Today, we have Laura Lam! I’m really excited about this, because I LOVED Pantomime and cannot wait for Shadowplay. Here’s Laura talking about some things.
-How do you feel about the Micah/Gene intersexual being marketed as a plot twist?
This is a very tricky question. I will say I never wrote it intending it to be a plot twist. I can see both sides--some people have really enjoyed being surprised, not realising that two characters were one and the same, and I like that they had their preconceptions twisted like that. You thought Gene/Micah were going to be a couple? Nope. And though it's about the intersex experience of Gene/Micah, it's not really an "issue" book per se, thus why more emphasis was placed on the fantasy elements and circus in the marketing.
On the other hand, it makes it very difficult for people who want to read about an intersex person to find out about it, and I found it awkward keeping it secret at the start. I still now feel the urge to give a disclaimer, worrying I'm "ruining" it for people by revealing the "twist."
-How do you pronoun Micah/Gene?
I usually use "she" when the character is Gene and "he" when the character's Micah. I've tried various gender neutral pronouns (hir, zir, etc), and I'll use them sometimes, too. I don't mind at all what pronouns others use.
-What kind of research did you do regarding intersex?
I read a few books on the subject. I recommend "Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex" by Alice Domurat Dreger, which focuses on the history of intersex conditions and how in the 19th century people changed from displaying these anomalies to trying to "fix"them. I also read the memoirs of Herculine Barbin, an intersex individual in the 1800s who was raised female in a convent and later lived as a male. Herculine's story is very sad.
For a more modern context, I recommend "Intersex" by Catharine Harper and "Intersex: For Lack of a Better Word" by Thea Hillman. I also watched the documentaries "Me, My Sex, and I", "Gender Unknown" and a few others. I've watched interviews by Hida Viloria, an intersex writer and activist. I researched a lot on the internet. I watched transition videos on Youtube (which is trans, not intersex, obviously, but I think there's some experience overlap), which are beautiful and inspiring. I still do a fair amount of research and keep up on intersex current events because I'm really passionate about it. I am against surgery on children too young to consent if there's no pressing medical need, I'd like countries to allow non-binary genders on official documents, and provide more protection against discrimination.
-Was there anything difficult about writing an intersex main character?
I am very aware that, as a cisgendered woman, I'm an outsider looking in. I've tried to do my best to put myself in Micah's shoes, think about how he'd react to things, his confusion and desire for acceptance. I suppose the biggest difficulty was portraying and balancing both his masculine and his feminine sides.
-How did you decide who Micah would end up with-did you think about representation of bisexual characters?
I always knew who he'd end up with because that character was in the book I started before Pantomime, which had Micah as an adult of 27. I did want to make it clear that Micah's sexuality is different from his gender identity--he's attracted to both males and female, and he himself doesn't identify as solely male or female.
-How important do you
I think they've very important, especially for YA. It's important to reflect our society accurately, and there are intersex and people from all shades of the LGBTQIA. To marginalise them for YA, or SFF, or fiction, is a disservice. Teenage years are when people are discovering their gender identity or sexuality, and reading fiction can sometimes help them work through their thoughts and feelings. They even call this "bibliotherapy." So to sweep different experiences under the rug makes it seem like something that should be shameful rather than celebrated.
So far, there's been no homophobic outcry in response to Pantomime, and I think that's surprised some people. Though I might have gone and jinxed myself now by saying that. In fact, the only controversy has been some people wishing the blurb was more open about the intersex nature of the protagonist. I think that's great.
-Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Thank you for having me and thanks to everyone for reading :-)
If these great answers don’t make you want to read Pantomime straight away, stay tuned for Lisa and Leo talkinga bout why they loved Pantomime.