A. R. Alexander
A. R. Alexander was born in Acqui Terme, a small town in Piedmont, Italy. The youngest of three children, at the age of 15 she experiences the tragic death of her older brother, Massimo, from whom she used to secretly steal science fiction books at a time when science fiction was predominantly a male domain genre.
With considerable delay compared to her peers (you can find out why later on in this section), she graduated in Psychology at the University of Turin with a thesis on breast cancer.
For a few years she worked as a researcher for Lega Tumori first in Alessandria and then in Genoa, where she moved with her husband and three children. She founded an association that dealt with issues of parenting and motherhood.
In 2015 she decided to move to England with her family, abandoning the profession and dedicating herself to writing her first novel 17 Planets - The Captain which was published in 2021 in Italian by a small publisher not specialized in science fiction.
Even as a young child I would conjure up stories with my imagination, sharing them with anyone who would listen. I ever had many friends, but I also enjoyed my own company and created a sort of bubble where I could daydream in my own personal world. Growing up I started wondering whether feeding my imagination was childish (and maybe a bit crazy), but it was too powerful to stop. Being a voracious reader allowed me to live in many different places and times in my mind. I ranged across multiple literary genres even though I always had a preference for science fiction and fantasy. It never even crossed my mind that one day I would be able to write a book out of the stories created by my own imagination. Only when I reached 45 years of age, I timidly confessed to my therapist (yes, psychologists do see psychologists to keep themselves mentally healthy!) about my unstoppable imagination so we started analysing the elements and structure of my stories as if they were dreams.
Once she told me "Sooner or later you'll have a story you want to write about..." and a few months later I started to create the main frame of the 17 Planets.
The British Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as "a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word, reading and spelling" and is characterized by "difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed".
From a practical point of view, people who are dyslexic manifest problems with reading and writing. They generally struggle to recognize words correctly, read long words, and read quickly. When writing they need more concentration as it is not an automatic process; they also tend to reverse some letters. They have difficulty spelling, learning new languages, and tend to be slower in both writing and reading.
On a personal level, of which I have no official confirmation, I have noticed that dyslexics often compensate for their deficits by developing remarkable visual memory and consistent creative abilities. Speaking of compensation, some think that on average dyslexics have a more developed intelligence than average because of the need to find strategies to get around the problem.
However the problems of dyslexics are not limited to academic skills. The difficulties in focusing, concentrating and creating effective strategies are part of everyday life, transforming tasks considered simple by most into exhausting efforts. The tendency is to jump from one task to another without finishing any of them.
Growing up in a small town and in an era, the 70s and 80s, where dyslexia was practically unknown, my teachers considered me a smart girl but rated my efforts at school as lazy. Even I didn’t understand what was wrong with me, so I grew up believing that I was not particularly clever nor was I capable or worthy of being appreciated. The fact that I felt more dissonant was that I loved reading books, immersing myself in new worlds and lives that were not my own. Despite this being very hard work and finding the study of cold and sterile subjects extremely difficult, that was what my imagination needed.
At the age of twenty, my first psychotherapist diagnosed me with dyslexia, also telling me that, having already learned to read and write, there were no other tools that they could teach me. This revelation was very important to me, but I still had no strategies either for studying or for everyday life. Eventually, and with a lot of effort, I managed to graduate in Psychology.
Writing was the hardest job for me. I used to make many errors (I still do), I swapped the letters of some words, concentrating required a great effort. So I never thought I would be able to write a book. And yet, when I started writing the first part of the storyline I had in my head, my imagination started to suggest what to write and I felt like Hughes’ The Thought Fox: "The window is starless, still; the clock ticks, the page is printed."
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