Molly Reviews and Interview: A Proper Young Lady by Lianne Simon

A woman with the complete form of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome might never discover that she has testes in her abdomen rather than ovaries and uterus. Danièle knows, and she grieves that she can never have her own children. She has a partial form of AIS that left her with ambiguous genitals, a steady stream of doctors and psychologists, and parents determined to see her happy as a girl.

After Danièle’s best friend and childhood crush agrees to have a baby for her, Danièle learns that the clinic can extract sperm from her own gonadal biopsies, and she becomes the father of Melanie’s baby herself.

Ethan adores the graceful young woman named Danièle, while Melanie imagines a life with the father of her child. Danièle? She’s happy with her intersex body—somewhere between princess and little boy. But in a black and white world, she must choose—once and for all—who she will be. And whom she will love.

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This story had so much potential. The overall story about Danièle’s journey with Melanie was interesting. However there just wasn’t the story development there could have been. There wasn’t much background for the characters and there were times when it would have helped. The emotions felt like they were missing and there was very little showing throughout the book. Almost completely all telling. Many times there wasn’t any logic for how the characters were acting.
I wasn’t a fan of Melanie for most of the story. She was supposed to be Dani’s best friend and champion but was constantly giving mixed signals. She accepts Dani the way she is but not really since she won’t date a girl. She’ll get physical with Dani but only wants the masculine Daniel to marry. She also came across as unfeeling for much of the book.
Dani is constantly making decisions based on what other people expect of her or her idea of what society says a woman should be. All of the things she’s told to do and be are just stereotypes and she follows along blindly without ever really saying what she wants. I loved that she finally stuck up for herself at the end and got what she ultimately wanted for her life. I did find it interesting how Dani describes the behavior of healthcare professionals and society affect those that are intersex. It was sad to read, but sadder still to realize it’s the truth for how many are still treated today.

Molly: What music, if any do you listen to when you write?
Lianne: If I’m editing, I’ll usually listen to a mix that’s mostly the Newsboys (a Christian pop rock band).

Silence is often best if I’m trying to work out an issue with the plot. My cat intervenes then, of course. Skye has an uncanny ability to detect when I’m making progress and knows how to put a stop to it.
Molly: Are you a full time writer, or part time writer?
Lianne: At the moment, part time, though I’ve been both.
Molly: Do you hope to one day be a full time writer?
Lianne: I would love to be full time again. There’s nothing like being immersed in a new story.

My mother taught me to read and encouraged my imagination, but the need to write came upon me rather suddenly. I woke up one morning with a story to tell, and within a few weeks that became such an obsession that I gave up a six-figure salary job. Indeed, I thought I’d never return to my first career.

My second novel was nearing completion when I was offered a job in Tennessee. Since my husband had been out of work for almost a year, we really had no choice but for me to return to a full-time corporate gig.
Molly: Do you have a word count per day you try to hit?
Lianne: Most days I’m happy with a paragraph or two, if they’re solid.

My books start out as a concept or a theme, usually some aspect of the intersex experience. The main characters are composites, their personalities borrowed from people I’ve know over the years. I add conflict—in addition to the issues faced being intersex or loving someone who is—and see how my characters react. But too often, I jump into writing before the plot settles.
Molly: When you finish writing a book, how long before you begin writing the next one?
Lianne: There always comes a time when I need distance from my work—a few months away from a book—in order to see things from a new perspective. I find that working on something else helps. So I have a Fantasy in progress that I put on the shelf while I finished A Proper Young Lady.

About Lianne:
Lianne Simon’s father was a dairy farmer and an engineer, her mother a nurse. She grew up in a home filled with love and good books.

Tiny and frail, Lianne struggled physically, but excelled at her studies. In 1970, she was awarded a scholarship to the University of Miami, from which she graduated in 1973. Fond memories of her time there remain with her.

Some years later, after living in several states, and spending time abroad, Lianne settled in to the suburbs north of Atlanta, where she now lives with her husband and their cat.

While seeking answers to her own genetic anomalies, Lianne met a family whose daughter was born with one testis and one ovary. As a result of that encounter, she spent more than a decade answering inquiries on behalf of a support group for the parents of such children.

Lianne hopes that writing this book will, in some small way, contribute to the welfare of children born between the sexes.

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