Interview with the author of Memoir of an Unlikely Savior – Peter VanDenBeemt
Today I am pleased to have a special guest on my blog, Peter VanDenBeemt, the author of Memoir of an Unlikely Savior, a saga of an autistic child who tries, and succeeds, to make sense of his relationships later in his adult life.
What makes his story different is that unlike other stories about autistic people, Peter doesn’t present autism as a monster to battle but explains the struggle, catches the sensitivity of a soul, and shows us that autistic people can be perfectly capable of communication and of expressing their feelings. More than that, because of their sensitivity they can find ways to develop relationships on a superior level and may help others improve their relationships as well.
Hello Peter and welcome! Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us when your writing journey started and why?
I spent my high school years in Switzerland. My father was sent there by IBM for a four-year stint. An incredible opportunity to travel and to meet people, a very worldly and cosmopolitan experience, but I wasn’t very happy with life. The truth is, at that age I wouldn’t have been very happy anywhere.
Probably what I wanted most was to be listened to, so the natural outlet was writing. Dreaming of writing the great American novel coming simply from my sincerity and innate talent, what came out was mostly insipid poetry. Then I became friends with an incredibly artistic Spaniard who taught me the guitar. We’d start an evening with a formal visit to classical guitar then settle into beer and pop music till the early hours of the morning.
I started writing songs and performing where I could, but over the years met enough truly talented musicians to realize I didn’t have the chops. In L.A. I dabbled in screenwriting, but that’s a whole different animal as well. But the net result of this and other paths I followed in life was that when I got back to writing prose, I wasn’t so bad at it.
Please tell us something about what made you choose Thailand as the country to live in.
I worked as a software engineer to make a living but wanted to write. I didn’t want to work till I was 70 and even if I did; I still wouldn’t have been able to afford to retire in L.A. I needed a place with a low cost of living and was ready for another adventure, so I visited a couple Southeast Asian countries. In spite of the on-again off-again political turmoil, Thailand’s Buddhism makes it an inherently tranquil place. Cost of living is low, the food is spectacular, and the women are beautiful. Seemed like a good choice for retirement. Now that I’m here I’m finding what I’d hoped for, an environment very conducive to creative writing.
How would you describe Memoir of an Unlikely Savior? Generally speaking, it’s a work of fiction but behind the story is there a real person who inspired you?
Above all I mean for Memoir to be a story of hope, that even the most staggering obstacles can be overcome. I also mean for it to be a challenge to complacency, to the protagonist’s, to the reader‘s, and not least to the author’s.
As for a real person who inspired me, they say you should write what you know, which is why so many first novels have a layer of autobiography to them. Mine is no exception. It’s not meant to be autobiographical, Frank isn’t me, and none of the other characters are meant to be anyone real, but events in Frank’s life parallel mine and bits and pieces of people and experiences I’ve known crop up in the work. I wouldn’t say, though, that I found inspiration from my life, but rather that I wrote it as a challenge to my perception of my life.
What can you tell the readers about Frank? What makes him special, his personality or his deficiencies?
To me what makes Frank special is his unceasing determination to overcome the obstacles life has placed in his path. The determination is in his personality, and his deficiencies are some of the obstacle he faces. The obstacles he confronts aren’t all external, but he goes after them all with the same honesty and the same grit.
Jason, Frank’s brother, is narcissistic. Can you describe this character and tell us how his being a narcissistic person influenced Frank’s life?
Jason views the world entirely in terms of how it serves Jason. Whatever the people or circumstance, if Jason gets then that’s good, if Jason doesn’t get then that’s bad. Jason is an incredibly needy person who grabs to get everything he possibly can from everything and everyone around him.
When they were children, Jason had to enter Frank’s autistic reality to get from him. He had to connect with Frank before he could take anything from Frank. But by doing so, he was the only one who did enter Frank’s world, and each time he left Frank’s world, Frank was able to follow him a little further out of the labyrinth.
Who is your favorite character from all the women Frank meets along the way? Which was the most successful one?
Answering the second part would give away too much of the book’s ending, but to answer the first; my favorite is Karena, with Gloria a close second. They’re both originals in their own right and they both take Frank in unexpected directions to the boundary of his envelope.
If your book was turned into a film or a play, who would you like to play Frank and who toplay Carol?
I lost touch with the ever-evolving stable of movie stars long ago. Rather than casting the movie myself, I’d much prefer to discuss with the director the on-screen presentation of the characters and leave the casting to his/her better judgment.
What would you say to an autistic adult about dealing with their problems? What is the key?
I’m neither knowledgeable enough nor qualified to give that advice. The only thing I’d say to them is what I’d say to anyone: Don’t ever lose sight of your hopes and dreams, and take pride in whatever you accomplish along the road to achieving them.
What is your next project? Can you tell us a few things about it? When do you expect it to be out on the market?
The next one is hard to explain at this point. It will be a sequel to Frank’s story but it will incorporate six allegorical adventures addressing six imponderables of human existence:
Truth and what is
Human nature and free will
Suffering and death
Justice and morality
Faith and the nature of God
Meaning and purpose in life
With that to work on, believe it or not I hope to finish it by September of 2014.
I wish you good luck! Where can readers find more about you and your book?
My Amazon author page is:
My Facebook About page is:
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and thank you for giving me the chance to read your so touching book. I am looking forward to the new one!
Like usual I would come to an end with a quote
‘’Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.’’
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~
- Memoir of an Unlikely Savior – A life changing book – Peter Van Den Beemt (authorspromotion.wordpress.com)
- No Misery: This Is Autism, Suzanne Wright (blogher.com)
- My autistic sister (aabismith.wordpress.com)
- Person-First vs Identity-First: Force Feeding (autisticbigbro.wordpress.com)
- This Is Autism (speakingon.wordpress.com)