Ann M. Martin
To: The Women's National Book Association/LA Chapter
and the Judy Lopez Memorial Foundation
Thank you so much for this honor and for recognizing Rose Howard, who is an unlikely heroine. She's an eleven-year-old on the high end of the autism spectrum, and she struggles mightily in her everyday life. She lives with an alcoholic father who has little understanding of her needs and her quirky behaviors. Rose attempts to make order of her baffling world by adhering to rules, by memorizing prime numbers, and by keeping a growing list of homophones, or homonyms. When her father brings home a stray dog he's found during a rainstorm, Rose, ever the rule-follower, asks if they shouldn't try to find the dog's owner -- but her father points out that the dog has no collar and thus no identification. So they keep the dog, and Rose names her Rain - a special name because it has two homonyms.
Rain becomes not only Rose's emotional anchor, but her connection to the larger world. A year later, a hurricane hits her area, and Rain vanishes during the storm. Rose, once again cast adrift, soon rallies and devises a way to search for Rain. When she finds her, she also discovers the identity of Rain's original owners, and then has to make a difficult decision, without the support of her father.
Rain Reign began with Rose's character, and not much more than that. I first began thinking about a quirky girl who's fascinated with homonyms - not much of a stretch, since I'm equally fascinated and keep my own lists. Next I imagined Rose as a rule-follower and at that point she began to present herself to me as possibly autistic. Her father took shape next, a poor father indeed, but an especially unsympathetic parent for Rose, who needs an emotional compass in her life. At last Rose's uncle came into focus - exactly the kind of adult Rose does need, and to whom she can relate. However, I still didn't have a clear idea of Rose's story, not until Hurricane Irene hit upstate New York. Ulster County, where I live, was not nearly as damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 as it was by Irene in 2011. As I walked my own dog, Sadie, up and down the road in the days following the storm, looking at washed-out driveways and stone walls, at trees that had fallen on houses, and learned of all the people who had lost their homes, and of all the pets who had become separated from their owners, a story for Rose finally began to take shape.
Hurricane Irene was by then weeks behind us and the power had been restored - ironically by power company workers who had driven all the way from Emporia, Kansas, a small town I had visited not long before, in order to talk to young readers about A Dog's Life - and things were returning to normal. I was thinking about dogs and storms and Rose. I was listening to Rose's voice. And suddenly I knew what needed to happen after Rose locates her lost dog. The pieces began to fall into place.
As I began writing I realized that I was creating a character who could be frustrating and at times annoying. But I wanted readers to understand Rose and to sympathize with her. With her father as well. I felt protective of her and slightly guilty about what I was asking of her. At the same time I felt that she met her challenges bravely and rose above them. I hoped readers would find her story uplifting.
Thank you again for this recognition, and for shining a light on Rose.
Ann M. Martin