Hello, Fresh Fiction readers! I’m honored to join you to talk about the
inspiration behind my debut novel, THE FIRST WORD.
So far, I’m not one of those authors who can pinpoint one definitive moment when
inspiration struck and I was hit with the premise for a book. One day, maybe for
my twenty-fifth novel, I’ll be sitting at a rickety café table by the Seine or
charging up a Peruvian mountainside—or maybe contemplating life from the
ramparts of a Scottish castle—when the muse descends. I’d love to have a whole
new world unfold before my eyes, and to have the characters take shape almost of
their own accord and start imposing their will upon the page. But, for me,
inspiration has always been a much messier thing.
THE FIRST WORD started
with tears. Lots of tears. If I’m going to be completely honest, it was not a
pretty picture. There were red, raw eyes. There was a leaden feeling in my
chest. There may have even been snot, and a pile of used tissues, which doesn’t
sound terribly romantic, but please hear me out (it ended up plenty romantic, I
This book started out with an emotional truth. I decided to give my hero, Rhys,
the same struggle I faced when my son was diagnosed with an autism spectrum
disorder. Of course, THE
FIRST WORD is a romance, so Rhys is not just any old Joe Schmo off
the street. He happens to be an indecently attractive engineering genius at the
helm of a successful alternative energy company. But his wealth and worldly
success mean nothing if he can’t help his toddler son Will, who has only ever
spoken one word: Andie, the name of the occupational therapist who is
the heroine of the story.
Rhys, himself, is not exactly neurotypical. He beats himself up about his
awkward manner and his trouble reading social cues, and considers himself to
have undiagnosed Asperger’s. In short, he’s a sexy nerd who is endearingly
unaware of his own appeal.
I can’t pretend that the journey taken by Rhys and Will represents the story of
everyone who faces autism (as the saying goes, “If you’ve met one person with
autism, you’ve met one person with autism”). And yes, Rhys has aptitudes and
resources that not everyone is privileged to enjoy (he is a romance
hero). But what I aspired to do was to stay faithful to the emotional truth of
their struggle. When we first meet Rhys, he is grappling with the reality of the
uphill battle in front of Will. He doesn’t want to change him, but he fears for
him and agonizes over how the world will treat him. “Who will he be?” he
wonders. “What will become of him? Will he be happy? Will he be loved?”
THE FIRST WORD is not
about Will being miraculously cured. But it is about finding the place where you
belong and the people who belong with you. There are wrong turns, roadblocks,
and snafus along the way. Andie has troubles of her own that make her resistant
to the inconveniently searing attraction she feels for Rhys (why make it too
easy for them, right?). Her skittishness and his awkwardness often have them
working at cross purposes.
My goal was to depict the reality that those of us who are flawed, quirky and
neurodiverse fall in love, too. After all, “normal” is a spectrum. Writing my
way to a happily ever after for Rhys, Andie and Will was my way of writing
toward hope. I hope you find their story inspiring!
To stay sane, Andie Tilly must keep her mind on her work. Her job as a
pediatric occupational therapist is the perfect distraction from the unspeakable
tragedy she experienced as a child. But when she meets alternative-energy
magnate Rhys Griffiths and his autistic toddler, Will, she quickly realizes her
heart will never be the same. Especially when her name becomes Will’s first word.
After accepting a position as a live-in therapist for Will, Andie steels herself
against the appeal of the disconcertingly attractive—and attracted—Rhys. But
their chemistry can no longer be denied, and their heated affair seems destined
for happily ever after. A destiny Andie’s terrified to embrace.
When Andie’s guilt, Rhys’s awkwardness, and the abrupt appearance of an erratic
ex threaten to dismantle their delicately blooming relationship, they must
decide if love is worth the challenge. Can Andie and Rhys find their way back to
each other? Or will the demons of the past simply prove too strong?
Romance [Montlake Romance, On Sale: June 1, 2017, Trade Size /
Kindle, ISBN: 9781503943674 / ]
Isley Robson is a word lover who, when not reading, spends her time writing
about colorful characters and the people who love them. After earning a degree
from the University of Technology Sydney, she moved to the Boston area to
continue her studies and eventually took a job in corporate communications.
Through it all, she continued writing and has now won a variety of
romantic-fiction awards, including the Orange Rose 2015, the Fire and Ice 2015,
the Catherine 2014, the Laurie 2014, and Show Me the Spark 2013. Her debut
novel, The First Word, is book one in The Visionaries series.
Robson lives in New England with her writer husband, two children, and two dogs.
For more information, visit her at www.isleyrobson.com or on Twitter @isleyrobson.
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