Author’s life with an autistic child inspired novel

Catherine Simpson with her daughter Nina. Picture: Contributed
Catherine Simpson with her daughter Nina. Picture: Contributed
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LOTHIAN author Catherine Simpson hopes her debut novel – about a mother trapped with a child who has Asperger’s Syndrome – will help families coping with autism to reach their own happy ending.

The book, Truestory – the tale of a boy with autism who refuses to leave the isolated farm where he was born – was inspired by Catherine’s experience of bringing up her daughter, Nina.

The 52-year-old freelance journalist and mother-of-two hopes the story can help people to be more understanding and tolerant about 
autism.

Catherine and her husband Marcello, who live in Penicuik, knew there was something different about Nina from early on, but she was not diagnosed until she was ten.

She was bullied at high school, until her parents withdrew her and sent her instead to the Edinburgh Steiner School, where she flourished and went on to get five As in her Highers. She is now in her third year studying German at Edinburgh University and has just begun her year abroad.

Catherine wrote the first two chapters of Truestory as part of her studies for an MA in creative writing at Napier University – and it won her a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2013.

She said: “What I would really like is if the book made people think more carefully what life is like for people with autism. It can be very isolating both for the parents and the children. And people can be very judgemental because it’s a hidden disability – people just think the child is misbehaving or is badly brought up.

“If it makes people think a little bit about that, that would be fantastic.

“Nina was undiagnosed for ten years.

“There will be lots of other families out there with a child who behaves differently from other children and they don’t know why.

“I hope this book lets them know they could have a happy ending.

“We have had a happy ending in real life and the book has a positive ending too.

“Nina is in Germany for a year, she has a room and a job and a whole new life over there and she is really happy.

“We Skype her once a week and she’s not missing us at all, which is great.”

Meanwhile Catherine has won an international writing fellowship and is working on her second novel.

The Hawthornden fellowship allows writers to spend a month ensconced at Hawthornden Castle near Roslin to get on with their latest work.

Truestory, by Catherine Simpson, is published by Sandstone Press, priced £8.99.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com