Best known for The Baby Sitters Club, author Ann Martin was over from New York for the Edinburgh International Book Festival to talk about her book Looking for a Lost Dog. We asked a pupil called Estella, who is a fan of the book, to interview Ann for us. Our thanks to the National Autistic Society for their help arranging this.
Ann explained to Estella what her book Looking for a Lost Dog was about. “It’s about a young girl named Rose who is on the autism spectrum. Rose lives a very isolated life – both literally, because they live way out in the countryside, and emotionally, because her dad doesn’t really understand her. Her one emotional connection to the world is her dog Rain. The story is about what happens when Rain goes missing during a big storm and Rose decides to look for her. But what happens is not quite what you would expect…”
And why did Ann decide to write a book about a girl with Aspergers, wondered Estella. Ann explained that she had worked many years ago with children who were autistic. She also had been curious about an uncle of hers who she had never met but had heard lots about: “years and years ago in the 1930s he was diagnosed with what was then called ‘childhood schizophrenia’. But I have a feeling that if he were alive today he would be diagnosed as being somewhere on the autistic spectrum”.
While Ann doesn’t have Aspergers herself, she says there are things about the condition she can definitely relate to: “like everyone, I have little quirks – like sometimes I get nervous in crowds and have to leave. I think all of us have things like that”. Like Rose in the book, Ann also loves homonyms – which is where two or more words have the same spelling or sound the same said aloud, but have different meanings – like ‘bear’ and ‘bare’; or ‘air’ and ‘heir’.
Ann and Estella shared a moment about their love of dogs – Ann explained that she used to have a dog called Sadie, who lived to the ripe old age of 16. “I had her by my side when I wrote this book, and also two other books I had written before. Sadie was my inspiration.”
Talking about her own school experience, Ann said her other inspiration for writing had been her creative writing teacher Mr Dorrity. Ann told Estella that on the whole she had liked school “even though I was very shy. I felt that I had support from my teachers and my friends, although sometimes making friends could be a bit difficult.”