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'Non-autistic people would find it just as challenging to talk in my way as I do in theirs'

Casual conversation doesn't come easy, but with writing at least there is no immediate pressure to pick a course, writes Naoise Dolan

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'Intimate world': Naoise Dolan chose a compact setting for 
her debut novel

'Intimate world': Naoise Dolan chose a compact setting for her debut novel

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

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'Intimate world': Naoise Dolan chose a compact setting for her debut novel

Novels taught me how to talk to people. I'm autistic, and when I'm conversing with non-autistics, I get overwhelmed. I'm too busy staying afloat to refine my technique. But when I sit down with a book, I take the words in, learn new phrases and pause to consider the characters' intentions. As a child, I thumbed through my dog-eared Potters and pored over the verbal back-and-forth between Harry, Ron and Hermione. I tried to follow these precedents around other children, learning the hard way that 'blimey' and 'prat' were not the lingua franca of Dublin playgrounds.

As an adult in my twenties I'm better at talking, but I still struggle in casual conversations.

I can get thrown even by something as simple as: "When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?" It's hardly the Tour de France of author questions, but when I'm put on the spot, I start mapping out potential meanings.