Today’s interview is with author Lianne Simon. She and her husband live in Suwanee in the US state of Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. Her debut novel is Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite.
Tell me about the book. What inspired you to write it? What has the response been like?
My husband and I were in Phoenix two years ago. The last morning there, I woke with anorexia and a desperate need to tell a story. After dropping thirty pounds, my weight stabilized. With my husband’s encouragement, I abandoned my six-figure-salary career to write about some intersex kid’s gender issues.
I had already spent more than ten years answering inquiries on behalf of a support group for the parents of children born between the sexes. Along the way I’d met several intersex adults and listened to their tales of the issues they faced growing up. But to make Jamie’s story authentic, I had to share from the heart of an intersex child as though it were my own.
Jamie was born with a pixie face and a sexually ambiguous body. Although doctors put male on Jamie’s birth certificate, it quickly became apparent that she considered herself female. Her parents allowed her to live as a girl until authorities discovered that the nine-year-old boy Jameson was being illegally home schooled. Rather than send Jamie to public school as a boy, the family moved to a district that would allow them to continue to home school under close supervision. But Jamie had to live as a boy until her parents could locate a physician willing to help correct her birth certificate.
The child in the photo is nine. He’s the same size as his six-year-old sister. He’s one of the people on whom the character Jamie is based.
At sixteen, the four-foot-eleven soprano leaves a sheltered home school environment for a boys’ dorm at college. His act has convinced his father that he’s happy as a boy. However, when a medical student tells Jamie he should have been raised female, Jamie discovers the life she could have as a girl. Will Jamie risk losing her family and her education for a boyfriend who may desert her or a toddler she may never be allowed to adopt?
I was told by agents that they had no idea how to market such a story, so I concentrated on smaller publishers. I eventually signed with MuseItUp Publishing because of their great reputation. They assigned me an amazing editor who is excited about my book.
Your website mentions your faith several times. How important is being a Christian to your writing, and are you worried about alienating people who don’t share your beliefs?
An author who encouraged me along the way asked me if I was ready for people to think I was writing about myself. Although Confessions is fiction, I found that the telling of Jamie’s story required sharing my heart at a depth that made me groan. Telling can quickly become preaching that turns people off. Faith in Christ is an integral part of me; it’s going to come out. Showing Jamie’s–showing my desperate need of my Savior may still offend a few, but I don’t think it will cause people to stop reading.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How long had you been writing before you began to take it seriously?
Seriously? I’m not sure how much ‘want’ has to do with it. Pouring your heart out on to paper is cathartic, but after the hundredth edit of the fifth draft, I wondered if I’d ever convey what I intended. My editor had to slap my hand, yank the manuscript away, and say, “You can stop now.”
Why did you decide to self publish? How has your experience been?
I’m taking a hybrid approach that seems to be working for me. MuseItUp Publishing does both e-book and print, but allows their authors to opt out of print. That really is gracious of them. Lea Schizas seems more interested in helping authors than in building an empire.
If you’re going to self-publish, be sure you find a good editor. The rest you can do yourself if you put your mind to it. If I can start a micro-publisher, format my document, and come up with a reasonable cover, I know you can.
What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?
I’m sure you’ve heard them all–write first, edit later–enter late, leave early–show, don’t tell–get right to the action/inciting incident.
But first of all, share so deeply that it hurts, so deeply that the story flows out like pure water from an artesian well. The story itself matters more than everything else.
Thanks for sharing with us. Hope your book does well.
Lianne Simon describes herself as a housewife trying to learn to write, and trying to help the kids she loves. They say you write about what you know. Lianne is a Christian who has some knowledge of intersex conditions and how they affect people, which led her to write her debut novel.