I’m super pleased to shine the spotlight on debut YA author I.W. Gregorio and her outstanding novel None of the Above. Stayed tuned below for a chance to win a copy!
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (Balzer & Bray/2015)
What I thought would be a mostly “issue-driven” story, turned out to be exactly the kind of story I adore. Krissy Lattimore, a senior in high school, is a star hurdler with a college scholarship, two best friends, and the best boyfriend ever. But when she decides to lose her virginity, Krissy is in such pain that she has to stop. After a visit to an ob-gyn, she learns she is intersex – while female, is lacking female reproductive parts and has some male parts. She is both horrified and scared. After telling her best friend, the news immediately gets out to her school. Krissy is subjected to some horrid bullying. She refuses to go back to school and is filled with confusion about who, or what she is. With the support of her father, aunt, and some surprising friends, Krissy slowly starts to come to terms with herself. A deeply layered story of love and self-acceptance that will resonate with every reader.
Spotlight on I.W. Gregorio:
Please tell us about your journey from the spark of the idea for Krissy’s story to publication.
When I started seriously writing YA, I had a lot of ideas running through my head. After my first attempt at a novel (which was, no surprise, a thinly veiled autobiographical novel), I brainstormed a lot about stories that I was uniquely qualified to tell, and struck on the idea of writing a YA Middlesex.
The idea percolated in my head for a while, not really taking form until my first experience with an intersex teen during residency (you can read about it in all the gory details here). That encounter, and the timing of the Caster Semenya track scandal, are what really inspired me to come up with a character and a plot.
It took me a long time to actually write NotA – residency and children and all – but when I was done I had a lot of great feedback – but unfortunately realized based on a lot of that feedback that I had to switch the story from dual narrative to single POV, which pushed my timeline back a bit. Once I got Kristin’s voice down though, I landed an agent fairly quickly, and I had a deal within a month with a dream editor.
One of the nicest surprises about this book, for me, was that while much of it dealt with Krissy’s diagnosis of being intersex, it is not what I’d call an “issue book.” This is very much a story about love and self-acceptance. I am a sucker for romance – so please tell me a little about how this part developed in the storyline. Without giving anything away, what were the challenges and joys to developing Krissy’s love interest/s?
The main challenge that I had from day one was that I had to really think about what teenage boy would be mature enough, and empathetic enough, to date an intersex girl. Because let’s be honest, a lot of teenagers are insecure and uncomfortable with anything outside the norm. What kind of kid wouldn’t blink if his girlfriend had testes?
So Darren was born, and I had such a good time writing him (he was originally a POV character and almost universally everyone liked his parts better). I wanted him to be geeky, but also funny, and for him to have his own insecurities. Because I always envisioned Kristin as an everygirl, a girl-next-door, I deliberately didn’t push her character too far, didn’t take too many risks with her voice. With Darren, though, I could cut loose.
You are a surgeon by day and an author by night – plus a founding member of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, as well as a wife and mother. How do you find the time and energy to do it all? How do you manage your time?
I honestly don’t know any more! To tell the truth, I had my second child the day after I got my book deal, so I really don’t know what it’s like to write a book with two children! The biggest challenge lately has been finding time to balance promotion and writing. Because you really have to be in the right head space, and also have time for the characters to breathe.
The keys I’ve found in the past, however, have been to just carve out an hour or two every day and get the butt in the chair. For me, that time was pretty much from 9pm to 11pm. Luckily I have a husband who is a creator himself (he’s a musician), so I don’t get any sad puppy eyes when I can’t spend time with him at night!
I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer & Bray / HarperCollins), which is a Spring 2015 Publishers Weekly Flying Start and a Capitol Choices Nominee. She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
Here’s a link to the Epic Reads book club guide.
For a chance to win a copy of this book, for yourself, a friend or child, or a library/school, just follow the directions below.
1. Comment on this post by Saturday September 5th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, September 8th.
2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.
Thank you and good luck!