First of all, I must apologize for my absence here this morning. I have been overwhelmed and amazed by the success of Curious Incident. One of the very few downsides to this success is that publicity for the book has completely taken over my life for the past eighteen months, and I have been forced to say a polite "no" to many invitations recently to save my sanity, to make sure I get another book written, and so that I get to spend some time with my patient but long-suffering wife and two small boys.
Secondly, thank you very much indeed to the jury for giving this award to Curious Incident. I am hugely flattered.
Thirdly, I never set out to write a novel about a teenage boy with a disability. I simply set out to write a good novel. Indeed, I simply set out to write the first page of a novel which would grip readers and make them want to know more. Hence the dead dog impaled on a garden fork. I then realized that the scene, with apologies to any dog lovers in the audience, was funnier and more intriguing if it was described in a totally deadpan voice. I started using this voice and fell in love with it. Only then did I begin to wonder who the voice belonged to.
Christopher appears in the novel not because I had an axe to grind or a point to make. He appears in the novel because he simply came into my head at the right time, perfectly equipped to solve a problem, just as all characters do. And if Curious Incident works, it works, I think, for precisely this reason, that it is not a novel specifically about disability. It is a novel about family breakdown and the magic of books, a novel about prime numbers and astronomy and chaos, about maps and dogs and trains. As a very wise friend of mine said, "It isn’t a novel about someone with Asperger’s, is it? It’s a novel about a young mathematician with a few behavioural issues." Indeed, many readers reach the final page of the book and realize that it is the other main characters in the novel who are wrestling with major disabilities and not Christopher.
So whilst I am very grateful to the Division on Developmental and the Special Needs Project for this prize, I would also like to look forward to a time in the not-too-distant future when such prizes seemed outdated and unnecessary, when children with learning difficulties of all kinds are as much a part of our society as children with red hair or children who play the clarinet and readers do not even notice when a book contains a character with learning difficulties because such books are as common as rain.