Name Lianne Simon
Age Middle Sixties
Where are you from
I was born in northern Illinois. My father’s parents were dairy farmers. He was an engineer, my mother a nurse.
Mom and Dad encouraged imagination and curiosity. Every time I asked them a question about how the world functioned, they bought me another book.
As a child, I was so tiny and frail that my parents worried about losing me. I have a genetic condition that resulted in delayed growth, a cute pixie face, and intersex—my body’s not entirely female or male.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The Chinese translation of my second novel, A Proper Young Lady, is in final editing and should be release later this year.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
In high school and college I avoided composition and literary arts classes. In grade school, I loved parsing sentences, but not writing.
My husband and I used to go out to Scottsdale every summer for a conference. In 2010, we took a day off and drove out through the desert to Tortilla Flat. The next morning, I woke with a desperate need to tell a story. My loving and patient husband let me quit my six-figure income career to learn writing.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It’s a process, isn’t it? I try to encourage new authors to be patient while learning the craft. And you learn how to write by doing so and by accepting often painful feedback.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
They say you should write what you know. So the main character in my first Young Adult novel is a rather immature intersex teen. Part of her childhood she spent as a girl, part trying to be a boy to please her parents. Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite is a deeply emotional book that is based in part on my own childhood. It also has strong fantasy elements.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing tends toward literary. I find that I need to internalize the characters and be them in order to write from their point of view. The result is usually descriptive and emotional.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The initial title of my first novel was Faie. That’s an Old English word meaning enchanted. Due to her small size and pixie face, the main character often imagines herself half elf. But the trouble with that title is you have to explain it. So I changed it to Growing Up Intersex, which is more to the point. But then not many agents seemed to care about intersex or know what it was. In frustration, I changed the title to Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite. A poke in the eye, if you will. I got three offers for the book then. That title’s a bit tongue in cheek, so I asked the publisher to change it back to one of the other two. But they liked Confessions, so that’s what we went with.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My novels address issues faced by intersex teens, and really by anyone who feels like an outsider. They’re coming-of-age tales with happy-for-now romantic endings.
The main characters in my novel also tend to explore the boundaries of gender and sexuality. After all, what does it mean to be a boy or a girl, straight or gay, when you body’s between the sexes?
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
So far, the characters in my books have all been composites based on people I’ve known. I have a number of intersex friends with whom I exchange tales from our childhood.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
The books that I read as a child. A Little Princess. The Magic Garden. Pollyanna. The Boxcar Children. I’ve read extensively in Fantasy and Science Fiction, but it was the orphan girl novels that touched my heart.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m not sure that either would consider themselves new, but Neal Stephenson and Brandon Sanderson are two recent favorites. They excel at taking an idea and building a complete world from it.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Shortly after I’d finished what I naively assumed was the final draft for my first novel, I was called for jury duty. While waiting for a case, I hung out in the break room. Rather than eat by myself, I walked over to a woman who was sitting alone and asked if I could share her table. That’s how I met my critique partner. “Oh, you’re an author? So am I!”
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It has been an obsession. Writing is cathartic. It’s taken hours and hours of my time. I think I write well enough. But I’m horrible at self promotion. I hate sales. And I don’t care that much about money. So I love writing, but don’t wish to get into sales or advertising.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes. Always. My editor finally told me to stop making changes. Fortunately, I’m writing another novel, so there’s plenty of opportunity for imagination to roam.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My mother taught me to read when I was young. For me it was a way to escape the unpleasant times and to let my imagination lead. As a writer, I have more flexibility, because I have more control over the characters. But it was the desire totell a specific story that led me to write.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Anya is the story of identical twins. One was adopted out as a toddler. At sixteen, the other is in foster care. When they meet, they decide that they’d like to switch places, just for a day or two.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
When I write, it has to flow from the heart, or it’s not going to happen. So I need to be immersed, which takes time. Since I’m no good at outlining or writing a synopsis, I have to go with what the characters want to do. And that can lead to dead ends.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No. But I’ve lived in at least seventeen states, so I don’t have much trouble writing about other places.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I did, with a great deal of help from consultants. My day job involves computers, graphics, and desktop publishing.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Transparency and vulnerability. It’s one thing to know, in theory, that intersex exists. It’s quite another to sit across the table from someone who is intersex. It was difficult for me to admit that so much of my first book was based on my own childhood. Part way through the process, my publisher’s editor said, “This is you, isn’t it? You’re intersex.” Um, yeah.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
The last thing I did to complete the first draft for Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite was to write a prologue. The rest of the book was written in third person, with several different points of view. The prologue was written in first person, and it was the first time my writing had flowed easily. When I sent the manuscript to my editor, he wrote back with a suggestion. He said that the prologue set a standard that the rest of my book didn’t meet. So I needed to go back and rewrite the rest of the book, doing whatever it was I’d done when I wrote the prologue. That’s when I learned how helpful it was to internalize the character and let it bleed out of me naturally.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
For my second novel, A Proper Young Lady, probably Emilie de Ravin for Daniele and Natalya Rudakova for Melanie.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t give up, but take the time to learn how to write. I had at least a dozen drafts of my first novel before it was ready. A few of those were complete rewrites.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I’m happy to hear from them. Really. liannesimon at yahoo dot com.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Ha! I can’t say because it’s for a contest that I’m a judge for. Sorry.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I had a wonderful multi-volume set called My Book House that started out with nursery rhymes and went through folk tales from several countries. And it had lots of pictures!
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I tend to cry for joy more than for sadness. My husband suffered a head injury and spent a month in the hospital. While he remained in an induced coma, and I didn’t know whether or not he’d survive, my emotions were frozen. He survived and mostly recovered. A year later, Facebook reminded me of the event by posting a photo of him in the hospital. That’s when I cried.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I spent nearly a decade answering inquiries on behalf of a support group for the parents of children with Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis—kids who are born with one testis, one ovary, and ambiguous genitals. Every last one of the parents I met were awesome.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
In the arms of a merciful Savior. Because I understand that I have nothing that merits the love of God.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy walking. I’m terrified of public speaking, but do it anyway.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I used to say that I haven’t watched television since the X Files. But then they brought it back for a short time. I could be talked into watching David Tennant as Dr. Who.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Lamb. Oats. Nuts. British Racing Green. Newsboys.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
A pilot of a small airplane, perhaps doing aerobatics.