Scifipulse recently had the privilege of interviewing neurodiverse author C. L. Lynch, writer of the Stella Blunt series. In this interview, Lynch discusses feminism in her own books as well as in mainstream films, why cripping up harms disabled actors, and Stella Blunt’s future.
SFP: What made you want to be a writer?
C. L. Lynch: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Since I’ve been able to make letter forms I’ve been writing. We have short stories I wrote that are dated 1987 when I was 5 years old. I remember typing on my mother’s typewriter when I was in grade 2 and 3. I’d scroll halfway down the page and type a few sentences, then illustrate the page above the words. My school had a computer – capable only of writing and printing things out, and no ability to save of course. My Montessori teachers had to watch me to make sure I didn’t spend my whole day there banging out stories.
SFP: How important is it that neurotypicals read the work of neurodiverse writers?
C. L. Lynch: I think it’s really important for people to read the writings of people who are different from themselves. Books are the number one best way to get into another person’s head. Movies can help but you can’t see the world from the main character’s eyes or see the thoughts in their head. I am completely sure that reading helped me survive a neurotypical world because fiction taught me how people think. That being said, I’m sure a good many authors have been neurodivergent.
Think of John Irving, author of Cider House Rules, The World According to Garp and many other acclaimed novels. He has a learning disability. He couldn’t read until he was ten. Now he writes novels thousands of pages long. That being said I think it’s especially important to read books written by people who have ADHD, are autistic, or have some other neurodivergence and who are trying to share their inner world. For example, I think that In Two Worlds by Ido Kedar will do more to help someone understand and empathize with an autistic child than any amount of information from Autism Speaks. You can’t know how it feels to be us unless you step inside our heads. And we’re here, ready to show you the way.
SFP: How would you explain why the world needs feminism to someone who identifies as an incel or mgtow without them feeling attacked?
C. L. Lynch: Let’s face it, there’s no point in me saying anything because I’m a woman and their cognitive dissonance won’t let them accept that I could have anything worthwhile to say. But whenever possible I think it is important for other men to point out to these men that feminism is about equality of the sexes, not dominion over men. So things that affect men disproportionately also fall under the banner of feminism. Men being less likely to be awarded custody? Feminist issue. Why? Because that tendency is based on sexism. First of all, it is always assumed that the woman is the better parent. That’s sexist. Women are prepared for parenthood from childhood in a way that boys aren’t. That’s sexist. When the baby is born many men feel ill-equipped to deal with the baby and leave it to the woman to handle, assuming she is better equipped (she often isn’t). Economic standards often offer maternity leave for women but not for men, which puts the burden of parenting on the woman’s shoulder. She ends up the primary caregiver and she gets custody of the children.
Ending toxic masculinity and allowing little boys to play with dolls and practice changing diapers would make them more confident as parents and more involved. That’s feminism and it benefits everyone. I think there are two types of misogynists – the men who see women as sex objects and resent them having any autonomy (they seem very upset by the fact that we have the right to choose our own mates), and men who have been hurt by bad women, as if there aren’t just as many bad men out there hurting women too. I don’t know how we can convince the first kind that as a human being I should have the power to choose who I have sex with, or that being “nice” to a woman isn’t something you should do for sex but simply because you see them as human and deserving of kindness. But I do think the second kind might someday be saved.
SFP: Can films such as Captain Marvel and the Star Wars sequel trilogy still be feminist if the main characters of these films do not undergo a journey that requires them to change and grow?
C. L. Lynch: Yes. I think they can. Bad writing is bad writing, and a movie or book can’t be good writing without a character arc, three-dimensional characters, a decent plot, and so on. That’s just fact. But a movie can still be feminist if it overturns old tropes. In many ways, the Ghostbusters movie featuring women was a brilliant way of pointing out sexism. Men complained a lot about the way men were portrayed but it was simply the way women are usually portrayed. The best way to get a truly feminist movie – well written or not – would probably to get someone to write a regular movie script, then flip the genders of all the characters. Keep it all the same, just change the pronouns around.
SFP: What is your stance on abled actors portraying disabled characters?
C. L. Lynch: I strongly dislike abled actors portraying disabled characters. It’s always better to use the real thing, not someone playing the part. Imagine if they had used all white people for Black Panther and just put makeup on them to make them look black. That’s what “cripping up” is. People point out to me that they are actors, but actors are only as good as the information available to them. Ultimately they are using their imagination to get inside their character’s head. A performance from a disabled actor will be more true, more genuine, and more powerful because they are truly helping to tell their own story. No stretches of the imagination required. The actor won’t need to spend days living in a wheelchair to “understand” their character. They can focus on doing the job. Plus it creates a vicious cycle – directors want stars, and stars are well known, and they only get well known because they are cast in something… if you never give disabled people that way in, how can they ever become stars? If they want abled people to play disabled people they had better hire disabled actors to play able-bodied people. They can give them legs with CGI and stuff. If they do that to make able-bodied people look disabled they can do it in reverse. Makes as much sense either way.
SFP: What is one thing above all else you would like girls and women to take away from your books and what is one thing you would like boys and men to take away from them?
C. L. Lynch: Oof, that’s a good one. I think I would like girls and women to see what a respectful relationship looks like. I was really disturbed when I read the Twilight books and saw Edward doing all these abusive things – he forces Bella into her own car against her will and drives her home from school when they barely even know each other. By later books, he’s stealing parts out of her car to stop her from visiting a male friend. He calls her ridiculous. He routinely ignores her wishes. Why are women swooning over this guy?? Find someone who treats you like a whole person. I’d also like them to learn that it’s okay to be loud and demand your way. We are taught the opposite. We are afraid to argue with men because they are often more powerful than us and are quick to threaten violence. We are afraid to argue with fellow women because then we’re expelled from the social group. Our job is to get along and not be a pain in the ass. Well, sometimes in life you need to be a pain in the ass. Sometimes people deserve pain in their asses.
As for men/boys, I’d like them to, first of all, see a different kind of woman and a different kind of relationship than what you usually see in storybooks. I’ve known plenty of dynamics like theirs, where the woman calls the shots and the man acts as her right hand, but you don’t see those in love stories much. I also wanted to show them what women respond to. Because women DO respond to Howie. Weedy, bespectacled, and zombified as he is, my readers, fall in love with him. You don’t need toxic masculinity to win a woman’s heart. And for all genders, I would like everyone to learn something about neurodivergent relationships. A big part of Stella’s story arc in the second book is coming to terms with Howie’s condition. Like it or not, the virus is part of him and you can’t only love part of the person. I use the zombie virus as a stand-in for all kinds of neurodivergencies: autism, ADHD, anxiety, learning disabilities, intellectual disability, and even schizophrenia. Howie has a bit of all of them… and Stella loves him. Not even despite those things, as she thinks at first. BECAUSE of those things. Because they make him Howie.
SFP: What can fans expect from the third Stella Blunt novel?
C. L. Lynch: My poor fans! I feel so bad for them that I haven’t put Biology out yet. Autistic anxiety at its finest. Howie is pissed, too. He even showed up in my dreams, which is unusual. He wants his story told. The series started out with Stella as a main character – a heavily flawed girl in desperate need of some understanding and love. Over the first two books she has worked out a lot of her issues and you’ll find that Stella 3.0 is the best version yet. No longer an angry and bitter outcast, but a hero of the zombie apocalypse, Stella is finally able to thrive. Howie has also come a long way, but he has more stories to tell. History jumped between both characters, so for balance sake, I sort of wanted to do Biology, which is largely Howie’s story, all in his voice. But you know Stella. She can’t keep her mouth shut and she has Things to Say. Plus Howie would never steal her limelight. So they’re taking turns again.
My readers can expect to find Howie and Stella thriving in their new world, which I hope will be a nice payoff for the misery they suffered reading History. But their problems are far from over – they’re bunkered down in a mountain with zombies roaming around. There’s an evil organization of the undead to contend with, plus a community of people to manage, complete with disputes over what the theme of the next community dance should be. They need a cure, or they are hooped. But if they want to save the world, they need to do something that neither of them ever thought possible.
SFP: What are your writing plans for after you finish the Stella Blunt series?
C. L. Lynch: My readers might be disappointed because the next story in the chute is a very different one, although it shares some of the same themes. This one is aimed at middle-grade readers. It’s sort of the little mermaid but with a giant squid instead of a mermaid. It won the Plot of Gold Challenge in 2017 actually. So I feel like I should really get that one done. That squid has been waiting a long long time to get her story told. After that… well, I have a few competing for first place, so we’ll see.
Scifipulse would like to extend our warmest thanks and best wishes to C. L. Lynch for so graciously taking the time to answer our questions.
You can find out more about C. L. Lynch on her website: http://cllynch.com
Follow her on Twitter at @lynchauthor