Lillie Lainoff on her debut, "One For All"
Lillie Lainoff released her debut, One For All, earlier this month. The YA novel is about a young disabled French girl, Tania de Batz, who gets sent to finishing school after her father's murder — except the school is less "finishing" and more "here's how to be a Musketeer."
The rollicking adventure that follows is sure to thrill fans of the original Three Musketeers as well as new readers. I had the chance to catch up with Lillie a few days before the book's Mar. 8, 2022 release, and discussed a range of topics, including her lifelong desire to be a writer.
"I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was five years old," Lillie said. "Probably before I knew what the term author was, I knew that I wanted to be the person who created the stories and the books that I read and that were read to me."
She remembers walking around with both book and notebook in her youth, ready to read or write whatever story caught her fancy.
Part of Lillie's inspiration for One For All came from a desire to write a group cast where the main cast is primarily made up on young women. Most of the group ensemble books she's read, or read growing up, had more male characters than female ones at their center.
"I wanted to have this book where girls were super supportive of each other, because we don’t get enough of that especially as teenagers," Lillie said. "We see a lot of movies where girls are mean."
Tania, the book's protagonist, has a disability that while not necessarily named as such in the book, is a 17th-century experience of POTS, which Lillie also has. One key element of the book was how she's been treated in the past because of her illness, and how her new crew treat her.
"The different ways they make life more accessible for Tania and her world more accessible," Lillie pointed out as something that was important to her to portray. "They don’t all interact in the same way, but they’re all helpful and make things more accessible in their own way."
Lillie's big dream for One For All is simply for the book to reach all the readers who need it, she said. She is especially hopeful that teenagers with POTS will find the book.
"I don’t want other teenagers to feel like I did and feel alone and not know that there’s this resource available to them," she said.
One aspect of the book that readers may not anticipate, based on the synopsis and promotional materials, is that there are hints at a friendship break-up. Lillie spoke to why that was important to include, and how so often disabled people are left behind by their abled friends when life — and accommodations — become too "difficult."
"The way that society perpetuates ableism and it’s really difficult as somebody who isn’t chronically ill or disabled to undo all the ableism that they’ve learned from society without being prompted to or having the resources — which is one of the reasons why it’s so important for books like One For All to be read widely and not just by chronically ill readers & disabled readers," Lillie said. "You have to do a lot of unpacking of your own internalized prejudices. It’s an important thing for them to read too."
Ultimately, this book is by an author with POTS, about a character with POTS, and meant to give representation to readers with POTS, but Lillie pointed out that disability, like anything, is not a one-size-fits-all identity. "I know that having POTS, there’s such a wide vast variety of experiences with POTS — Tania’s experience cannot reflect every person with POTS’ experience but I do really hope that readers are able to take what they need from this book," Lillie said. "Tania’s not mine anymore, she belongs to everyone else now."