A new book hits the stands today (June 1st). Lizzie Huxley-Jones’ debut intermediate novel is inspired by Welsh mythology and follows 12-year-old Bibi as she investigates mysteries and learns the value of true friendship. Lizzie is a writer who was diagnosed with autism when she was 26 and she is based in South London. They grew up in North Wales exploring the true setting of this story. We interviewed Lizzie for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this book.
What inspired you to write your first book?
In a way, I have always told stories. As a kid, I was always writing, and when I left college and became an adult, I communicated with charities on fisheries and the marine environment. After some time away from the scientific world and becoming a bookseller, I started thinking about writing again and how much I used to love it. When I was diagnosed with autism and spent months researching it, I realized that in some genres there was a huge gap between how well people with autism portrayed autism, and that was a big motivation. It also became
Did you originally want to write an intermediate novel?
Originally not! When I started writing, I was writing a huge YA war epic, and the minute I wrote the words “The End,” I realized that wasn’t really the story I was trying to tell. I loved her comics, mostly aimed at teens, The Owl House, She-Ra, and Sailor Moon, which eventually became Vivi Conway and the Legendary Sword. I realized that it was this age group that I was trying to write with the Tako story.
What has the process been like for this book, from the time you started writing it until now, when it’s nearing publication?
Basically, I taught myself how to write a book from scratch. Because it’s completely different from what I’ve written so far. In the beginning, I definitely did more slapdash because I wanted the freedom to explore what I was doing, and I was still learning so I wasn’t writing on a particular schedule. bottom. Now I am a comprehensive planner. A pretty solid outline, a spreadsheet to track changes between versions, and an editorial letter to yourself so you can think critically as a work in progress before handing over the book. . My seizure disorder affects my memory so everything has to be documented. Scientific training helped with this. Because it’s the first thing you’re taught about research.
You grew up in Wales and explored the real-life settings of mythological stories with your dad. How did this affect the plot of the book?
It definitely affected the setting. Basically, many of these myths make up the history and lore of the novel, but the plot that Vivi and her friends are experiencing is completely new. They encounter monsters culled from these stories (although I usually get them a little confused from the way they’re written in the original sources).
Have you had the opportunity to learn more about Welsh mythology in your writing and research?
Hooray! I am very lucky to live in South London. That means I spend hours reading in my big comfy chair with the British Library nearby, which has a huge collection of Welsh mythology.
Do you think there are autobiographical elements in this novel?
I get asked about this a lot, and the answer is mostly no. Bibi is not me First, she is much more stubborn than I am. Sadly, my childhood didn’t involve ghost dog best friends or magical powers. I was bullied and Bibi is autistic like me, but crucially, when I was her age in the early 2000s, I was autistic. didn’t know This is the big difference in our experience. As a writer, there’s always something you keep in your pocket for later, not necessarily intentionally, that can have pieces of you and your life sprinkled in it.
What role does intersectionality play in the novel?
I’ve always wanted my books to feel like the human characters are real and exist in the real world. All children are disabled or gay, but they are still growing, changing and learning about themselves, so it may not be entirely clear from the first book. Both Chia and Stevie are characters of color. Dara is transgender. And more broadly, their world is also populated by people who fall at various crossroads. Their characters, to some extent, shape their personalities and experiences. Towards the end of the book, we have a conversation about how other people’s perceptions of themselves and their bodies affect their own selves.
Celebrating our differences and friendships is a key theme of this book. How important are these themes to you?
Well, I like having friends. Just kidding, kidding. Many of my friends are disabled, probably the majority to be honest. As an autistic kid who didn’t know I had autism, I found friendships really difficult to navigate as a kid, and it was a burgeoning queerness and gender. Before throwing feelings about into the mix. I want to reach out to kids who are feeling confused and a little scared right now, and tell them that there are people out there who are worthy of being friends with, but it can take a while to find them. I was. I wanted the story of Bibi, learning to trust her friendships again, to be hopeful and healing.
It’s great to see novels that prioritize authentic representation, but do you feel that the representation of people with autism has increased in recent years?
I think things have changed since I started thinking about writing eight years ago. The great Elle MacNicol was undoubtedly a key driving force behind it. It has been a tremendous honor for all of us to see Kind of Spark transition from book to screen. I think some elements of publishing are more invested in authentic representation, but I don’t think you can rest easy just yet. We still have a lot to do. The recent discussion of The Good Doctor is such a great example of autistic storytelling that it feels dated and doesn’t even kick off Young Sheldon or Big Bang his theory. I hope this trend will continue to rise, but the excellent representation of fully fleshed out characters with agency and desire still lives up to 2D stereotypes.
Bibi Conway and the Legendary Sword will be published in paperback June 1 by Knights of and available in all good bookstores, with a sequel coming out in May 2024.
Featured image credit: Jamie Drew
https://enablemagazine.co.uk/interview-author-lizzie-huxley-jones-on-writing-vivi-conway-and-the-sword-of-legend-and-the-importance-of-representation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=interview-author-lizzie-huxley-jones-on-writing-vivi-conway-and-the-sword-of-legend-and-the-importance-of-representation INTERVIEW: Writer Lizzie Huxley-Jones on the importance of writing and presentation in ‘Vivi Conway and the Legendary Sword’