It is my honor to have Brian Tashima here today discussing his book SECRET OF THE SONGSHELL. It's about a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. Which is really cool because I just left my son's basketball game where the refs let a middle schooler with Asperger's help them ref the games. He has done it for as long as my son has been playing basketball. All the parents love watching him because he gets so into it. Now he doesn't really call the game but he thinks he is totally working it. LOL! Also, I taught school for many years and my principals son has Asperger's and I have a friend whose son has it. It seems that this touches every ones life in one way or another.
A little about Brian ...
Brian Tashima was born and raised in Hawaii and has been a resident of Vancouver, Washington since 2000. In addition to being an author, he is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who has won a Hoku award (Hawaii’s version of the Grammys) and has had his music featured in short films, international compilations, and numerous other forms of media. He is currently a member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), Willamette Writers, Northwest Independent Writers Association, and three Vancouver/Portland-based rock bands.
Do you know anyone on the autism spectrum?
I’ll bet you do. Or at least, you know someone who does.
When I heard earlier this year that one in 88 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder by age eight, I wasn’t surprised.
Whenever I discuss my novel with people, I almost always get at least one reaction that is along the lines of “Oh, my nephew is autistic” or “I work with special needs children.”
I know someone on the spectrum. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome. He has social challenges, sure, but he is also a brilliant, creative kid. In fact, a lot of the things that he can do seem like magical superpowers to me.
So with my novel, SECRET OF THE SONGSHELL, I wanted to create a literary hero for children on the autism spectrum — someone who saved the day with his special qualities, not despite them. A character that kids like my son could relate to and gain a sense of coolness and empowerment from.
SECRET OF THE SONGSHELL’s protagonist is Joel Suzuki, a gifted sixteen-year-old guitarist and songwriter with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s dealing with the usual teenage issues as well as the challenges that his condition presents, and he thinks that if he can just become a rich and famous rock star, then all of his problems will be solved and he’ll be happy.
Marshall Byle is a rock star and Joel’s musical idol. He shows up one day and tells Joel that the secret to success lies in an alternate world called Spectraland, where Joel’s unique brain waves can be combined with the sound waves of music to create magical effects. Of course, once Joel arrives in Spectraland, things don’t turn out quite as he expected them to.
Basically, Joel gets trapped in Spectraland and has to use his special abilities to defeat an evil warlord who is threatening to take over both Spectraland as well as the Earth. I know that sounds pretty stock, but there’s a twist near the end that shakes things up and ties in with the whole theme of the book, which is that happiness is a state of mind, not something that results from material possessions or other external sources.
I tried very hard to craft a story that doesn’t beat you over the head with the whole autism angle, but still gives you enough understanding of what a person on the spectrum is possibly thinking and feeling. Most of all, I wanted it to be a fun and entertaining read along the lines of all the other young adult sci-fi/fantasy books that my son and I both enjoy. I hope you’ll check it out and let me know if I’ve succeeded.
One more note: I’m donating a portion of the profits from the book to Autism Empowerment, a non-profit organization based in my town that works to promote autism awareness and education.
SECRET OF THE SONGSHELL is available in both print and e-book versions on Amazon and elsewhere.
For more information, please visit my website at www.thespectralandsaga.com.
Secret of the Songshell (Spectraland Saga, #1)
by Brian Tashima
Paperback, 318 pages
Published July 17th 2012 by Prism Valley Press
Cover Artist: Purnima Prasad
Secret of the Songshell has been named as a finalist in the 2012 USA Best Book Awards for fantasy fictionJoel Suzuki gets a huge surprise when he bumps into his favorite rock star while walking down the street. You see, this particular rock star -- multiplatinum bandleader Marshall Byle -- is supposed to be dead.Joel gets an even bigger surprise when Marshall makes him the offer of a lifetime: the chance to become a rock star himself. There's a catch, of course, but this one is a little different. To unlock the shortcut to success, Joel must travel to an alternate world where his unique brain waves can be combined with the sound waves of music to create magical effects. If he can learn to harness these powers, he will be able to write songs that capture the hearts of millions.As a sensitive sixteen-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome living in a single-parent home, Joel leads a stressful life full of bullies, bad grades and money woes. Figuring that stardom will solve all of his problems, he accepts Marshall's offer. But once Joel arrives in the new world, he finds himself faced with an unexpected audition that is unlike anything he has ever imagined....