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“They expect a fish to climb a tree”: Anna Whateley on Peta Lyre and autism

Anna WhateleyMy guest today, Anna Whateley, has always worked in literature and education. She is an “own voices” author, proudly autistic, with ADHD and a sensory processing disorder. Her debut novel Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal is out now. Anna holds a PhD in Literature from QUT and has more hobbies than can fit in a regular bio, or household.


Your book, Peta Lyre is Rating Normal came out last week. Please tell us about it.

Why Peta’s story?

Why is representation of autism, ADHD and other communities important to you?

I believe Modernism’s most destructive legacy was to locate people in boxes or outside of boxes with PR to include or exclude them. Modernism put people like Peta outside of boxes and yet your story locates her in the messy, extraordinary mass of humanity. What do you think?

Peta Lyre is, in many respects, a “normal” teenager learning who she is and what she wants out of life. Some of her difficulties are specific to her “alphabet soup” conditions, but much of her story follows the normal teen drama cycle and the “hero’s journey”.

What are the best representations of autism in books and on TV and why?

What are the worst representations and why?

So often people demand stories about atypical characters be INSPIRATIONAL, whether they’re disabled or otherwise different.

According to a speech pathologist friend of mine, Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation was recognized as representing people on the autism spectrum until he acquired his emotion chip, which was essentially a cure. Why are cures problematic? (This question didn’t go as expected and the answer was more enlightening and awesome than I expected.)

What stories influenced you?

And, of course, the dreaded “who would win” question that, TBH, I think I need to work on. And yet even when it falls a little flat, the answers are revealing.

Find Anna Whateley

You can find Anna Whately on her website annawhateley.com  and on Allen and Unwin’s (her publisher’s) website. Also, Anna previously appeared on DMZ as a guest during the Authors For Fireys challenge. And, if I can stop stressing about life and the need to move house before the next round of lockdown, I’ll post my review of Peta Lyre. The short version: loved it. But if you listen to the podcast, you’ll know that already.

Peta Lyre's rating normal by Anna Whateley

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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