Q. What inspired you to write The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr?
It’s hard to pin these things down! I work with adults with learning difficulties, my husband used to work in a monkey sanctuary and my mother had a stroke. I think experiences mingle in your subconscious mind and emerge in a new form. And I wanted to give a voice to a marginalized character.
Q. What do you think is Elvira’s most admirable quality?
Her acceptance of others without criticizing or judging them (very much). Especially as she has often not been accepted herself.
Q. If you had to choose seven rules to live by what would they be?
- Be kind.
- Don’t blame – find the reason for the error/conflict and work to stop it happening again.
- Don’t let the past or the future colour the present.
- Don’t let other people’s expectations of you define your life. (Elvira has to learn this)
- Don’t let your life be defined by your job. Life outside work is important.
- Have the courage to tell people how much they mean to you before it’s too late.
- Don’t look like prey – meaning if you appear vulnerable, unfortunately you may be taken advantage of.
Q. Were there any challenges in writing from Elvira’s unique perspective?
Yes, I had to keep reminding myself that Elvira wouldn’t pick up on that comment or facial expression or body language. I had to remember that she wouldn’t understand the nuances of a joke and would be likely to take things literally.
Q. What would you like readers to take away from your novel?
I would hope to have shown what it is like to be someone else.
That adults with learning difficulties face the same human trials as those without them. And that people with Aspergers are not cold and unfeeling but, often, eager to help and upset by the pain of others. They just need guidance and explanation of how best to express it and to show support. I hope that readers might be prompted to think that people with Aspergers have a lot to offer – a lack of guile, a childlike trustfulness, a creatively different attitude to solving problems – to those who don’t have their difficulties.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t feel like they fit in?
Your time will come. You haven’t found the right place or the right social circle yet. And remember, outsiders are best placed for illuminating the inside of everything.