Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of Rogue, a graduate of VCFA, Lego town architect, and all around cool person. Rogue came out earlier this year, and it's an excellent YA novel about struggling with loneliness, bullying, friendship, and fitting in. I'm very pleased to have Lyn on the blog today to answer a few questions about writing and inspiration!
TCR: What was the hardest part about writing Rogue? The easiest?
LML: Emotionally, the hardest part of writing the novel was coming to terms with my own past – my difficulties fitting in, understanding and following rules, and making friends. So much of Rogue is autobiographical, and until this novel, I had never created a protagonist based on myself because I had internalized the dislike others had for me at that age. When I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, as an adult, I wanted something good to come out of my struggles. However, I needed to be able to see my protagonist, Kiara, from the outside as well as from the inside, to give her a separate identity from mine, and to make her likable and sympathetic despite her social isolation and some of her actions.
At the same time, my own background and experiences made it easy for me to define Kiara’s central desire and core beliefs. I knew right away that she wanted more than anything else to have a friend because that’s what I wanted at her age. Kiara believes that, as a “mutant” like the X-Men, she has a special power that can make her a valued member of society, but she hasn’t found that special power yet. I felt that way as well, and that feeling of wanting to contribute and believing she has something to contribute adds depth and urgency to Kiara’s struggles.
TCR: Kiara oftentimes turns to her love of Rogue and the X-Men when she can’t make sense of her own world. In a sense, I think this is what we oftentimes do as writers. Do you have particular stories or objects that you turn to for inspiration while writing?
On a table in my office I have a Lego town, Little Brick Township, which I use as inspiration for my characters and stories. As a child, I was the last person to give up playing with dolls, and all the way through childhood I created elaborate worlds and stories through my dolls. It was my way of having control of my world and belonging to it, because everywhere else I felt confused and detached.
My Lego town became very useful when it was time for my launch of Rogue, because I don’t have the social network or organizational ability to put together a splashy launch party in real life. So I had my town’s residents – dozens of Lego minifigures -- put up a billboard for Rogue and take part in an all-day celebration complete with skateboarders, BMX bikers, and motocross riders. I took photos all day long and put them up on Facebook and Twitter, and at night, I set out a band and my minifigures had a big dance under the lights.
TCR: Do you have a favorite character or scene in Rogue?
LML: In addition to Brandon, the readers’ favorite, my favorite character is Antonio, the friend of Kiara’s older brother who keeps an eye on Kiara after he catches her with Chad and some dangerous chemicals she’d known nothing about. Antonio played a major role in my adult novel Dirt Cheap (Curbstone Press/Northwestern University Press, 2006), where he experienced bullying (and cleverly fought back) and faced the illness and death of his father.
I love the scene in Rogue when Antonio shows Kiara the picture of his father. Her father is a cancer survivor – she believes she has Asperger’s because of the chemotherapy he received several years before she was born – and for the first time, she meets someone whose father did not survive. Awkwardly, Kiara reaches out to Antonio, and it’s the first moment in the book that she’s able to put aside her own worries and obsessions to show empathy for someone else. This is an important step in her process of learning that to have a friend, you have to be a friend.
TCR: Can you tell us anything about your next book?
LML: I’m working on several picture books – one of which also features a main character on the autism spectrum – and just finished a novel for older YA readers. It’s working title is ANTS GO MARCHING, and it’s about an academically gifted 15-year-old boy, the only person from his hardscrabble mobile home park in his suburban school’s elite honors program. After he suffers a severe concussion as the result of a beating by three classmates, he flunks out of the program and must reexamine his life, his dreams, and his values.
TCR: That sounds exciting, and I can't wait to hear more about ANts Go Marching and your picture books! Thanks so much for stopping by, Lyn!