Exclusive Interview With Author "Larry Center"
What if an autistic boy can understand chimpanzees, and communicate with them, even know what they are thinking? That is the story of Tommy in “Like No Other Boy,” written by Larry Center. An enthralling, heart-in-your-throat story, it is also the tale of Tommy’s father, Chris, and his custody battle with his wife, who wants to tear her son away from “those monkeys,” the only creatures Tommy loves and understands. When Tommy is introduced to Albert, an emotionally scarred chimp who happens to be a very good painter, Tommy is able to convey to the astonished researchers just what Albert is actually painting. The story explodes into a heart-stopping moment when the voices of the chimps are the only thing that just might save Tommy’s life.
Larry Center wrote “Like No Other Boy” to highlight the struggles that single fathers endure, the staggering challenges of raising a gifted autistic child, and the fascinating hypothesis that the autistic brain might be able to shed light on the link between our chimpanzee ancestors and our modern brain today.
Beautifully written, Like No Other Boy is a gut-wrenching, heart-warming story. Larry Center creates a fascinating tale that includes scientific concepts about communication barriers, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and humans' connections to animals, in a wise and inspiring story.
Author Larry Center is based in Brentwood, Tennessee with his family. And is currently in the process of writing three other books. In addition, he also writes country music! He hopes readers really get emotionally involved when reading “Like No Other Boy,” and walk away with a new respect for fatherhood and people with autism.
Keep reading for an exclusive interview.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am an audiologist by day and a writer by night. I have 3 grown children and I’m married. I live in Brentwood, TN, which isn’t far from Nashville. I write country music songs and have had a few songs put on albums etc.…I like to walk a lot when the weather is good and ponder the universe. I still can’t figure it all out; imagine that!
What was the impetus for writing your book " Like No Other Boy?"
I was watching an interview with a primatologist who talked about possibly creating a therapy program for autistic children by using chimpanzees. So, the idea struck me: what would happen if a savant autistic child could uncannily communicate with chimpanzees? That idea lit my imagination and I couldn’t not write it. The whole plot unfolded before my eyes.
How would you describe the book?
It’s basically a layered novel about fatherhood, the struggles of autism, and family. The autistic child, Tommy, appears to have an uncanny ability to communicate with chimps at the San Diego Zoo one day. His father, Chris, a divorced and struggling voice-over artist, can’t get over how his son, who’s normally self-abusive and lives inside a shell, suddenly comes out of his shell when he’s around the chimps. Chris decides to try to get his son some face-to-face time with chimps at a primate lab. Magic occurs. Tommy surprises everyone, including a famous primatologist. But the mother doesn’t want her son acting like a “monkey boy.” She’s totally against her son being with chimps and wants to enroll Tommy in a new school designed for autistic children located in Houston. But she can’t take the boy out of state without the father’s permission, since they have shared custody. A custody battle ensues and from there, all kinds of unexpected occurrences heat up.
What was it about this story that interested you?
I started learning a lot about autism and how it wreaks havoc on the day-to-day lives of families. It’s such a mysterious issue. It was kind of uncanny, but the way I wrote it somehow seems to resound with people who are actually raising autistic children. One mother of an autistic child, after reading my novel, said it was as if I’d peered into her window while raising her child. I still can’t explain how I developed such a resonance with autism.
What is your writing process like?
Once I start, I can’t stop. It’s like I don’t want to do anything else all day and sometimes into the night. I just sit at the computer screen and things happen. Words, images come to me. I really don’t understand it. I’d actually rather be writing than doing almost anything else.
What do you feel you learned from writing the book?
I learned how hard it is to write a novel and I can’t believe there are authors out there who’ve written, say, twenty of them or even more! This novel took me ten years to write and it wore me out! I learned that I have a lot to learn and I keep on learning every single time I start typing. It’s an endless process, which is what I love about it. You can’t not learn when you try to write a novel. Every time you put something on the page is a new road into a new possibility.
What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I hope they get emotionally involved with the novel and take away a new appreciation for autism and fatherhood and family and how important it is to love your children and to go the distance for them. I hope they also learn a thing or two about chimpanzees and autism in general.
Are you working on any other books?
Yes, I’m working on other books. I have actually written 3 other novels, but I’m always re-writing the ones I’ve “written.” It never ends and I am always amazed at how a novel is never really finished; how every day you find something to work on and improve and once you think it’s “there,” you discover, no it still needs more work. But that’s the fun of it too.
For more information on Larry please visit Amazon.com