As I was reading I.W. Gregorio’s debut novel, None of the Above, back in June, I found myself wanting to know more about her. I was loving how informative None of the Above was, and I read from her author blurb that she was a surgeon. I was lead to her website, which has a plethora of knowledge about both herself and more information about intersex. I knew I had to interview her. Luckily, she agreed.
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). She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News and Journal of General Internal Medicine. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
1. Your medical background shows through in how informative None of the Above is. I learned a lot when reading, while still finding the fiction elements engaging. How did you balance the educational elements with the fictional narrative?
This was extremely tricky to navigate for sure. In general, I like translating medical issue for laypeople – it’s so fun to think of the perfect metaphor to use to describe something that is somewhat abstract. However, because it’s so easy for me to be immune to “doctor speak”, I also relied heavily on beta readers (I specifically asked them to identify areas that were too esoteric) – and on my amazing editors, of course.
Interestingly enough, I think enough people were fascinated enough about intersex that most people wanted more. People have a spectrum of tolerance for info-dumping, of course, so I knew I couldn’t please everyone. But I think in the end no one was deterred from reading the book because of the “educational” aspect.
2. Many reviews have said that None of the Above speaks the truth of living as intersex, even though you yourself are not an intersex individual. What did you do/ who did you work with to ensure that the story remained genuine?
I spoke with many, many people within the intersex community. Last year I even went to their national support group meeting, with 200 intersex people/activists, and spent a lot of time listening. I had intersex individuals read the manuscript at all points of the journey – before I even sent it out to agents, after it was acquired, and after editorial revisions and even after copyediting. I was implementing their suggestions as late as second pass pages! And I remain forever grateful for every single comment.
3. None of the Above has already had a big impact on so many readers. What has been your favorite experience with a reader/fan thus far?
Someone asked me this question a month ago, and I would say that the highlight of my publication pathway so far was when I got the e-mail from National Book Award Winner Jacqueline Woodson saying she couldn’t put it down (we had asked her to provide a blurb, and I was on pins and needles for weeks).
But more recently, I got an even better reaction from a 13-year-old intersex girl, who told me that I was her new favorite author and that reading None of the Above inspired her to reach out to the AIS-DSD support group. I almost cried. That’s what it’s all about, folks.
4. I’m always on the lookout for LGBTQ+ fiction, and I have found more gay male coming out stories than stories involving characters falling elsewhere on the spectrum. What are some other LGBTQ+ reads you would recommend to readers who enjoyed None of the Above?
Robin Talley’s Lies We Tell Ourselves
Alex Gino’s George
Kristin Elizabeth Clark’s Freakboy
I also have an advance galley of Jeff Garvin’s Symptoms of Being Human that I’m DYING to read!
5. Lastly, what are you currently working on?
A contemporary YA book that cannibalizes my first (unpublished) book with an Asian American main character 🙂
Thank you so much Ilene for joining me on my blog!
I adored this book, and I feel that it is so important when it comes to representation, so I wanted to provide you with an opportunity to win a copy of your own!
This giveaway is international (as long as Book Depository ships to your country). It will run from July 27th to August 15th. A winner will be chosen randomly through Rafflecopter. This giveaway is NOT sponsored, and I will be purchasing the book with my own money. You must be 18 years old to enter or have permission from a legal guardian.