This is the first book in our new One-2-One series. We'd also like to introduce you to series author, Lorna Schultz Nicholson!
What is the One-to-One series?
One-2-One is a series of novels centred on a group of students who belong to the Best Buddies club at (the fictional) Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School. The Best Buddies program is a real program that runs in high schools and colleges around the world. It pairs students with intellectual abilities with volunteer peer “Buddies.” The pairs make plans to meet once or twice a month for coffee or a movie or some other event of their liking, plus they take part in group events. There is often a Chapter President who heads up the program in the school and sets up committees for the group events. So each book in this series follows the story of a different student pair and the friendships they develop.
In Fragile Bones, why was it important for you to tell the story of Harrison and Anna in both their voices, rather than just one POV or third person?
Both characters are seeing the situations in the novel differently and I wanted to be able to show those differences. I want the reader to understand both characters and really see that the world is made up of a variety of people, that everyone is NOT the same and that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge people. If Fragile Boneswas only written in one voice or written in thirdperson, I don’t think I could have delved into the mind of the characters, and to me, that was so important. I wanted the reader to know what the characters were thinking and to see the same situation from two different perspectives. Exploring their inner thoughts and the reason why they are acting the way they are is what makes the book interesting.
Your background as a writer is in picture books and hi-lo sports novels. Fragile Bones is quite different from anything else you’ve written - for one thing, it’s definitely not hi-lo. What was the experience like for you to delve into writing a more literary novel?
Wonderful!!! I loved every minute of writing this novel and I enjoyed digging into my characters and having that freedom to explore their personalities and innermost thoughts. I appreciated Christie Harkin’s editing as well,and just our discussions about how I could make it deeper and flesh it out more.
What sort of research did you have to do to write this book?
I talked to parents of children and teens with autism, and I talked to children with autism and also professionals who work with autistic children. I used bits and pieces from every conversation even if the child was in elementary school or was a female. And I did a LOT of reading!
Did you learn anything surprising or new in your research?
YES! I learned soooo much from my research. People with autism are smart and charming and beautiful and deserve respect. Their brains just work in another way. Does that make them weird? NO! Of course not. If you hear a child having a tantrum in a store, please don’t judge the parent or the child. Maybe that child just can’t deal with something at that moment. You don’t know what is going on inside the child’s head. I learned to be more patient with people in my real world and to not judge.
What is your favourite part about Harrison’s character?
What made you want to write him that way?He really is sweet and lovable and interesting. His brain is pure genius and I love how it works. I interviewed so many parents and pieced together a character from my research. I wanted the reader to like him but I wanted to show the reason why some kids with autism act the way they do.
Where did Anna’s character come from?
Anna came from watching my own children go through high school. Academics were so stressful for them. Many teens want to be that "high achiever" and they end up with eating disorders or dropping out of college after a year. I didn’t go that far with Anna but I created a home life that was difficult for her. I wanted to show a mother who was hard on her, but I wanted her to learn something too. I’ve come across mothers just like her who constantly push their children because they are smart, and focus only on good grades, not development of the whole child. I think teens today are placed under a lot of stress to be that single-minded high achiever. Anna was the perfect match for Harrison - there was a lot she was able to learn from him.
What were some of your favourite books to read when you were Anna’s age?
You’re taking me back a bit here (lol) but when I was Anna’s age I loved Tennessee Williams, Margaret Laurence, and Joyce Cary (they were the required school reading authors), but I also loved Leon Uris, Sidney Sheldon, James Clavell, Arthur Hailey, Irwin Shaw and (believe it or not), Jacquelin Susann and Colleen McCullough. (The Thorn Birds came out when I was 19 and I loved those books.)
Tell us about the Best Buddies program. How can kids find out more about the program and get involved?
Any school can start a Best Buddies chapter. Please check out their website as there is great information there to help out and get programs started.
www.bestbuddies.ca (this is Canadian)
www.bestbuddies.org (this is international)
If someone reads my book and starts a chapter in their school, I would be delighted and excited. It would be wonderful to know that something I wrote could motivate someone to do something to create awareness and make a difference in their community.
When you aren’t writing, what are some of your favourite things to do?
I walk my dogs, run (I just ran my first half marathon), ski, golf, bike, read, and eat chocolate. A lot. I eat good food too. I travel quite a bit with my husband and enjoy visiting and chatting with my grown-up children when I can.
What is coming up next in the One-to-One series?
Erika and Gianni. We don’t have a title yet. These are two characters who were introduced in Fragile Bones. Erika is a girl born with Down Syndrome and to date I have interviewed teens (male and female) who were born with Down Syndrome. I’m so excited to write about her. And Gianni is, right now, a work in progress. You’ll have to wait and see what I have in store for him! But not too long - the book ought to be available next spring.