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K. Ancrum brings Intersex representation to the page in latest novel

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Courtesy of the author
Courtesy of the author

K. Ancrum was always a writer, as long as she could remember, though her stories were just for her. "I wanted to read certain types of stories, so I had to write certain types of stories," she said.

Her passion for writing led her to a platform that wooed many young creatives in the 2010s: Tumblr. "I had a Tumblr story, because I liked to write during class, because I was a horrible student," she said. "For some reason, it got a lot of attention, even though I wasn't tagging it with hashtags so people could find it."

One day, a literary agent stumbled upon Ancrum's posts and reached out, suggesting she seriously consider a career in writing. Ancrum began sending letters to publishing agencies, and by the time she finished her senior year of college, she had scored a deal with Macmillan to write her debut novel, The Wicker King.

All of Ancrum's books exist in the same world. As a result, they hold a similar tone. "I like the feeling of things being spooky but not scary," she explained. "I like the thrill of darkness without the need for it to be genre fiction. All my books are contemporary plus. I like the 'walking around and talking' genre, where nothing is happening but everyone is going to each other's houses."


Paying homage to her life's experience
Ancrum's latest book, Icarus, also focuses on seniors in high school in her spooky world, though this time, she's also incorporating an identity she hadn't written much about yet. "I've been an author for many years," she said, "and I am also an Intersex person. I was talking about being Intersex on Twitter, and an Intersex resource group reached out to me. They were like, 'Oh, ... there aren't a lot of Intersex authors who are creating a lot of content. Do you have an Intersex book for us?' and I had to say, 'No.' It felt very shameful that I hadn't done something to pay homage to the experience of my life and the ways I love."

Realizing she needed to write about Intersex people — not just for herself but for those in the community — Ancrum got to work on Icarus. "I wanted to portray that element of life," she recalled, "not to make it a story about the main character being Intersex and dealing with the experiences of that, but actually to have it be like The Danish Girl, where the person who is exhibiting this particular feature is seen through the goggles of somebody who loves them. That influences the way readers will receive the experience of knowing, being with, and loving, and the concept of what it is to be Intersex. So, Icarus is about a boy who falls in love with another Intersex boy."

Writing about an identity not often discussed in media and pop culture put some pressure on Ancrum to "get it right." She also noted that the rich diversity among the Intersex community means that no one piece of media could ever come close to depicting the myriad ways Intersex people exist, love, and define themselves.

"With Intersex people, there's such a broad variety of ways in which the condition exhibits," Ancrum explained. "There are so many different ways you can be Intersex that the only way I could represent it was [that] this person shares these features, they identify as this. So, it wasn't that much of a difficulty, because I was drawing from my own experiences and how I walk through the world as an Intersex person."

Misunderstood identities
Writing literature about misunderstood identities is something Ancrum has become an expert in. Her first book, The Wicker King, was about Bisexual young men. She originally wrote the story for a friend who felt alone in his Bi identity. "He felt very much like a ghost in the world," she recalled.

Since that book, she's expanded on the world she created out of love for her friend and featured Sapphic and Pansexual protagonists, and even a token straight one.

Like all her stories, Icarus is about a Queer kid learning what it takes to be an adult. "Lots of the topics throughout Icarus are echoed throughout my other books," Ancrum said, "like neglect, child abuse, a lot of found-family elements, a lot of Queer community elements, ... loneliness and isolation, the experience of realizing you have same-gender attraction — that is the kind of thing you can find in my other books. [This] one ... specifically centers on a child who has taken on everything he has, and he is succeeding but still feels bereft."

Like the man who flew too close to the sun, Icarus is a strong character from the beginning. However, his journey is not in flexing his strength but in finding ways to accept his faults. As Ancrum said, "Icarus is a book about somebody who is very strong, learning to be vulnerable and learning to share themselves."

Icarus is available on March 26.