Today we have another amazing author joining us. Meredith Russo is the author of the incredible If I Was Your Girl, which has been named a Best Book of 2016 So Far by both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Meredith's an incredible author, and we're so glad she spent some time with us and answered all our questions about If I Was Your Girl.
If you haven't read it yet, go do it now! Seriously. What are you waiting for? It's been out since May! You can get your own copy here. Also, fair warning... the fifth question is a bit of a spoiler.
James: First off, that cover! Absolutely gorgeous! Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Meredith: I can! I was actually doing a meet and greet with Flatiron when the book was very first sold, and they asked me a question I never expected: how can we make trans people feel better about this book? Not that I thought that there was anything wrong with Flatiron, mind, even before I knew they were awesome I knew they were great-- it's just that I wasn't used to cis people thinking on those terms. I was used to cis people thinking about trans stories in reflexively selfish terms: this is here to educate me, this is here to make me feel more open minded, that kind of thing, and I was used to those same audiences reacting with confusion or disinterest to art we make for ourselves that's meant for us, because if it's not for cis people they weren't interested. That was my experience anyway.
So to have a group of cis people ask me that question without being prompted was kind of relevatory, and I wasn't sure what to say, so I just sort of shrugged and mumbled, "Hire more trans people?" And they thought it was a good idea, so they did it, because Flatiron are frankly amazing! They went out, hired Kira Conley (the model on the cover), and sent me one of my favorite covers of all time. When you think of Amanda, you should picture Kira's face on that book, because it's perfect.
James: In a recent article on USA Today, you said that you wrote If I Was Your Girl because it was the story you needed yourself when you were younger. What did you mean by that?
Meredith: I mean that my youth was stolen from me by a culture that did its very best to hide the existence of trans people from me and, the few times evidence did slip through, to convince me that life as a trans woman was nothing but a horrifying, hilarious, disgusting tragedy. I grew up believing that trans women were one in a million freaks doomed to pain and death. I grew up believing that, all evidence to the contrary, I absolutely wasn't a trans woman because I was attracted to girls and I wasn't stamping my feet and insisting that I was a girl when I was little. I had a family who would have supported me. I went to a high school for the arts. I had every resource a little trans kid could have needed to be successful, but my ability to name and understand myself was mangled by a culture that hated me. That's what I mean with that comment. I want kids in the position I was in to read my book and recognize that trans lives are possible.
James: How much of Amanda's story is based on your own experience as a transgender woman?
Meredith: The descriptions of the way it feels? Things like hormones and dysphoria and anxiety over whether you're passing or not? Those are all me. The actual nuts and bolts details of her life, however, have nothing to do with me, and our lives really couldn't be more different.
James: What was your favorite scene to write?
Meredith: The scene at the lake where Grant and Amanda have their first kiss, absolutely.
James: What kind of future do you imagine for Amanda and Grant?
Meredith: Spoiler warning, obviously. I have three answers to this question, and in only one of them do they get married and stay together the rest of their lives. That one's my favorite though.
James: What do you hope trans readers will take away from Amanda's story?
Meredith: That you deserve love, that people will love you if you can work up the courage to let them in, that trans lives can be functional and happy, and that you're not alone.
James: What do you hope cis/straight readers will take away from Amanda's story?
Meredith: That we're human beings, man! I hope that doesn't seem flippant, but it's a thing! We're not, like...weird human shaped machines that exist to make you think about gender and get thrown around as political capital, we're people trying to make it through our day. We're authors anxious about our next project, we're waitresses with achy feet, we're teenage YA protagonists trying to navigate friends and a new boyfriend, just with a slightly different medical history from most people. We don't all want to be "normal", and normal's kind of pointless anyway, but we're all just human beings trying to navigate this big dumb planet and that more than anything is what I hope cis people take away.
James: Amanda's bravery is so inspiring that it's easy to forget that, in many ways, she's just a regular teenager trying to survive high school and find love. Would you rather your readers see Amanda as a hero or as a normal girl?
Meredith: I don't care for the word "normal", but the second one all the same. Nobody's normal! But, that being the case, I guess that still makes her normal.
James: How do you see young adult literature evolving over the next few years?
Meredith: I see it becoming more and more diverse, and that's such a good thing. Not just more diverse, though: I see more and more members of under-served minorities being allowed to tell our OWN stories, and that's really really exciting.
James: If I Was Your Girl is your debut novel. Can you tell us anything about what comes next?
Meredith: I can tell you a little! I'm working on another YA novel, a love story about a boy and a non-binary person who are born on the exact same day and destined for each other, and I'm working on an adult novel about two trans women who knew each other as children coming together as adults as they try to pick through the wreckage of their lives.
That's it for today's interview with Meredith. But if you have any questions for Meredith or want to let her know how If I Was Your Girl has impacted you, be sure to check out her website and reach out to her on Twitter. And be sure to come back again next week, when we'll be talking to another amazing author!