It was sort of an accident. Casey started out as a character in a much earlier work. See, there was this meteorite. And this boy, I think I called him Scott, who saw the meteorite land on the island across the lake. And there was this girl, Casey, who was Scott’s sister. Casey was autistic. She was also very artistic, which is not at all the same thing.
After the meteorite hit, Casey began drawing pictures of dragons. She was very agitated, and wanted to go to the island. So, Scott took her there. Turns out there really were dragons, who come to Earth every few thousand years, looking for young Earthling protégés.
Casey’s autistic tendencies allowed her to communicate telepathically with the dragons. Problem was, the dragons lied about their intent. They weren’t nice folks after all.
Not surprisingly, this story did NOT sell. But a kind editor said she really liked Casey’s character, but not so much the dragons. So I wondered, who is this Casey person and what is her story? And how on earth could I write a story without dragons, or aliens or supernatural stuff?
I read everything I could find about autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, made lists of characteristics, made up examples of how a girl with Asperger’s might see the world and so on.This was tedious, as I didn't have Internet at the time! But, eventually, Casey’s story came together.
Casey's story did sell, though not to the editor who had so kindly encouraged me. So what was wrong with my dragon aliens, I ask you? Aside from being improbable, relying on old, rehashed story lines, it was a great book. There was even a scene that made me cry. (I guess it made editors who rejected me weep too, but not in a good way!)