Abigail (Abby) Thornton is an intellectually disabled young woman, suffering from an undiagnosed psychiatric condition. She was abused while residing in several foster placements before she found her way to Greenway Developmental Center. There, she got haunted by the abuse she experienced before. She suffered hallucinations that caused more harm to her and the people around her. Her life at Greenway became a rollercoaster ride as it escalated from fire to murder to strangulation. Sally McGraw, Abby’s psychologist, went in as her advocate and defender when a court case lingered. Along with Sally was a social worker, Christine Connelly, who helped her take legal action against the State of Virginia for failing to provide her with the placement she needed.

The book Laughter at Dawn focuses on the injustice toward intellectually disabled individuals like Abby, political power plays, and sexual indiscretions of the staff. Laughter at Dawn author, Jo Ellen Capps, talks about the book’s theme in a radio interview with Kate Delaney on America Tonight.

Motivation is a Driving Force for Creating a Masterpiece

Jo Ellen Capps graduated from college in 1979. She had been writing short stories and was even in an international literary competition. A week after graduation, she went on to work at a facility for the intellectually disabled. She stayed there for years and loved her stay, but it did not meet her needs as she wanted more out of life.

I wanted to do more work,” Capps said as she sat down with Kate Delaney.  “I was used to work hard out of college, and I came out prepared to work hard. And this job did not allow me to excel. So, I was trying to think of, you know, another way to excel,” she added.

Capps was told that she had a “knack for writing,” so she started writing the novel that was inspired by her job at the facility. The book was published in 2013.

The Inspiration Behind the Character

Capps shared more about the book and the story arc of the main character, Abby. She added that she uses different personalities from different people and put them all in one character. With that, the story still has the ring of truth at different points.”

The author then proceeded to talk about how the character struggled with abuse and was put into a facility as the people around her observed signs of her psychiatric condition.

Mental Health Awareness

Jo Ellen Capps commented that people need to pay a little bit more attention to mental health issues, especially to the intellectually disabled population. She also added that it is difficult to know the types of medication the person is taking.

 Capps then proceeded to compare a scenario from the book that points out the truth about people’s attitudes toward the intellectually disabled. “If there’s the intellectually disabled, they don’t say mental health facility or psychiatric hospital, and that’s where the problem came in,” she explained.

Readers can get hold of a copy of Laughter at Dawn by Jo Ellen Capps on Amazon.

Get to know more about the author and her other works at www.joellenlayne.com.