Scifipulse recently caught up with Lauren Melissa. She is a queer, neurodivergent, multiracial self advocate, social justice influencer and writer. Known as Autienelle on social media. Lauren Melissa has written her first YA novel called Boy at the Window. Which focuses on queer romance and mental health. In this interview, Lauren Melissa discusses her debut novel as well as her advocacy.
SFP: What made you want to be a writer?
Lauren Melissa: In order to answer this question, I feel it’s important for me to say that I am Autistic. I believe my passion for writing is directly related to my Autism. One trait that many Autistics share is having a special interest. My special interests, or very specific passions, are the things that center me all day, everyday. I am almost always thinking about or pursuing my special interests, and ever since I was a young girl, I wanted to write about my special interests. I wanted to share my special interests with others, and I wanted to have a space where I could take all the thoughts in my head and put them down. Writing for me is so much more than just that, but I think that this place of wanting to share my specific passions is where it began.
SFP: Where did the idea for Boy at the Window come from?
Lauren Melissa: The idea for Boy at the Window came from a photo I once saw of a boy lying on the floor with a dazed look in his eyes. Behind him was a poster that referred to J.M. Barrie‘s Peter and Wendy. Faerie worlds have always been one of my special interests, and I consider Neverland to be a faerie world. I was inspired to write about a boy who was living with one foot in Neverland and the other in the real world. Although I am currently in a stable phase, I have depersonalisation-derealization disorder, and I spent much of teen life in a daydreaming world. Sometimes, I would daydream, lying on the floor, for eight hours straight! I wanted to talk about this mental health condition, but not through my lens. Instead, I wrote Daniel’s story: a teen boy who seems to have it all but is actually struggling to cope with psychological terrors from his past and present.
SFP: Do you think that there is a link between neurodivergence and fantasy worlds/fiction?
Lauren Melissa: There are many neurodivergent individuals who have created, fostered, celebrated, and built communities around fantasy worlds and fiction. While I can’t say that fantasy worlds and fiction belong to the neurodivergent community, I have personally found these community spaces to be some of the most neurodiverse spaces I’ve ever been in. Whenever I go to a convention or find myself chatting with fantasy and sci-fi fans, I am almost always talking to someone who is neurodivergent in some way, and I’ve found that neurodivergent folks are more likely to be accepting of my Autistic differences.
SFP: How important is it that neurodivergent, queer, multiracial people see someone like them being an advocate on social media?
Lauren Melissa: Growing up, I always felt that I was different. I thought that I was broken. I no longer think that, because I am very confident in my identity as a neurodivergent, queer multiracial person. But as a young adult, I felt completely isolated. I am queer, but I was different from all the queer folks in the QSA. I am a person of colour, but I was often the odd-one-out in the Black student union. I am neurodivergent, but there are few mainstream BIPOC neurodivergent representatives. That left me feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere or with anyone. Not belonging is a disheartening and dangerous state to live in. On social media and in the non-virtual world, I want to live out loud in all my identities, so that others can see that they are not alone. I also hope that those who pick up Boy at the Window can feel less alone by reading Daniel’s story. There are very few novels with neurodivergent, queer, multiracial protagonists!
SFP: What other books by queer, neurodivergent writers of colour would you recommend?
Lauren Melissa: Helen Hoang is an Autistic and multiracial author known for her romance novels. For lovers of poetry, I would recommend Prayers & Pixies by Schereeya. If someone is looking for a beautifully-written memoir, I highly recommend The Secret Life of a Black Aspie by Anand Prahlad.
SFP: What are you working on at the moment?
Lauren Melissa: There may or may not be another young adult fiction novel on the horizon, with a biracial, bisexual protagonist who is trying to figure out whether or not she can see faeries and if her childhood best friend might be a faerie.
SFP: Who are your biggest writing influences?
Lauren Melissa: Growing up, I read all of the Francesca Lia Block‘s books over and over again. She has a real gift for young adult magical realism. More recently, Banana Yoshimoto‘s slice-of-life magical realism novels and novellas are also big inspirations. Lastly, Holly Black‘s dark faerie stories will always be and have always been my favourite indulgences.
SFP: And finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Lauren Melissa: Just a few months ago, a dear friend of mine gave me some great advice. She told me that I will never know what story I am trying to write if I don’t know who the antagonist is and what the antagonist wants and why the antagonist matters to my protagonist. So, to any writers reading this who are feeling a little stuck, I recommend “interviewing” your antagonist. Good luck!
Scifipulse would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks and warmest best wishes to Lauren Melissa for so graciously taking the time to answer our questions.
Lauren Melissa’s website: Autienelle (laurenmelissaellzey.com)
Her Twitter: @autienelle
Lauren Melissa’s Instagram: Lauren Melissa Ellzey (@autienelle) • Instagram photos and videos
Check out our Kalynn Bayron interview here
Check our our Ada Hoffmann interview here