Today I’m proud to be bringing you an interview with Aussie author Sophie Gonzales! We talk about how important queer rep is in books, how cool YA fiction is, publishing and music!
A million thanks to Sophie for taking the time to talk to me today! Please make sure you check out the end of this interview to find out more information on Sophie’s book and how you can support her!
Also … Happy Valentine’s Day!
I think it’s safe to say you’re a fan of “Grease”, what made you write a book inspired by the movie?
It all actually began as a conversation with my agent. I mentioned the concept in passing to her one day during a conversation (I can’t even remember how it came up!) and she fell in love with it. A few months later, after several conversations with her about how “Grease” might be used as a jumping-off point to explore rom-com tropes in the diverse, modern world—especially through a queer lens—I sat down and the plot came to me all in one hit.
Which of your characters do you think would be friends with the characters from “Grease”?
Oh interesting! I feel like Ollie would get along with Frenchie and Sandy, but given Rizzo is (canonically) straight, they might have missed the spark of connection that causes Ollie and Lara to get along so well. Will and Matt would probably have clicked well with the Greasers, given their class clown tendencies, while Darnell probably would’ve hung out with Sandy’s track star boy-toy. Niamh, Jan and Marty would’ve loved each other, for sure—I can picture lots of chats about their beauty routines and the latest loves of their lives, as well as the unfair beauty standards put on women.
Only Mostly Devastated is about two boys who fall in love. How important is queer representation for you in books, and do you plan to keep writing about queer teens?
Queer representation is of the utmost importance to me: it’s what I write, it’s what I’ve been writing for many years, and it’s definitely a space I plan to stay in! My next book, for example, follows a bisexual girl, and explores biphobia both from cis / straight people, and from within the queer community.
I am so excited to read a book that tackles biphobia!
When did you first start writing? Did any author’s work inspire your own?
I was a storyteller from a very young age, but I started actively writing at 11, when I lied about my age to write fanfiction on Mugglenet (I regret nothing)! Given that I started out in Harry Potter fanfiction, it’s safe to say I was inspired by that!
Was it difficult writing a book set in the US with US teenagers when you’re Australian? Did you have to do much research?
I think on the one hand, it’s probably easier for me to write US characters than vice versa, given so much of our media is from the USA! But even so, there are so many little cultural differences I wasn’t aware of. I had to do plenty of research—including a self-funded trip to the USA!—and had many US-based author friends read through drafts for authenticity. Some things were incredibly hard for me to find out information on, for example, when is basketball season? What schools tend to verse each other? How do I know which level my school would be at? How does that affect scholarships? When are scholarships offered? How are they offered? What days / nights would practice / games be? And that was when having an international team came in handy, because I’ll tell you one thing, Google just sends you down a rabbit hole if you try to search some of the above examples!
What’s the best piece of writing advice you have been given? And do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I think the one piece of advice that was most lifechanging came from an Australian friend, who taught me a brainstorming trick for new plots: write down 100 things you could write about, vague or specific, everything that comes to mind, and eventually as you go through your brain will string them together, and you’ll be looking at a plot.
My advice for aspiring writers is to read as much as you can, and write as much as you can. Most people aren’t blessed to sit down and write the perfect book their first attempt. You don’t have to try to write to be published when you start out! Write for fun, write for yourself, develop your gifts, maybe explore Fictionpress or Wattpad to get a feel for what readers like about your work—then, once you can consistently write a book from beginning to end, start thinking about the professional side. Rejections can be hard on morale, and they take a lot of fun out of the whole affair—let yourself have that fun first.
That’s such great advice!
What do you do when you’re not writing?
For my day job, I work as a psychologist. I love ice skating and performing in musical theatre, going for (very gentle!) hikes near beaches, hanging out with my housemates (One cat, one boyfriend), watching The Good Place, making my friends watch The Good Place against their will, singing, and playing PC games (my current obsession is Subnautica!).
Are you working on anything at the moment that you can tell us about?
Right now, I’m drafting my follow-up to Only Mostly Devastated, working title The Ex-Girlfriend Experiment.
“Everyone in school knows about Locker 89. If you slip a letter in outlining your relationship woes, along with a fiver, an anonymous source will email you with the best advice you’ve ever gotten.
Darcy Phillips, a quiet, sweet junior, is safe in the knowledge no one knows she’s the genius behind locker 89. Until Brougham, a senior, catches her.
The deal Brougham offers is tempting: in exchange for his silence—and a generous coach’s fee to sweeten the deal—Darcy can become Brougham’s personal dating coach to help him get his ex-girlfriend back.
And as for Darcy, well, she has a fairly good reason to want to keep her anonymity. Because she has another secret. Not too long ago, she abused locker 89 to sabotage the budding romance of her best friend, Brooke. Brooke, who Darcy’s been in love with for a year now.
Yeah. Brooke can’t find out about that. No matter what.”
OMG, your WIP sounds amazing!
Do you have a specific song or music playlist that reminds you of Only Mostly Devastated?
It’s absolutely bizarre and makes no sense, but I had Live it Up by Mental as Anything on repeat during my America research trip, now every time I hear that song I think of the book! I wish I could say there was some special meaning in the lyrics or vibe of the song, but nope. I mean, it’s a good song, at least?
What do you love most about YA fiction?
I love how internal it is. For me, YA fiction tends to situate the reader so close to the main character that they feel every emotion, as the MC explores and processes how they feel about everything, and why they feel that way. For me, that’s what really pulls me into a story, that closeness. Also, the first time you experience something brings with it a sense of wonder, I feel. First kisses are always lovely: but your first first-kiss? You’re learning what a kiss is, and what you do, and what they do, and how it feels when you sense the kiss coming and the energy in the air change, and that plunging in your stomach you might never have felt before . . . It’s such a special thing to explore and relive in fiction over and over again. I don’t often find that in adult fiction.
What was your experience as an Australian publishing with an American publishing company?
Wonderful! While it comes with downsides like 5 AM phone calls, being published in America was always my goal. Being internationally published has allowed me to reach a larger audience than I would’ve been able to otherwise, and knowing that my book is in the hands of so many people is an unbelievably special experience. Over the last five years I’ve adjusted to having professional calls at odd hours of the day, waking up to exciting emails, and sometimes waking up to Twitter being on fire and blearily trying to figure out what happened over the last eight hours. With an incredibly supportive, communicative agent and publishing team, I’ve been extremely blessed.
(Purely selfish question so I can go) Do you plan on having any Australian events?
Hah! Please do! I have some things later this year that I’m unable to announce just yet, but I can confirm the launch of Only Mostly Devastated will be held at Readings St Kilda on the 12th March, and I will also be a panellist at YA day in Melbourne on the 14th March! (That reminds me, I have to go update my website . . . the events page isn’t going to be so quiet from now on).
If you’re a Melbournian, please come along to support Sophie at the Only Mostly Devastated launch!
About the book
Publisher: Wednesday Books / St Martin’s Press
Release Date: 3/3/2020
When Ollie meets his dream guy, Will, over summer break, he thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After. But once summer’s ended, Will stops texting him back, and Ollie finds himself one prince short of a fairytale ending. To complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country—Will’s school—where Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted—and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.
Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship. But as Will starts ‘coincidentally’ popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, Ollie finds his resolve weakening.
The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Clueless in this hilarious, heartfelt Grease-inspired YA rom-com.
~ Preorder the novel ~
About the author
Sophie Gonzales writes Young Adult queer rom-coms with memorable characters, biting wit and endless heart.
Her debut YA rom-com, Only Mostly Devastated, is out March 2020 through Wednesday Books / Macmillan (USA) and Hodder Children’s Books / Hachette (UK / Commonwealth). She is also the author of The Law of Inertia and The Ex-Girlfriend Getter-Backer Experiment (Wednesday Books 2021).
When she isn’t writing, Sophie can be found ice skating, performing in musical theatre, and practicing the piano. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia where she works as a psychologist.
She is represented by Moe Ferrara of Bookends Literary Agency.
Connect with Sophie: