Episode 66: Writing Dyslexia-Friendly Books with Andrew M. Nehring

On this week's episode of The Library Laura Podcast, our guest is Andrew M. Nehring, who is the author of two series. His book David Massie and the Quantum Flux came out yesterday, July 13th, and is a sci-fi adventure for a middle grade audience, and he's also written The Corrupted Light Chronicles series for a more YA audience. Today we talk about his journey to becoming an author, including the fact that he has dyslexia, and what that means for his reading and writing life. We talk about lots of fun books today, from sci-fi and fantasy to graphic novels and manga. 

Visit www.andrewmnehring.com to get in touch with Andrew and pick up a copy of his book. 

Books from today's episode are on the Library Laura storefront on bookshop.org

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Andrew's reading and writing

Andrew explained that his writing is heavily inspired by his own childhood appreciation of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Ender's Game, and mythology such as Beowulf and The Odyssey

As a child with dyslexia, reading did not come easily to Andrew. He mentioned books like Catcher in the Rye that are "great books" but didn't do anything to reel him in as a struggling reader or get him interested or engrossed in the stories. His teachers didn't always believe him when he tried to explain his experience with dyslexia. Because he has such good auditory and memory skills, he looked like he was doing fine, but things were still quite a struggle for him, and reading comprehension was a big struggle. 

Part of why he started writing middle grade was that he wanted to change that for kids, to let them have the experience of reading a whole book in one sitting or enjoying the experience of reading, even if they struggle with reading or have dyslexia. His books are short and action packed, designed for a quick and fun reading experience. 

I talked about my childhood appreciation of Boxcar Children books, which were right at that 120ish page length and could totally be finished in an afternoon. That was addicting and I loved it. I did that recently with From the Desk of Zoe Washington and it was so fun to finish a book in one sitting. 

Andrew enjoys audiobooks quite a bit because they activate his auditory comprehension style well. He also prefers to orally process ideas with other people, especially his fiance. He'd rather not read for fun on a screen, although obviously there's plenty of screen reading involved in his writing work. 

We were talking about handwriting and writing ideas down, and I mentioned Leonardo Da Vinci's mirror writing and my own mirror-image handwriting that I accidently did as a kid, which Andrew thought was very cool....and who knows, he might use that in a book someday ;) 

Andrew really appreciates how the Rick Riordan portrayed dyslexia in the Percy Jackson books, showing it as a strength or super power. 

When Andrew is looking for a book to read, he's looking at the title, the cover, the length, and then reading a bit to see if it's engaging or dry. Reading is still challenging for him, but he also finds it fun and satisfying. 

Some of his all-time favorites are old epics such as The Odyssey and the Iliad and Beowulf. Beowulf was one of the first books he read and actually got through and enjoyed in high school. He picked it because it was the shortest book available for a semester writing assignment. 

He also really enjoyed reading Sun Tzu's Art of War.

Loves fantasy such as Harry Potter (even though the books feel giant -- like all three of his current book's lengths in one) We talked about it's cool that books grow up with their characters.  

He's currently obsessed with the One Piece manga (and is currently around chapter 700). Anime has been a favorite of his for a while (before it was mainstream) Fullmetal Alchemist and Naruto are big favorites. 

That brought us to the topic of graphic novels, which he loves, and hopes to write some of his own for a future book series. He's got the beginnings of an outline for this graphic novel concept, but needs to find an artist to work with that matches up well with his vision. 

When it comes to graphic novels, Andrew loves being able to see the author's depiction of what they're imaging as they're writing the story. It connects well with him and makes it easier to enjoy stories in a dyslexic-friendly way.    

Book recommendations

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston-  I think Amari and David Massie would be friends. Their stories start with some of the same premise and conflict, although they go in very different directions subsequently. Amari's story goes off in a more magical direction, whereas David's story is sci-fi. Excellent on audio. 

 The Tuesday Next series by Jasper Fforde - a very weird and fascinating series. This is not a short book or series. He does quite a bit of social commentary in a sci-fi context. Thursday Next is a literary detective who is committed to protecting the "Book World." But what made me most interested in this book for Andrew is the "Chronoguard" idea (Thursday's dad is a member) and how it aligns with the "time cops" from Andrew's universe.  I mentioned that the humor is very British, which turns out not to be a problem as Andrew's Gran is from Liverpool, and Andrew can do a rather respectable British accent himself. 

Shout out to the Big Kids Book Club podcast over in the UK for putting Barrington Stoke press on my radar. Their motto is "every child a reader" and they specifically publish "super readable" and  "dyslexia friendly" books. I wanted to make sure that Andrew was aware of them. For example, the author of Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein, had a book published with them called The Last Hawk. which Marcus reviewed on Episode 55

I also met Rab Ferguson through the BKBC podcast, and he has an upcoming novel called Landfill Mountains that when Andrew told me about the trash island in The Corrupted Light Chronicles, Rab's new book came to mind. I (at the time of recording) hadn't read it, so hopefully I did the tease justice. Stay tuned for more on Landfill Mountains closer to release....I have an ARC sitting in my inbox right now tantalizing me. I've been told it has some Inkheart vibes, and the trash mountains remind me of that scene from Wall-e the movie. 

A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel - A graphic novel definitely worth your time, and a better adaptation than the film in my opinion. Highly recommend.  

Casey Grimes series by AJ Vanderhorst (interviewed on episode 24): Two fun adventure books with magic school vibes... The Mostly Invisible Boy and Trickery School... with more on the way that are going to include dragons! 

And then we talk about books with dragons! (check out the episode with my sister Rachel where we talk about dragon books that I mentioned during the podcast) In The Corrupted Light Chronicles the dragons are made out of wind and are called wisps. WHAT?!?! 

Granted: The Curse of the Emerald Jinn by Rachel Huffmire - this author did her research on the mythology around Jinn, and I learned a ton from reading this book. But it's a pretty awesome fantasy story with a young teen boy as the protagonist. Andrew mentioned reading a manga that this story reminded him of, that also included quite a few jinn -- Magi: Labyrinth of Magic

Be sure to pick up a copy of David Massie and the Quantum Flux, available now!



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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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