For this edition of Ask the Author I decided to contact the amazing Meredith Russo, author of If I Was Your Girl, to ask if she'd be interested in doing an interview with me. She was. I sent her my Q's and received amazing A's from her, which you can all find below. I cannot wait to get my hands in If I Was Your Girl, even more after having the chance to talk to Meredeith, and discovering that she feels the same way about the My Chemical Romance breakup as I do, so can May please hurry up a little?
Anyways, here is her book and her wonderful A's to my Q's:
Expected Publication: May 3rd 2016 by Flatiron Books
Number of Pages: 272 Pages (Hardcover)
A big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. She's determined not to get too close to anyone.
But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can't help but start to let him in. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself--including her past. But Amanda's terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won't be able to see past it.
Because the secret that Amanda's been keeping? It's that she used to be Andrew.
Will the truth cost Amanda her new life--and her new love?
If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different--and a love story that everyone will root for. (goodreads.com)
Interview with Meredith Russo
1 - Describe If I Was Your Girl with a haiku.
A girl with a past
Who wants to have a future
Gives it her best shot
2 - What inspired you to write a story about a transgender girl?
There aren’t very many stories about trans women or trans girls, and the novels that do exist, at least the ones written by cis people, aren’t necessarily very comforting to trans kids who might read them, so I wanted to write something for a trans teen who’s looking for themselves in what they read, something that tells them they can maybe be happy and have a future that, while complicated, won’t necessarily be tragic.
3 - How much research did you do on transgender and the life transgender people face on a daily basis? And did you, at some point during research, feel discouraged or anxious in terms of writing about it, or rather incorporating it into your story?
Not much really, at least not that aspect of the story. I am trans, so I already know what gender dysphoria, transitioning, and post-transition are like. I do live in a city though, and I didn’t have to go to high school in a small town like Amanda does in the story, so I interviewed some other trans people who went through that to make sure I was doing it right. Me being trans is another huge reason I wanted to write this novel: there are, so far as I’m aware, no mainstream YA novels about trans girls written by an actual trans woman, which is something I wanted to correct. So no, I never really had to deal with the feeling that I was getting anything wrong and the anxiety that comes from that.
4 - As I’ve mentioned plenty of times already on my blog, I think books that tackle hard topics are immensely important, and seeing as you wrote a story that does so, I believe you think the same. How important do you think is it for authors to do it in YA literature and do you think it’s a good way to make young people think about these things and discuss them?
I think books about diverse characters, whether the diversity is neurodivergence, race, gender, sexual orientation, whatever, are really important, but I think educating readers is a fringe benefit. More than raising awareness of these issues, I think these books are important for kids and adults going through the same issues because they help them feel less alone, help them contextualize their lives and their pain in a way that makes them feel less alone and maybe even gives them hope. The example I always come back to is Perks of Being a Wallflower which, while I’m sure it helped people become aware of things like mental illness, gay kids, sexual assault, and bullying, was so important for me and so many of my friends who were going through the issues dealt with in that book. So I think diversity is important for those reasons, but also because homogeneity is boring, and reading stories about nothing but white, straight, cis, largely neurotypical characters gets boring after a while.
5 – What, besides the obvious, makes Amanda stand out in the sea of female contemporary main characters?
She’s dealt with bullying. Mental illness has played as big a part in her life as being trans-- she has an anxiety disorder and she tried to kill herself a few years before the beginning of the novel. She’s a closet nerd, a holdover from the days when she didn’t want to live as a boy so she spent all her time in her room. If you’re curious, her favorite anime is Sailor Moon and her favorite video game is Final Fantasy 10.
6 - How long did it take you from first thought until publishing deal? Out of curiosity, how many queries did you have to send until you found 'the one'?
About a year and a half, I think. Take that with a grain of salt though, because my memory is the worst. I never actually wrote any query letters though! I work with a book packager, which kind of changes how the process works in a lot of ways.
7 - How do you feel about the fact that in only a few more months thousands of readers will be able to hold and read your debut novel?
Absolutely mortified. I have faith in my work, and the reviews from the advance copies have been really good, but writers are neurotic people and I can’t ever shake the idea that everybody is going to hate me, the trans community is going to reject me for representing us poorly, and the book will be a huge flop. Hopefully not though!
8 - While writing the story did you ever imagine how a cover might look like and what do you think about the absolutely gorgeous final version?
I had no idea! I told my publisher I wanted either a trans model or a trans artist because I wanted to keep trans people involved at every possible step, but I really wasn’t prepared for the absolutely stunningly gorgeous Kira Conley’s involvement. And then there’s the UK cover, which I only just saw: it’s art instead of a photograph, but I think it’s just wonderful as well.
9 - Did you listen to any particular songs or artists while writing If I Was Your Girl? If so, could you give us an example?
I listened to a lot of The Magnetic Fields, specifically All My Little Words and The Book of Love, which is technically a cover but I like their version better. I also listened My Chemical Romance (I’m still not over them breaking up!) with a focus on Danger Days, not because it’s my favorite album but because it’s the most energetic and it kept me up on the long nights. My favorite songs on that album are Na na na na (is that the correct number of na’s? I’m not sure), Party Poison, and Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back.
I think my main inspiration was The Mountain Goats, because John Darnielle is maybe my favorite person in the world after my kids and my girlfriend. I listened to way too many of their songs to mention so I’ll just say my favorite albums are Tallahassee, All Eternals Deck, and Heretic Pride, and all three of those got a lot of play. Against Me! was another huge inspiration because of Transgender Dysphoria Blues (my faves are the eponymous track and True Trans Soul Rebel, but I can’t listen to it too much because it kind of hits too close to home). And, finally, I listened to People That Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World, which is one of my favorite albums of all time, and my favorite songs off it are Brave as a Noun and Survival Song. I just realized this is my longest answer of all, which should tell you a lot about my writing process.
10 – What advice could you give aspiring authors?
Write fanfiction, write a blog, write articles, write in a journal, write short stories, write essays, write as much of any idea for a novel as you can, because it doesn’t matter what you’re writing as long as you are writing. Also, and this is important, don’t turn down paying work, even if it’s not something you necessarily want to write. Patton Oswalt, one of my favorite comedians, speaks at length about how you do the paying work to give yourself room to do the work that inspires you, and I think that’s hugely important.
11 – If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Invisibility, for a few reasons. The first is so I could commit lots of crimes and get away with it, because I’m honest with myself. The second is that I’ve always been kind of a wallflower, and being invisible would make it easier to just walk among people and see them as they really are when they’re not worried about being judged or observed. The third is that you don’t have to worry about passing when you’re invisible, though I guess I could have just gone with shapeshifting instead.
About the Author
MEREDITH RUSSO was born, raised, and lives in Tennessee. She started living as her true self in late 2013 and never looked back. If I Was Your Girl was partially inspired by her experiences as a trans woman. Like Amanda, Meredith is a gigantic nerd who spends a lot of her time obsessing over video games and Star Wars.
If I Was Your Girl is her debut novel, but definitely not her last. When she's not busy writing she can be found reblogging pictures of cats and babies, reading high literature (and definitely not fanfiction and fantasy novels), arguing with strangers about social justice, and, of course, raising her two amazing children, Vivian and Darwin.
You definitely, absolutely should not be shy about contacting her, even if it's just to talk. She's always open to new opportunities and chances to speak with new people.
Check out her website and twitter, @Mer_Squared!