us a bit more space to be eccentric/strange within what is still considered typical before we veer into what is truly non-neurotypical. But I do believe there is an overlap. And that is what makes us all so unique and interesting!

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  3. Thank you so much for this article. Genevieve is such an interesting character and I can see parts of me in her. I adore this series and am eagerly looking forward to the next instalment.

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  4. I’ve wondered about this for a while and love your explanation. It’s a process I could see myself having gone through if I’d ever actually gone down the writing path. Genevieve is a character that will always be very close to my heart and has actually empowered me in certain situations – her strength and overcoming, her view on the world and her way of analysing it have made me look at things in a different way and overcome things too. The points of view she has and her challenges have helped me to manage difficult relationships in my own life and I wish more people read your books so they’d understand the hardships people who view the world differently face too. I’m certainly doing my part to recommend them! Great post, thanks so much Estelle.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Janet. Yes, it is really hard for people who are not ‘typical’ to be understood. And it’s easier for ‘typical’ people to dismiss anything non-typical as wrong/strange/bad.
      I hope you are celebrating your own strength daily – for having the courage to face and overcome your own challenges.

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  5. Thank you for taking the time to tell us about how you established this character and why. When I read the first Genevieve book I felt such a connection with her that I could list the similarities between our lives. No I don’t have autism, I believe I am what I am due to the way I was raised. We were military and moved so much that you made no friends, had no pets, and if it didn’t fit in a suitcase it stayed behind, not complaining either because I saw and learned a lot about people and places that most never have a chance to do. I learned that my best friends were my books thanks to an astute librarian. Anyway, I just love Genevieve and how she has adjusted to her world and how it has grown with her wonderful friends all understanding or not understanding each other. Thanks again, Barbara

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    1. Isn’t it amazing how our experiences and the people in our lives shape us? You most definitely had an untypical childhood. I’m sure it’s made you a very interesting person! And someone rich in experiences, insight and wisdom. Thank you so much for sharing, Barbara.

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  6. Enjoyed reading your post. I’ll tell you a little about me. I was born deaf in my right ear. Was lucky since I could still hear from my left. Always made sure I would sit up front in classroom so I could hear teacher and also read her lips. I didn’t realize until after High School that lots of people thought I was snobbish. I never told any one I couldn’t hear on my right or when people were behind me. So if they talked I wouldn’t hear them. So once I discovered that. When I met someone new I would tell them right off. I’m deaf so if you talk to me and I don’t answer please touch me so I know you want to talk. So by being afraid to tell people my story I made them think I was a snob.
    People today still do not understand because I still hear comments when I don’t hear something but now I just say … Yes, I deaf so please talk louder. So meet your short comings head on. I missed a lot of friends and fun in High School because of my fear. Enjoy your books.

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    1. Such amazingly wise words, Joyce. If only all of us could apply the meet-your-short-comings-head-on principle in our lives, a lot of misunderstanding could be avoided. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s both insightful and very valuable.

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  7. We are so fortunate that you decided to make Genevieve the character that she is. She makes us all pause and reflect on the fact that we shouldn’t judge people just because they’re not exactly like us. Love, love, love your books!

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    1. Thanks, Jane. And I want to repeat what you said because it is so very important: “we shouldn’t judge people just because they’re not exactly like us”.

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  8. I was one of the people who wanted to know about the autism aspect of Genevieve. I like that you took a lot of time to think this through. I think you also did a service to many people. You informed people who did not know about the spectrum and for people who are you made them feel important enough that someone would use them as an important character in a book. Excellent job!

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  9. I have a friend much like Genevieve who struggles with similar problems only it’s dirt, in all forms that drive her into herself. Becca quit reading books and magazines as they carry germs. Daniel bought her a kindle and suddenly Becca’s world began t grow. I hooked her up with my friend Genevieve and her life become better. Thank you for Genevieve.

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    1. Oh, the wonders of technology! I’m so happy for your friend that she could reconnect with reading. Another amazing benefit of e-readers. Thanks for sharing, Altha!

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  10. The cast of characters you have created are why I loook forward to each new book. Genevieve et al make the stories much more than just a mystery. Each of their quirks and “conditions” come together to make a great read!

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  11. Have just read your interesting thoughts about how you chose Genevieve and her character. I watched the series on TV called Liet To Me via Amazon. So I was won over straight away. It took a while not having read your books before to realise she had autism. It gave me an insight of which I would not have had if not for reading your book.My sisters two boys have AHSD. The yougest is 18 now.He seems to not like loud noise. It certainly made me think again about how and what his life is like for him.
    Back to your writing- which is amazing 🙂
    .(to be able to put together such a complex and completely compelling story for us to read.). Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carol, thank you so much for your kind words. It makes me really happy to know that you’re enjoying Genevieve’s adventures. 🙂

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