This is one of my protagonists, Mendel McKeenie. He’s twelve—though he may not look it in the picture because of my lack of drawing skills. Two people inspired me to create this character. The first is a Japanese man with autism, Naoki Higashida, who wrote a very powerful book called The Reason I Jump when he was a boy. It’s a wonderful book and everyone should read it.
One of his answers to questions about autism made me realize that an autistic character belonged in my book The Alchemist’s Theorem. The question had to do with why kids with autism love nature, to which he replied that nature gives them permission to exist.
Mendel’s brain and personality work differently than ordinary people and he is rejected by mainstream society because of it. He finds refuge in nature because nature doesn’t judge or care about such differences. Eventually he meets Sir Duffy and learns the practice of alchemy, and finds happiness in a community that accepts and celebrates who he is.
The second person is my nephew Brayden. I love this kid fiercely. He’s on the spectrum. When he was quite young he started pacing around whenever he daydreamed. People were worried at first but I soon put their worry to rest when I told them how I did the same thing as a kid, and I still do it today. We share an exhilarating and over-active imagination and I truly feel he is the only person who knows what it is like inside my head.
My brother-in-law Adam was the first person to read my book and give me feedback. At the end of the novel he inserted the following acknowledgements on my behalf:
“I would like to thank Brayden for being the inspiration behind Mendel in EVERY single way. Thank you Brayden. May you find your spider queen.”