I came across a news article in 2007 about a young woman who was wrestling with the same decision as Rose--should she get tested for Huntington's or not. Her family didn't want her to take the test. Ultimately she did get tested, and learned that she had the mutation. I was really moved by the way she articulated how that knowledge affected her life choices, her aspirations for her future. It stuck with me, and almost six years later I started writing RULES.
How long did you work on RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES?
I started writing the draft in 2012, but I only wrote the very first page, and then I put it down for a year. When I picked it back up, I wrote the first draft in about 6 months. I revised for a few months after that, and then signed with my agent. We sold the book about 14 months after I started writing it in earnest. But like I said, I'd been percolating on the subject matter for almost six years before I even wrote down a word.
What do you hope readers will take away from RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES?
One of the questions I get a lot is, "Why is this such a hard decision? Isn't it obvious that you would rather know this information than not?" But the truth is, the vast majority of at-risk individuals don't choose to get tested for Huntington's. I think it's hard to put yourself in that position. The decision is much harder in reality than it is in the abstract, and I really wanted to explore that decision-making process and tell the story of someone who was grappling with it. I hope readers who haven't experienced something like this will come away with empathy for Rose and others in her situation. And I hope readers who do see themselves reflected in Rose's story will feel I've done some justice to their experiences, even though I could never capture every unique experience in one novel.
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
I have one other almost-finished manuscript in my files that will probably never see the light of day. It was a good exercise, though! I wasn't really able to write a novel that worked as a novel until I started taking workshops at Grub Street in Boston. I learned a ton about how to actually structure a book. And about plot! My first attempt at a novel didn't have much of that. Turns out, it's good for things to happen in a book.
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I usually write for about an hour in the morning before work. I work from home for a wonderful education non-profit, and not having a commute is awesome. I can just start my day with writing and then switch over to my work emails around 9 am. Sometimes I listen to music--usually when I'm in a good writing headspace and things are going well. When I'm struggling with something, I'll work in silence. I'm actually not much of a ritual person. I like to be flexible about my writing practice so I can fit it in around the rest of my life. So sometimes I'll write at night if I don't have time in the morning. And I usually try to do a longer stretch on the weekends, often in the coffee shop at my local indie bookstore. They're very nice to me over there.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on another YA contemporary. I think I'll be able to say more about it soon, but for now I'll just say that it's a love story. Some of my readers have told me they wished for more swoon in RULES. Rose and Caleb have their own quirky version of romance, but I think this next book is going to be (hopefully) more swoonworthy. If that is a real word...
ABOUT THE BOOKRules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
A heartrending but ultimately uplifting debut novel about learning to accept life's uncertainties; a perfect fit for the current trend in contemporary realistic novels that confront issues about life, death, and love.
Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that will tell her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother.
With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family’s genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she’ll live to be a healthy adult—including going to ballet school and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool, and gets an audition for a dance scholarship in California, Rose begins to question her carefully-laid rules.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Lisa, Susan, Sam, Lindsey, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa