Making contact with Ray’s Planet

Claire Finlayson is set to debut her first book entitled Dispatches from Ray’s Planet: A Journey Through Autism. Ray’s Planet is a heart-warming story of two siblings learning to understand each other upon Ray’s autism diagnosis.

Finlayson hopes this book can normalize autism spectrum disorder, which is a complex condition that consists of challenges with social interaction along with verbal and nonverbal communication. Finlayson hopes to help people better understand the people in their life who may be living with autism spectrum disorder. Caitlin Press is set to release Ray’s Planet in the fall of 2020.

From jeweler to author

Claire Finlayson is a British Columbia native who worked as a jeweler in her family’s business before making her literary debut. Finlayson has filled private journals upon journals for the last fifty years, but Ray’s Planet is the first time anyone will get a glimpse into her world andfamily relationships. After 25 years, her husband took over her duties from their jewelry business to allow Finlayson to dedicate herself wholly to this book. It may seem like a big leap from jewelry to writing, but her customers always had a story to tell.

“I got immersed in people’s stories,” says Finlayson. “Engagements, anniversaries, special occasions, the love of one person for another – creating custom-designed jewellery brought out people’s stories, whether we were using new materials or family heirloom diamonds. So yes, even designing jewelry was about the stories for me.”

Understanding Ray

Claire Finlayson, jeweler and author. | Photo courtesy of Caitlin Press

Since childhood, Finalyson and her family knew something was slightly different about their beloved Ray. His intelligence and awkwardness was always endearing, but not until he was an adult did they find a word for him: Aspergers. Living with autism spectrum disorder allows Ray to navigate the world in his own unique way, and that’s exactly what Finlayson wants the reader to learn more about: Ray’s Planet.

“Growing up,” says Finlayson, “we could not have imagined that one day we would learn of a syndrome that seemed to describe my brother’s curious mix of high intelligence and social difficulties. He didn’t know he was autistic. All he had as a teenager was the ingenuity to adopt the persona of Mr. Spock from Star Trek as a way of ‘hiding in plain sight.’ The other kids actually thought it was kind of cool having their own school Vulcan.”

Finlayson took inspiration to share Ray’s story from advocates like Temple Grandin, a prominent speaker on autism and animal behavior. Finlayson is a great admirer of Oliver Sacks’ Anthropologist on Mars, which contained a profile on Grandin.

“The title of the book refers to the fact that Temple Grandin told Dr. Sacks that she’s always felt like an anthropologist studying a strange culture on another planet,” says Finlayson. “I drew parallels between that and my brother’s expression “On my planet….”, which I heard a lot growing up.”

An unconventional memoir

Claire Finlayson, author of Dispatches from Ray’s Planet: A Journey Through Autism | Photo courtesy of Caitlin Press

Finlayson and her brother Ray only live five minutes away from each other in Gibsons, B.C., but she discovered a new side of Ray when they began to communicate via email a few years ago. According to Finalyson, Ray has two sides: the writing man and the speaking man. The writing man revealed more than she ever knew about her often misunderstood brother and found that their correspondence could easily be turned into a book.

“What he wrote showed me that I had only thought I knew him,” says Finlayson. “At some point, when I realized we had enough interesting material to fill a book, I told him I was thinking of writing one. He said, ‘Shucks, if I knew I was being quoted, I’d have polished my prose.’”

“But he just kept answering my questions and revealing his innermost self, even though he knew what I was up to. He has declined to read the manuscript. He says it’s my creation and I can write whatever I want about him, but he also said it might be ‘Writing Man’s last hope of a voice.’ He will read it for the first time when I present him his own signed copy, so now it’s me that’s anxious.”

To learn more about Dispatches from Ray’s Planet, visit: www.caitlin-press.com/our-books/dispatches-from-rays-planet

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