AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jennifer Lee Rossman
"They will tell you you are not a good writer because you don't write the way they expect people to write. Write it anyway."
Jennifer Lee Rossman (she/they) is an autistic, disabled, and queer author and editor from Binghamton, New York. She has been accused of being the Disney Princess version of Dr. Temperance Brennan from Bones, always wears her socks inside out, and really just hates writing author bios. She tweets @JenLRossman and you can read her work on her website http://jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com
Tell me about a recent work you released - a short story, a poem, a book, a game. What one work of yours do you hope readers will go out and read today? What's it about?
I really like “The Unwelcome Destiny Of Virginia Monahan.” It's about a young lady who can see the future, and she doesn't like what she sees because her plans for her life doesn't include being queen of the fairies. It's based on the Train song "Meet Virginia," and there are quite a few references to other Train songs.
What is most difficult for you about writing?
I imagine all of my stories like they’re movies and sometimes I have a lot of trouble translating that to the page. I know exactly what it looks like, but how do I describe the musical score and the parts where it goes slow motion?
Tell me about a special interest of yours. Have you found yourself incorporating your special interests into your fiction?
Oh, dinosaurs! They've been my favorite thing since forever, and while I only have a few stories actually about dinosaurs, Jurassic Park quotes tend to make their way into my work at an alarming rate.
What one thing do you wish more speculative fiction readers knew about autism?
There isn't one way to be autistic. People raised as females will have different ways of masking than people raised as males, there are autistic people who don't talk (or only talk in certain situations) and there are ones who never shut up, there are people who need a lot of support in everyday life and people who don’t. Just because a character isn't autistic in the way you are used to, it doesn't mean they aren't autistic.
Do you have any writing advice for other autistic people?
This is both writing advice and life advice. There will be people who don't get you, who think the way you write and the way your characters think and act is wrong because it's not "Normal". They will tell you you are not a good writer because you don't write the way they expect people to write. Write it anyway. Write autistic characters with too much empathy but no clue how to show it. Write about meltdowns and hand flapping and rambling metaphors that might not make sense to anyone but you.
However. Be prepared to edit. You're not wrong or weird just because other people say you are, but you can always improve and you can always learn to communicate more effectively.
“People won’t appreciate the differences in your writing” has been a shared theme across a lot of your articles and interviews, and I always like seeing it recur with everyone’s unique take on it! I guess it’s something that I need to hear.
I also resonate with how Jennifer imagines their stories as if they were movies. A lot of the time I do something similar where I see them half as text and half as comics- which makes it hard to pin down as text but I’d like to think that that way of thinking brings something fresh to writing!