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Interview: January 4, 2018

Shortly after Benjamin Ludwig and his wife married, they became foster parents and adopted a teenager with autism.His debut novel, GINNY MOON, which is now available in paperback, was inspired in part by his conversations with other parents at his daughter’s Special Olympics basketball practices. In this interview conducted by Carol Fitzgerald, the president and co-founder of The Book Report Network, Ludwig reflects on his conversations with book groups and the questions they ask him most frequently, the elements of praise for GINNY MOON that made him particularly proud to have written this story, and what he hopes readers will take away from the book. What inspired you to write GINNY MOON?

Benjamin Ludwig: The book came to me in a very mysterious way. I arrived home from my daughter’s Special Olympics basketball practice one winter night, and realized there was a voice ringing in my ears. It wasn’t my daughter’s voice, and it wasn’t the voice of any of the children I’d just been hanging out with at the school gym. It was an intense, insistent, driving voice, one that demanded to be written. I sat down to let it take shape by writing a few sentences, and found that I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t stop her, I mean. She --- Ginny, of course --- wouldn’t stop talking. She had so much to say! And there was something she wanted, too: to escape her new Forever Family, return to the apartment of her abusive birth mother, and get back what she left behind. For the first half of the book, I thought I knew what it was she’d left so many years ago in that awful place. After all, Ginny came right out and said what it was. But as it turns out, what she said wasn’t exactly what she meant at all.

BRC: There is a lot of social commentary tucked within the story that is catnip for a book group discussion. As you were writing, were you thinking about the various ways that readers might look at the book, depending on their own personal experience with a child on the autism spectrum, foster care, or kids fitting in in today’s world?

BL: I was. My hope is that readers encounter someone very much like themselves in the book --- maybe someone as insightful as Patrice (Ginny’s attachment therapist), or as freewheeling as Larry (one of Ginny’s closest friends), or as driven as Ginny is herself --- and then consider just how difficult it is for any of those same characters to break out of their own unique way of seeing the world. From teaching public school, I learned that people often become deeply entrenched in their own family culture, their own small circle of friends --- their own personal mythologies, even. We all have our own personal worldview, usually placing ourselves in the exact center. But we get locked into these places. It’s exciting when everything seems to revolve around us, isn’t it? By presenting some very diverse (and often opposing) ideas about families, obligations and disabilities in the book, I hope readers will appreciate how bombarded the characters feel when their beliefs are challenged by other characters.

BRC: You have spoken with many book groups about this book. What are some of the questions that you have been asked most often during your conversations? Do these questions vary according to the makeup of the members of the group?

BL: Everyone wants to know about Maura, Ginny’s adoptive mother. She divides audiences right down the middle. One half loves her for eventually growing beyond her own weaknesses, while the other half condemns what they see as her lack of compassion. I’m often asked what my intention was in creating such a divisive character. My hope was to show that people aren’t one way all the time. They change. They get better, or worse, and are hopefully better off in the end than they were in the beginning. The same thing happens with Gloria, Ginny’s birth mother. To use Ginny’s terms, Gloria is “completely impulsive and unreliable.” Gloria knows her own limitations, and though she fights against them and fails repeatedly, readers almost always feel compassion for her. They seem to expect a lot more of Maura, though.

Also, a lot of readers want to know if there’s going to be a sequel! Though I don’t have plans right now to write one, Ginny “writes” a section of my monthly newsletter. Each month, she journals about what she’s up to, including her adventures with the kids from Room Five, new challenges from difficult teachers, and a reunion with her birth father, Rick. Rick plays an incredibly important part in the book, but only appears briefly, so I was happy to let Ginny’s relationship with him flourish in the newsletter. The newsletter is completely free, and available at I also include news about my upcoming appearances, and reflections on my experience as a writer and teacher.

BRC: Was there any piece of praise for the book that made you particularly proud that you had written this story?

BL: Several. The first is that people are excited that although Ginny is a teenage girl, she doesn’t have a boyfriend, or any apparent interest in romance. As Larry would say, “She has her own thing going on, you dig?” It’s something much more important than love or a potential romantic relationship --- even though Larry would love to hold her hand. In life and in books, there are far too many expectations put on girls and women, most of them involving relationships and romance, so I was happy to create a character who cuts through stereotypes.

Speaking of which, another element of praise for the book has been that although Ginny is on the autism spectrum, she isn’t a genius. A lot of folks only expect characters with disabilities to simultaneously possess some sort of hidden ability or super-power as well. I love it when people write to say, “Hey, thanks for creating a character who’s representative of the people in my life.”

Or better, thanks for showing me how difficult it can be for a person on the spectrum to finally make her voice and message heard.

BRC: What would you like readers to take away from their experience of reading GINNY MOON?

BL: I want people to walk away from the book thinking about how very, very different the world looks from someone else’s perspective. Ginny has her own unique understanding of things, one that no doubt surprises people. But it’s locked away, because in the beginning of the book she hasn’t developed the ability to self-advocate. I hope readers see that the quietest among us are often quiet for a reason, and that it would be a mistake for us to ignore or underestimate them.

BRC: And one last question. If readers would like to contact you about doing a book group chat with their group, how can they reach you?

BL: I love doing book talks, and talking at libraries, and talking with writers and with students. I Skype into events all the time, but also love to appear in person if we can work out the details. My publicist’s and agent’s information is at, but readers can always contact me directly at I’m also on Twitter at @biludwig, and on Facebook at Please feel free to get in touch!