The story is about a successful businesswoman who adopts two children from a Third-World orphanage and then discovers her new son has autism.
Renner shares similarities with the main character, Tori St. John, as she left a promising career in marketing when she and her husband Bruce decided to adopt a pair of siblings from Bulgaria nearly 15 years ago.
Her son Luke was about 2 years old at the time and her daughter Sophia was 5. Looking at a video of the children before adopting them, Renner said she could tell there was something different about Luke.
“I hoped and prayed that it was not autism,” she said. “I just didn’t feel like I was the type of person who could do a good job of [raising a special-needs child.]”
Luke was officially diagnosed with autism about a year after the adoption.
“In the beginning [of the novel] with the adoption, that is fairly autobiographical, but as it moves on, the story becomes more and more of a fictionalized composite of my life and little slices of the lives of a whole lot of other people and generous dollops of fiction,” Renner said.
One of the reasons she wrote the book was that she wanted to share that autism, and any special needs, can be a gift.
“I saw a lot of depression in the special needs community and a lot of hopelessness and I wanted to share that dreams can be reshaped and reborn and there are different realities to celebrate,” she said.
Renner said her family was enthusiastic about her writing the novel.
She dedicated the book to her mother, who had been pushing her to write a novel for years and often checked in on her progress while writing. It took her three years to write the story, another year to rewrite it and yet another year to find a publisher.
Renner said eventually she would like to pick up with the story and touch on aspects of raising special-needs children as they get older and go through puberty and teenage years to adulthood. Right now, she is three-quarters of the way through writing a different type of novel, which she describes as a light-hearted murder mystery.
Where to find it:
“Dancing From the Shadows” can be purchased from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and on D’Ann Renner’s website at www.dannrenner.com.