Hello, dear friends! I hope all is well and, if not, I hope brighter days head your way soon!
Today I have a very special post that I’m so excited to share with you! It’s an interview with Lillie Lainoff, debut author of One for All, an own voices retelling of The Three Musketeers starring a girl who’s chronically ill/disabled and has POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). Now, this book is so special to me, as I also have POTS! As far as publishers can tell, One for All is the first ever novel starring a main character with POTS!! And it’s a fantasy novel—can you believe it?!
And let me tell y’all: this book gets representation right in every way possibble! I’ve never felt so incredibly seen and understood while reading a book! Plus, it’s a super fun fantasy novel with endearing characters? I just…asfddjkhlkjjsdhkjagsdjgkbjkjb!!! I have no words!!!! I’m speechless, so here’s Lady Gaga to tell you all about it…
But enough about my word tangled ravings about how much I love this book. Let’s get on with the interview, which has been brought to you by Colored Pages Tours!
lillie lainoff interview
First and foremost, thank you for dropping by my little patch of internet today, it’s so lovely to have you! Before anything, can you give us a quick elevator pitch or logline for One For All?
Thank you so much for having me! ONE FOR ALL (or as I like to call it, sisterhood of the *stab stab*), is a gender-bent reimagining of The Three Musketeers, in which a girl with a chronic illness trains as a Musketeer and uncovers secrets, sisterhood, and self-love.
How did the story and the inspiration for One For All come to you?
I knew I wanted to write a book about fencing—choosing to reimagine The Three Musketeers felt natural. The Man in the Iron Mask was a movie we watched every summer at fencing camp and it had a huge impact on how I approach storytelling. In 2016/2017, when I first started writing One for All, there were very few current adaptations of TTM. And none of them reflected my experience as a fencer, what I loved about the sport and what it has given (and continues to give) me. So I knew it would be a good fit!
This book is so special to me, as a reader, because I’ve never seen myself, as someone who’s disabled/chronically ill—let alone someone who actually has POTS!—in anything other than contemporary fiction or nonfiction. At the same time, I recognize that representation isn’t a monolith and I’m sure you and I both know POTS has a wide variety of symptoms that vary in severity for each of us living with it and affect us in different ways. How do you craft a heroine who you feel can speak to all of us so well, without speaking for us all in every way possible?
First of all, thank you so much—I’m glad ONE FOR ALL can be that book/representation for you, and for other chronically ill and disabled readers (especially readers with POTS!) As to the second part of your question: this is actually something that’s been on my mind for years (while writing OFA, editing OFA, and the lead up to publication). As far as we know, OFA is the first book published by a traditional publisher with a main character with POTS syndrome. The added pressure of being a ‘first’, of feeling the need to represent every single person with POTS in Tania, is immense. POTSie readers (and chronically ill and disabled readers, for that matter), have had to wait for a long time to see themselves in the books they read. Early in the publication process, I felt like I had to make OFA everything to everyone. But that is impossible; as you said, the experience of POTS is not a monolith. I soon realized that the only way to write OFA was to have Tania’s experience of POTS mirror my own, as much as was possible for me to do so. And that authenticity I think is what resonates with readers. Her symptoms wane and strengthen depending on the day. A few of her symptoms are somewhat tolerable, others provide a constant struggle. She is fully realized; she is not a list of symptoms.
What was the most fun part of writing Tania’s story?
While the most emotional parts to write were Tania’s reflections on herself as a disabled girl in a world that isn’t very welcoming toward disabled girls, the most fun scenes to write by far were all the duel scenes! I finally got to use my 16+ years of competitive fencing experience in my writing—and what a joy it was! It also gave me the opportunity to write about what it’s like to fence with POTS; I’ve had opportunities to talk/write about what it’s like to be a disabled athlete in the abstract, but not many opportunities to talk/write about the concretes of the situation: how, for instance, Tania and I are forced to rely on the rhythms of the bout more than our sight, since dizziness wreaks havoc on depth perception (and vision in general). And I absolutely loved writing the final scene, showing how far Tania has come over the course of the novel.
If you had to give your characters aesthetics, what would they be?
Tania: that one toddler who spends the entire first day of school crying because they are lonely but REFUSES to ask the teacher for help/call home
Théa: looks cute, will stab
Aria: the human embodiment of a sword
Portia: the exhausted feminist mom friend who pretends to be apathetic but will destroy anyone who threatens her friends
If you could make a three song playlist for One For All, what songs would be on it?
I’m not sure I could give specific songs, but every song ever written/sung by Halsey and Ruelle? My specific ONE FOR ALL playlist that I listened to while writing was very pop-heavy (unlike what I usually listen to, both while writing and in general), and it’s strange to look back on those other songs and find that I don’t feel a strong connection with them anymore. OFA has changed so much since I started writing it.
If you can tell us, was there any scene you wrote that you really liked but that ultimately ended up being cut from the book?
Oh, this is such a good question! Two scenes immediately come to mind: the first was cut before I even sent the primary draft to my agent (the first draft was well over 130K.) It was a quiet scene with Tania and her mother doing embroidery together. There are lots of tense scenes in ONE FOR ALL, but some of my favorite scenes to write are quiet ones that really unpack character motivations and how characters interact with each other when they’re not threatened with a sword to their throat! The second scene was a spy scene that was cut during publisher edits: Tania was on a solo mission, aided by Henri, to find a list of names (that is as much as I can say about the scene since the rest is spoiler territory)—but my editor, Melissa Warten, was absolutely right in that I needed to compress the scene into another. I did a lot of that while editing OFA! The first draft (before it was sent to my agent) was approximately 130K (all these numbers are approximations), the draft I sent my agent was 112 K. Before sending it on submission to editors, around 30K words were cut and around 15K were added. And then, while editing, somewhere between 30 and 20K were cut and somewhere between 20 and 30K were added. Overall, that’s around 175K words written (and that doesn’t include rewrites of already existing scenes.) Like Tania, OFA underwent quite a transformation, largely due to its multiple subplots, and there are MANY deleted scenes that I have saved in my computer for future use. What will I use them for? Who knows…
What advice would you give fledgling writers, especially those of us who have chronic illnesses and/or disabilities?
You’ve probably heard the refrain “to be a writer, you must write everyday.” Ignore that. Ignore that, throw it in the garbage and set it on fire: gatekeeping the title of ‘writer’ benefits absolutely no one and the concept that someone has to write everyday to be considered a writer is inherently ableist, classist, etc. However, this is a refrain we hear a lot, which means that, even after telling yourself not to hold yourself to those standards, you might still feel like you need to. That is normal. Learning to forgive yourself is one of the most important parts of being a writer.
Something that’s been essential to my (and other disabled writers’) success is finding a group of disabled writers to be a part of. It doesn’t have to be large, it doesn’t have to be people you’ve met in real life… what matters is that you have a space to have conversations with other disabled writers about the specific obstacles and difficulties you face, as well as conversations about your successes! Nondisabled family and friends can be supportive, and so can nondisabled writers—but sometimes you need to talk to another writer who understands the frustration of setting aside time to write and then not having enough spoons, or having a migraine and not being able to look at your screen while typing, or what it feels like to receive an ableist rejection. Those disabled writers will be the ones who understand, fully, how exciting it is when you manage to write a paragraph despite being in the middle of a chronic illness flare, etc. I hope Disabled Kidlit Writers on FB can serve as that group for others, but, if you feel comfortable, it’s also great to have a smaller group chat of a few trusted disabled writer friends.
What do you hope readers take away from One For All?
That readers are worthy, just as they are. That needing help is not a weakness. And that everyone (including chronically ill/disabled girls) can be the heroes of their own stories.
all about one for all
Title: One For All
Author: Lillie Lainoff
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: March 8th, 2022
Genres: Young Adult historical fantasy
An OwnVoices, gender-bent retelling of The Three Musketeers, in which a girl with a chronic illness trains as a Musketeer and uncovers secrets, sisterhood, and self-love.
Tania de Batz is most herself with a sword in her hand. Everyone in town thinks her near-constant dizziness makes her weak, nothing but “a sick girl”; even her mother is desperate to marry her off for security. But Tania wants to be strong, independent, a fencer like her father—a former Musketeer and her greatest champion.
Then Papa is brutally, mysteriously murdered. His dying wish? For Tania to attend finishing school. But L’Académie des Mariées, Tania realizes, is no finishing school. It’s a secret training ground for a new kind of Musketeer: women who are socialites on the surface, but strap daggers under their skirts, seduce men into giving up dangerous secrets, and protect France from downfall. And they don’t shy away from a swordfight.
With her newfound sisters at her side, Tania feels for the first time like she has a purpose, like she belongs. But then she meets Étienne, her first target in uncovering a potential assassination plot. He’s kind, charming, and breathlessly attractive—and he might have information about what really happened to her father. Torn between duty and dizzying emotion, Tania will have to lean on her friends, listen to her own body, and decide where her loyalties lie…or risk losing everything she’s ever wanted.
This debut novel is a fierce, whirlwind adventure about the depth of found family, the strength that goes beyond the body, and the determination it takes to fight for what you love.
all about lillie lainoff
Lillie Lainoff received her B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing and distinction within the major from Yale University. She currently is studying for her MA in Creative Writing Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia.
Her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry has been featured in The LA Review, The Washington Post Outlook, Today’s Parent, via the Disability Visibility Project, Washington City Paper, and The Yale Daily News, amongst other places. She’s received recognition from Glimmer Train and The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and is the 2019 Winner of the LA Review Literary Award for Short Fiction. She was a featured Rooted in Rights disability activist, and is the founder of Disabled Kidlit Writers (FB).
As an undergraduate, Lillie was a member of Yale’s Varsity Fencing team. As a senior, she was one of the first physically disabled athletes to individually qualify for any NCAA Championship event, and helped her team to an end-of-season 10th place ranking by the National Coaches Poll. She still fences competitively and coaches. In 2017, she was named a recipient of the inaugural Spirit of Sport award by the US Fencing Association.
check out the rest of the tour stops!
Chronicallybookish – Review + Favorite Quotes
Reading Stewardess – Review + Playlist
Melancholic Blithe – Review + Mood Board
Kait Plus Books – Review + Favorite Quotes & Mood Board
Tinybooknest – Review + Favorite Quotes
Whimsical Dragonette – Review + Favorite Quotes
@thebrillianceofbookshelves – Review + Playlist
Djreadsbooks – Review + Favorite Quotes
Hardcover Haven – Review + Author Interview
Starred Pages – Review + Reading Vlog
LovelessDegrees – Review + Reading Vlog
Bohemian Bibliophile – Review + Favorite Quotes
Bujos_n_books – Review + Mood Board
Just Geeking By – Review + Review Only
Forever in a Story – Review + Book recommendations based on the book
Book Lover’s Book Reviews – Review + Reading Vlog
Mulberryreads – Review + Playlist
spill the beans, friends!
- Is One for All on your TBR?
- What are you looking forward to reading about in One for All?