Wally is the narrator of this book. He has a head for numbers. He is socially awkward and takes things too literally. He remembers every concrete detail, but often he can't put the pieces together.
When Wally does imagine things, they are so vivid that they seem real. So in his mind, numbers have personalities, and an image of the missing girl Alice in trouble makes him faint. Wally is never identified as autistic, but he has tendencies that could place him on that spectrum.
I was fortunate to have the book edited by the author Kevin Berry, author of Aspie New Adult Novels Stim andKaleidoscope.
Who are some of the other characters?
The Watson's are a single parent family with West-Indian roots. This influence is important in the character of the other detective in the novel, Grandad. He was an investigative reporter as a young man in Trinidad. And Grandad is on the case, too. He wants to solve the mystery for his own reasons. Grandad has a very different set of methods for solving cases, and some of his conclusions put him at odds with Shasha.
Shasha likes to play the guitar, has a purple lava-lamp, and wears striped socks. She puts Wally into danger sometimes, but never lets him down. She has a strong sense of justice and is driven by her sense of her own purpose— to be a world-famous detective. And about this ambition, among other things, she is competitive.
As she tells Wally:
"Listen, Wally. All that stuff we study in school. Math, science, even art and drawing. For me, it's always been different. I only ever care about that stuff because I know, in my heart, that I'm a detective. And it might help me solve crimes one day."
“Sorta. But better," said Shasha, her eyes flashing.
Other than the Watsons, there is Alice Prufrock, the missing girl, who has her own quirks and an important role to play in the mystery. There are the people in her apartment building, including Mr. 'Froo-froo' Carter, Tommy-boy and Cheshire. There is Rose, a nearly blind neighbor of Alice's who gives the kids an important clue. There are the kids in Wally's school, and the adults like Mrs. D, Mr. Pardenaar, and, of course, the wicked Mrs. Skate.
What about the small illustrations at the head of each chapter?
I was very fortunate to work with Dillon Samuelson, an amazing illustrator and fine artist, on my first book OLGA. He took that book to new level.
I wanted to include illustrations again. For SHASHA AND WALLY WATSON VS. THE FAKER, I wanted drawings that matched the atmosphere of the book. They had to have details and visual jokes like mazes and upside-down images, and they needed to contain clues. They had to look like they might have been done by Wally.
When I got the idea for interlocking illustrations, I decided to draw them myself. All of the small illustrations in "WALLY AND SHASHA WATSON VS. THE FAKER" fit together to make one larger doodle, which is attributed to Wally.
Wally's full drawing can be found at the beginning and end of the story. For readers who want to look closely, the full drawing does contain clues of its own.
What is the timeline for the project?
The first draft of this book was written in about 3 months in the Fall of 2013. After that it went through several revisions and chapters were reviewed and critiqued online.
In 2014, I commissioned Daniel Bishop to design a cover. One of his early sketches is below.
In early 2015, I polished the text again, fleshing out some of the auxiliary characters.
In July 2015, I commissioned a Manuscript Appraisal from Brent Meske, the author of "Super-Nobody".
September 2015, after considering feedback, I contracted Kevin Berry, author of Stim to edit the manuscript.
Also in September 2015, The Awesome Indies group let me know that the book would receive a stamp of approval, and could possibly be eligible for their gold seal.
At that point, I had the idea for the interlocking illustrations. The large image was made in about 10 hours over two days. Then the image was scanned and I've been using image-editing software to select the individual chapter illustrations.
ON FEB 10 2016, SHASHA AND WALLY WATSON VS. THE FAKER BECAME AVAILABLE ON AMAZON