Isaac Fitzsimons’ novel The Passing Playbook was released earlier this year to great acclaim. Becky Albertalli hailed it as ‘a sharply observant and vividly drawn debut’ and it has been impressing readers on both sides of the Atlantic.
We spoke to the author about his book, his earliest memory of writing fiction and more.
Can you please tell us a bit about The Passing Playbook?
The Passing Playbook is a queer YA sports romcom about a boy named Spencer who starts at a new school where nobody knows he’s transgender. He joins the soccer team but gets benched because his birth certificate still says female. Then he has to decide whether to come out and fight the ruling or spend the season watching from the sidelines. His decision is made more complicated because coming out would mean coming out to everyone, including the teammate he’s falling for.
The first line of the novel is great, throwing you instantly into Spencer’s world. Was it the first line you wrote when drafting or did it come later?
Identifying where the story began was a real challenge for me. At first I started too early, like the week before school started, then I started too late, right in the locker room scene on the first day. But I knew I wanted to introduce Justice earlier and create tension between the two of them right from the start, so that’s how I came up with the first scene and that line.
What is the first piece of fiction you ever remember writing?
The first piece I remember writing was Bunnicula fanfiction in the first grade called The Vampire Rabbit. I still have it!
If you could have a dinner party with three other authors, alive or dead, who would they be and why?
This is a tough one! I’m the person at the dinner party who hides with the host’s pets, so whoever has the cutest pet, preferably a standoffish cat that I can befriend.
Which song would be the perfect soundtrack to The Passing Playbook’s closing scene?
“I Know A Place” by MUNA. I saw them open for Harry Styles back in 2017 while I was drafting The Passing Playbook and the stage was covered with transgender pride flags, which immediately made me feel welcome. They closed with “I Know A Place” where the chorus goes:
I know a place we can go / Where everyone gonna lay down their weapon.
In the book, Spencer starts off pretty defensive as he slowly builds up the armor he’ll need to be out as trans in a world that isn’t always kind. Ultimately, though, I want readers to feel like a world can exist where you don’t need armor or weapons to live as yourself.
Is there a question you wish authors were asked but rarely are?
I love getting the opportunity to talk about what didn’t make it into the book. I sacrificed several characters and plotlines, which ultimately made the book much stronger, but I wish there were an “author’s cut” version for books like a director’s cut for films.