Friday, July 12, 2013

It's Kind of Complicated: Meet Elsa Garrett #interview #MSH #Aspergers


This week on the #MSH blog tour I was asked to interview one of my characters. I decided to introduce you to the main character of my next novel, Elsa Garrett. Elsa, book one of The Secret Heritage series, will be released on August 14, 2013 through Mountain Springs House.

Elsa Garrett is a sixteen-year-old young woman from Marion County, Ohio who is madly in love with her eighteen-year-old boyfriend, Franklin Thaddeus Raymond. Franklin is the eldest son of a factory owner and has low functioning Aspergers Syndrome. Aspergers Syndrome was first diagnosed in 1944 by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who called the mental disorder, autistic psychopath. In Elsa's day anyone with Aspergers was usually placed in the care of an asylum but not in the case of Franklin. Franklin's parents strive to provide as much as a normal life for their son as possible.

Before I interview Elsa we need to step back to 1905 Marion, Ohio since this is the year and place where she lives. Elsa and Franklin live during a very interesting time in American history, The Progressive Era.

Allison: Hello Elsa. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me this morning.

Elsa: You're welcome.

Allison: This is quite a lovely farmhouse. Have you always lived here?

Elsa: No, this two story home belongs to my eldest brother, Henry and his wife, Portia. My family moved here almost two years ago because Henry is sick with Tuberculosis and needs our help with the house and farm.

Allison: How many siblings do you have?

Elsa: Twelve but I have never known all of them.

Allison: Oh? How is that?

Elsa: My ma had a child that drowned before I was born. She was a few years older than Henry. Two of my older siblings died in a house fire when my parents lived in Southern Ohio.

Allison: That's terrible.

Elsa: Yes, my parents won't talk much about it. For them, our family life began when they moved to Marion County, Ohio from Vernon Township, Ohio. The only reason I know about the incident is because Henry told me about it. He and my older sister, Annie, had moved with our parents. My parents had a carriage wreck while moving. Annie was only a few months old. She died in the accident.

Allison: How tragic. What about your other siblings?

Elsa: My other siblings and I were born on our family farm in Marion County. About five years ago, Influenza came to our home. All of my siblings, except Deborah, Henry and Nathan died.

Allison: I am so sorry for your loss, Elsa.

Elsa: Thank you.

A moment of silence passes.

Allison: Do like living with your brother?

Elsa: Yes. Henry's twenty years older than I. He's always been more of a second father to me more than an older brother.

Allison: What is the best thing that has happened to you since your family moved to Henry's house?

Elsa: (she grins). The day I met Franklin. Frank's parents own a farm not that far from Henry's house and had been friends with Portia long before my brother married her. Franklin would come to the house every Friday afternoon and get a list from Henry of supplies he needed from town. The following day, Franklin would deliver whatever was on that list. Well, a few days after my family and I had moved in Franklin arrived to the farm like he always did and Henry introduced him to my family. I was instantly smitten by him.

Allison: And Franklin?

Elsa: He just took the list from Henry, ignored us and went on his way. You could tell he was agitated by something. You see, Franklin doesn't like change nor strangers. It took him a long time to accept that we had moved into Henry's home and to accept that this was the new normal.

Allison: That must have been hard for you.

Elsa: More so for my father. He wanted Henry to get rid of Franklin.

Allison: Why?

Elsa: Pa said Franklin had ill manners and could be dangerous. He couldn't understand why Henry would allow Franklin around Portia and his stepson, Sam.

Allison: How old is Sam?

Elsa: Oh, he's the same age as Nathan. They are only two years younger than me and are the closest of friends. Henry knew Franklin would never harm them. He fought with Pa over the matter for a couple of months. Pa finally relented on the matter when Henry wouldn't dismiss Franklin.

Allison: If Franklin treated your family like that how is that you two were able to court one another?

Elsa: It just happened. It took Franklin a couple of months to accept us but when he did he calmed down. That gave me plenty of time to figure out how I could get his attention. I have always had feelings for him. I saw how routines were important to him. He lives a life where everything is very structured. I decided if I was going to get his attention then I was going to have to create a new routine for him. So one Friday afternoon when he was loading hay into the wagon in the back field I approached him. We carried on a simple conversation then I returned to the house. Every Friday after school, I would make certain to find Franklin at the same time and carry on a conversation with him. Over time our conversations became longer. Then we slowly added Sat to our schedule and so on until it became normal for Franklin to spend time with me.

Allison: Wow, I'm impressed, Elsa. It takes a very understanding person to make that kind of committment.

Elsa: I love him, Allison. I would do anything for him. People don't understand Franklin and his ways. If they did then perhaps they wouldn't be so cruel to him. Franklin trusts me and for Franklin that means alot. I don't care if he doesn't say "I love you," to me or that he can't tell me the things that most girls want to hear. Franklin has a hard time communicating his feelings and that often times gets him in trouble with people. He also cannot keep eye to eye contact so people think he's not listening to you or he's being disrespectful when that's not the case at all. When Franklin speaks, I listen because I know whatever comes out of his mouth took him longer to think about then how long it took him to say it.

Allison: What is the hardest part of your relationship with Franklin?

Elsa: Hmm, that is so hard to answer because he's a great guy despite all his little nuances. I think the hardest part for me is when he has his panic attacks. When he's overstimulated and draws into his mind it's like the man I love has disappeared and all I'm left with is his empty shell.

Allison:  That must be scary.

Elsa: It is. Only his father, I and his best friend can draw him out of that. We try to make certain one of us is with him all the time when we know Franklin will have to be in a very stressful situation. Mind you, what is normal for us is not normal for Frank. He can have one of those panic attacks just by a schedule change, someone touching him or being around people he doesn't know.

Allison: What is the best part of your relationship with him?

Elsa: Oh, that's easy. Franklin is the most charming, thoughtful, loving man I have ever known. I feel very blessed that he is in my life. I have a hard life. My parents are poor and I haven't had nice things.  Franklin's from the upper middle class and owns a machine shop in Marion. I never thought I would date someone outside of poverty. I don't care about all the nice things he brings me. It's the thought that counts. You see, it's very hard for Franklin to give a gift to someone because he doesn't understand social cues or rules. So for Franklin to give me anything means more to me than the item itself.

Allison: He sounds like a great guy.

Elsa: Oh, he is.

Allison: Thank you for answering my questions.

Elsa: You're very welcome.

Allison: Bye, Elsa.

Elsa: Goodbye