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At Best, They’re Tolerated

Chelsea Britain Author Interview

Chelsea Britain Author Interview

Cuttle follows Nora, who struggles with her own overwhelming thoughts day in and day out while navigating romantic relationships. What was the inspiration for the setup to this heartfelt novel?

With a few amazing exceptions, I think people like Nora on the autism spectrum are a little underrepresented, and sometimes misrepresented, in novels that focus on relationships. Even many well-meaning writers present non-neurotypical traits as something to be overcome, and it’s difficult to read these as fully realized characters. At best, they’re tolerated, and at worst, they’re confused with narcissists or people who are incapable of empathy.

So I’ve never really felt like these stories were for me, and this seems wrong, because people on the spectrum certainly have all these experiences—our lives are full, too, of decisions about things like work and friendships and romantic relationships. My intention with Cuttle was to offer at least one slightly different perspective. Nora’s not a traditional romantic or “chick lit” heroine, but I hope some people can relate to her experience and see this demographic as capable of engaging in happy, fulfilling relationships.

Nora is a unique character that posses INTJ personality traits. Why did you want to explore these personality traits in your story?

I think INTJ’s are actually a little overrepresented right now in pop culture. So many of the amazing psychological thrillers published in the last handful of years really lean into their INTJ villains, and the most recent article I read about INTJ relationships focused on how to identify if you’ve inadvertently found one of us and safely get out of the relationship. INTJ’s make the best Hannibal Lecters, Professor Moriarties, and Emperor Palpatines.

…But most of us aren’t really take-over-the-galaxy kinds of people. I wanted to bring up Nora’s “type” because it’s mentioned so much less often to describe scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and any number of other not-eating-people paths like Nora’s. Nora talks a lot about her “choosing” times, and most INTJ’s choose not to become sociopaths; Sherlock Holmes is an INTJ, too, and we also claim people like Nicola Tesla, Steven Hawking, and Jane Austen.

I enjoyed the supporting characters in this novel, and Nora’s relationships were always interesting. What were some themes you wanted to capture in their interactions?

I think one of the biggest challenges for all of us is finding our “tribe”–people who simultaneously accept us as we are and support our (healthy) growth. I used to think tribe-finding was a life stage, but now I think we’re always finding and updating our tribes as they grow with us.

Nora has a diverse tribe that’s really important to her but, like everyone, she spends a lot of time trying to distinguish between even well-meaning influences that hold her back and those which challenge her in positive ways. Characters like Heather and Lillie are able to expand their conception of Nora’s capacities with Nora, for instance, but the Milners of her life obviously need to go.

When and where will Cuttle be available?

Cuttle will be available September 1, 2020 through Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other ebook retailers. Paperback, hardback, and large print copies will be distributed by Ingram.

 

Cuttle: A Novel – Book Review

 

Cuttle: A Novel

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Nora works her fingers to the bone. She knows everything there is to know about cuttlefish, and she has devoted her life to their well-being, almost to the exclusion of all others in her life. She is intelligent, thoughtful, and wants to further her education. Nora has everything going for her including four potential romantic relationships she can’t seem to sort out. When she is presented with the opportunity to apply for a fellowship in Australia, she is eager and somewhat hopeful. As she pours her heart and soul into her application, she attempts to tackle her own mixed feelings over three men who are sending her their own very mixed signals.

Cuttle, by Chelsea Britain, is the unique and engaging story of Nora, who possesses clearly-defined INTJ personality traits and struggles with her own overwhelming thoughts day in and day out. With help from her two doting roommates, Nora manages to navigate the perils of daily life and the precarious pitfalls of dating.

Cuttle is insanely good. From start to finish, I was sucked into Nora’s life and appreciated the little hints the author gives about Nora’s unique personality. Though I can’t relate to her obsession with cuttlefish, it didn’t matter at all. Britain writes Nora’s character so vividly that I found myself absorbed in her descriptions of the species and her almost over-the-top care for them. Nora is different from most women, but she is fascinating.

I love the little touches the author adds throughout this first-person narrative that indicate the elements of INTJ. Not being familiar with this personality type, I began to assume through the first chapter or two that Nora had autism–there are some parallels. Her need to recite the names of all shark types when confronted with a stressful situation is repeated throughout the book as is her compelling need to be alone with her thoughts. Not being able to relate to her particular idiosyncrasies is not a barrier to reading, understanding, or loving this book.

One of Nora’s most endearing qualities is her tendency to listen to her “head-mom.” I absolutely fell in love with this line the first time Nora mentions it. It is the perfect way to describe her need for a mother’s advice and her own inability to relate to those around her. Every time she refers to her head-mom, I have to smile. Nora, capable of so many academic achievements, is in need of guidance in her relationships. Her roommates are the ideal housemates and friends and watch out for her wellbeing. They are a fantastic additions to Nora’s story and compliment her well.

Reading about the way Nora copes with everyday life is fascinating. Britain does a beautiful job of presenting a life with INTJ to readers. She gives us a well-drawn picture of what Nora faces and how she digs down deep to cope. Readers of all genres will appreciate this look into Nora’s life.

Pages: 254 | ISBN 978-1-951796-01-3

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