This morning, I am thrilled to welcome Francis Moss, author of Losing Normal, a YA Dystopian featuring a unique protagonist.
A lot of Alex came to me in a dream. Not as an autistic kid at first, but as someone with something that most of us would see as a problem.
It’s kind of a mystery to me why autism came up. Years before Alex was even a dream, I’d read John Elder Robison’s, Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's. I think that book influenced me in ways I didn’t realize.
My hero needed an obstacle for him to overcome. The distractions of all-pervasive media and the time-suck we call the internet were my own obstacles. And books are my refuge. That’s how the first title for Losing Normal came to be: “The Story Store,” a refuge where we could find stories and tell our own stories.
Sometime later, I spoke at a gathering of young people “on the spectrum,” and I was struck by their enthusiasm and good humor. They didn’t act as if they were disabled or handicapped. They were just different from the rest of us.
I began reading books about autism. In fiction, The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Nighttime, by Mark Haddon, and Marcelo In The Real World, by Francisco X. Stork—who wrote a nice blurb about Losing Normal that’s in the front matter—were hugely inspiring. Also useful were Lynn Miller-Lachmann’s Rogue, and, although not about autism, but about a kid dealing with what makes him different, Wonder, by R.J Palacio.
In non-fiction, important books were: Tony Attwood, Asperger’s Syndrome, and The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome; Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs.
And of course, endless hours on dozens of websites devoted to autism, especially www.autismspeaks.org and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition.
What I noticed in my reading (and watching YouTube videos) was that, although the challenges of autism can be huge, the victories were often small and personal.
Maybe it’s my television writing background: I wanted Alex not just to learn how to gain some impulse control, or be able to talk to people; I wanted him to have a big victory. That soon became not just a story about Alex figuring out what’s wrong with him and trying to fix it, but about saving us all.
I make no claims to being a do-gooder, but I did think that, just maybe, a kid—autistic, or challenged in other ways—might find some inspiration in Alex.
Is that too delusions of grandeur? Probably. But I can’t think of another reason as good as that to write.
Everyone we love, everything we know, is going away… and only an autistic boy can stop it.
Alex knows exactly how many steps it takes to get from his home to Mason Middle School. This is normal.
Alex knows the answers in AP math before his teacher does, which is also normal.
Alex knows that something bad is coming out of the big screen in his special needs class. It’s pushing images into his head, hurting him, making him forget. Alex pushes back, the screen explodes, and nothing is normal any more.
Giant screen televisions appear all over the city. The programming is addictive. People have to watch, but Alex cannot.
Sophie, the sentient machine behind all this, sees the millions and millions of eyeballs glued to her and calls it love. To Sophie, kids like Alex are defective. Defectives are to be fixed…or eliminated.
Find Losing Normal on
Francis Moss has written and story-edited hundreds of hours of scripts on many of the top animated shows of the 90s and 00s. Beginning his television work in live-action with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, he soon starting writing cartoons ("a lot more jobs, and also more fun"), staff writing and freelancing on She-Ra, Princess of Power, Iron Man, Ducktales, and a four-year stint on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, writing and story-editing more episodes than you can swing a nuchaku at.
One of his TMNT scripts, "The Fifth Turtle," was the top-rated script among all the 193 episodes in a fan poll on IGN.COM. A list of his television credits is at IMDB.COM.
Francis, in partnership with Ted Pedersen, also wrote three middle-grade non-fiction books: Internet For Kids, Make Your Own Web Page, and How To Find (Almost) Anything On The Internet. Internet For Kids was a big success, with three revised editions and twelve foreign language versions. He's the sole author of The Rosenberg Espionage Case.
After high school where he grew up in Los Angeles, Francis had one dismal semester at a junior college, and then enlisted in the Army. He became a military policeman and served in Poitiers, France, falling in love with the country, taking his discharge there and traveling around Europe (including running with the bulls in Pamplona) until his money ran out.
He attended the University of California, Berkeley and became active in the civil rights and anti-war movements, still managing to earn a BA and an MA in English lit ("the major of choice for wannabe writers").
Francis is married to Phyllis, a former music teacher and active viola player. They have a son, a daughter and one grandson. They live in Joshua Tree, California.