‘Robert is different. He has Asperger’s Syndrome. He experiences the world differently to 99% of the population. Follow his entertaining and highly empathetic story as he struggles to realise and accept who he really is, try to understand other people – which he cannot – and find a girlfriend. Especially find a girlfriend – he’s decided it’s his special project for the year. Accompanied on this transformative journey by his quirky flatmates, Chloe (who also has Asperger’s, amongst other things), Stef (who hasn’t, but doesn’t mind) and their oddly-named kitten, Robert endures a myriad of awkward moments in his quest to meet a nice, normal girl…and not even a major earthquake will stop him.
This absorbing and humorous story is starkly told from Robert’s point of view, through the kaleidoscope of autistic experience.’ (www.kevinberrybooks.com/stim.)
Kevin Berry from Christchurch, New Zealand is a published author of several fiction novels as well as being a copy editor. He also reads other authors’ manuscripts.
Autism Daily Newscast had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Berry about his new ‘aspie new adult contemporary novel’.
Kevin, could you tell us a little about the process of writing ‘Stim’?
“It took me a year to write Stim. I wrote each chapter and agonised over it and reworked it until I was satisfied. I then went through the book editing and revising, making the writing as technically perfect as I could, making sure my words would have the greatest impact on the reader at any stage. This was all punctuated by periods of time when I didn’t write at all because I was overcome with self-doubt. Eventually, though, it was finished. The feedback so far has been awesome, both from writer friends and from reviewers whose opinions I respect.”
Is Robert based on anyone you know?
“Robert is loosely based on me as a younger man. The story is fictional, though, not an autobiography. What comes through is that Robert’s “voice” in the novel is my voice. Everyone else in the book, including Chloe, the other main character, are purely made up, but of course they are made up of characteristics I’ve spotted in other people.”
At what age did you start to write? Could you also tell us a little about your other books?
“I always wrote short stories as a child, and then at high school, I wrote a full-length murder mystery, and my teacher discouraged me after that because he had to read it. I wrote a draft of another novel when I was living in London and managed to get a literary agent to do the rounds of publishers with it, but no one was interested, so I became further discouraged. Eventually, though, I teamed up with Diane Berry to write three humorous fantasy novels. These all stand alone, they were heaps of fun to write and will have people laughing out loud in places. They were published by Bluewood Publishing. When I wrote Stim, I decided to publish it myself”.
May we ask at what age you were diagnosed with Aspergers?
“I was aged 43 when I was diagnosed following a series of interviews and tests. This came about because my son, aged 4 at the time, had just been diagnosed. I didn’t really know much about the autism spectrum then, so I read several books on the subject, and recognised myself. A formal diagnosis followed shortly afterwards.”
What was life like growing up as a child and young adult on the spectrum?
“Asperger’s wasn’t being diagnosed in New Zealand at that time, and probably no one knew anything about it. Life as a child was difficult, even unpalatable at times. I felt different to the other children around me, and even to adults. I talked logically, whereas people around me seemed emotional, and I didn’t understand why. I started to identify with Mr Spock from the original TV series Star Trek. I had one or two good friends at a time, but I spent a lot of time alone, even eating my meals alone in my room. I remember doing things that my parents must have thought were strange, like going through a set of encyclopaedias, turning each page, and reading the subject titles. Or going through my schoolbooks at the end of the year, underlining every word that I’d written during the year. Or messing up my comic collection and reordering it, just for fun, much like how in Stim, Robert reorders the books in his bookcase. The differences between almost everyone else and me increased as I reached high school, when kids became much more social, and I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. Shortly after starting University, I had a breakdown because I couldn’t cope in the adult world. I had lots of therapy and met other troubled people and began to improve from there”.
Do you plan on writing more books with the central character(a) being on the autistic spectrum?
“Yes, I’ve already written a sequel to Stim, set the following year and told entirely from Chloe’s point of view. That’s called Kaleidoscope, and I plan to release it in January. And people have been asking me for a third book, so I may start writing that.”
Finally, we asked Kevin if there was anything that he would like to share with our readers about being on the autistic spectrum.
“I’d like people to think of it as a difference, rather than a disorder. We experience the world in a different way, because our brain wiring is different, but we’re still people. Just because we might perceive some things differently to most other people doesn’t mean we’re broken.”