Today we're offering a free copy of a new book written by the youngest author that we have featured so far on Special Needs Jungle. Max Toper is an eighteen-year-old author from London who was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder at the age of five. Max has also been diagnosed with ADHD and dyspraxia as well collecting a number of other diagnoses. He has enjoyed writing since the age of seven and so when Max’s friends and family suggested he write a book about his experiences, he took the idea to heart, financing, writing, and publishing the project by himself.
Max has written about his book for us and has offered a copy to SNJ to give away to a reader. Add your name to the form at the end if you want to be in with a chance to win it.
Why is He Still Here?
Why is He Still Here? juggles two main plotlines, my educational experiences in school, and my time as leader of a guild in an online video game. Taken at face value, it is a simple concept, a 'double-life' story. Mostly, that’s true, but the overall aim is to explore how my online experiences affected my interactions in the actual world and vice versa.
Of course, when I say “my experiences”, I gloss over my multiple diagnosis. Most books in the 'special needs' genre focus on the disabilities—which is fine. But from the get-go I wanted to write about me as a person, rather than me as a person with autism. Whilst my condition isn’t a primary focus of the story, it plays a role in shaping events.
Though it’s uncommon for autism to take a backseat in a book marketed as “being about autism”, I feel it is a creative decision that allowed me to better explore the two worlds (virtual and real) my book investigates. Suffice to say, there is no one way to feature special needs in a book or any piece of media, and not every depiction is everyone’s cup of tea.
Why is He Still Here? focuses on the essence and execution of the story rather than a more precise description of how my condition affects my life. It’s a departure from the usual trend set by many other books, and I view that as a strength. Albeit every perspective is an important story.
Why I wrote it
I give differing answers to this question every time I am asked it. Shortly after one of the hardest periods of my life, people suggested I write a book about my experiences. Now, I didn’t become a writer overnight, I’d been writing since the age of seven. My portfolio comprised a few well-received fanfictions, short stories, scrapped original manuscripts, and school assignments. Despite all this, I never imagined myself writing a book, let alone publishing one.
I decided very early on, that if I took up Why is He Still Here? as a project, I’d have to finish it. I looked, believe me I did, but no other books on the market provided an account into what it was like being a guild leader in an online video game. And of course, few books held a truly in-depth view of the education system from the perspective of a child with special needs.
To pass up this opportunity would have been a great disservice to myself, and all those who believed in me along the way. The gap in the market needed to get filled, and if I was going to do it, it had to be in a 'Max Toper way'.
Self-publishing, the journey to 'done'
Initially, I thought about sending the completed manuscript to a publisher was the right call. But as I did more research, and as the first draft came closer to completion, it seemed self-publishing was the better option. Traditional publishing is a tough market, especially for first-time authors. And even if I managed it, editorial mandates would have choked the needed rawness of my work.
When you write about sensitive material and throw in the tooth and claw life of a video-game world, and what that world means to a teenage boy, you’re hard pressed to find the right people to help make that project a reality. That is what I learned, even as I stepped into the world of self-publishing. Sure, raising the money myself was one thing. But finding the editors that I did was a sheer stroke of luck.
It wasn’t just the management side of things though; I cut a lot from the final draft. Some of which was for the betterment of the work. And even then, certain scenes were painful to cut in favour of others. I had to remind myself that I was writing about things that would be entirely alien to most of my target audience. All that said, I’m thrilled with the final product, and believe I handled the balancing act in the best way possible.
What I ended up with
I wrote a vivid account of my experiences, throwing heart and soul into the mix. Of course, I couldn’t include everything or everyone. The thing I’m most grateful for is that almost all details of the events were kept so well. My parents documented a lot of the school experiences. And the people I used to lead in my guild helped dig up messages and screenshots from years ago. Without those ingredients Why is He Still Here? would be a radically different book.
My top priority was telling a story—my story in the best way possible, and I achieved just that. I, and everyone else involved in the project, hope that it will go onto not only reach, but also touch, the masses with its unique and handcrafted flavour.
You can order Max's book here. This giveaway is now closed.
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