Next up we have the lovely Gabrielle Tozer to answer all of our questions about the #LoveOzYA Anthology and her story in it! We really enjoyed reading her contribution, and so we were super excited to learn more about how she got into writing and what some of her favourite Aussie novels were growing up!
Why is #LoveOZYA important to you? What’s the first Aussie YA novel you ever read?
It’s important to see local stories – our voices, our lingo, our realities – represented on the page. The #loveozya movement is powerful; it’s a way for everyone in the community to share the diverse and wonderful books being written here at home. It’s also essential that we support the local industry today so we have a thriving industry for generations to come.
I can’t remember the first YA novel I read in late primary school or early high school, but – like many writers my age – I instantly fell in love with Melina Marchetta’s Looking For Alibrandi and John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When The War Began. They cemented my love of writing.
What’s one #LoveOzYA book you would recommend to all readers?
Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is pitched as both YA and adult, often depending on the country – either way, it’s a brilliant must-read for people of all ages. I adore this novel.
How did you feel when you were asked to write a story for Begin, End, Begin, and had you written many short stories before?
I felt honoured to be invited to join this collection – you’ve seen the line-up of authors in this anthology, right?!
I used to write short stories all the time during high school and university (some for my degree, some just because I had an idea that I needed to get down at 2am), but I hadn’t dabbled in the shorter medium since working on The Intern draft in 2011. It was so refreshing to return to short stories after a few years away.
What inspired you to write the story that you did? Did you ever consider that idea for a full-length novel?
A few things inspired ‘The Feeling From Over Here’: Kate Miller-Heidke’s song ‘Caught In The Crowd’, spending way too much time on Greyhound and Murrays coaches during my long-distance relationship days in university, and the question: ‘How would I react if I saw the boy who used to bully me from Year 7 to Year 10?’ I’m an evil author so I forced my characters Lucy and Cameron to deal with this problem in the confined space of an overnight coach from Canberra to Melbourne to heighten the emotional stakes – the pressure was on, so suddenly every gesture, look and word felt huge between them. I also wanted to explore how complex bullying can be, which is why I chose to write the story from both of their perspectives.
‘The Feeling From Over Here’ felt destined to be a short story. The drama all goes down in a short time period, focuses on two characters and explores one specific incident so I didn’t want to complicate it with additional characters, subplots and a longer word count. I wanted to tell Lucy and Cameron’s story – and just their story – about this one moment in time that changed their lives.
What inspired you to be a writer? Was there a specific moment in your life when you realised that writing was something you wanted to do with your life?
Reading inspired me to be a writer.
There were many special moments during my childhood that added up to nudging me in this direction: meeting Morris Gleitzman and John Marsden at book events in Wagga Wagga, stealing any moment I could to write stories for fun (there was no self-doubt or fear in those days!), and – most of all – sitting down with a pen and blank piece of paper or notebook just felt right to me.
Had you met all of the other contributing authors before being asked to write a short story for Begin, End, Begin? Who’s story were you most surprised by?
I’d met everyone but Amie Kaufman, but I was a huge admirer of her work and we’ve since appeared at the Sydney Writers’ Festival together.
I expect the unexpected with this talented lot so I wasn’t surprised by anyone’s story – more impressed, as always! I loved everyone’s pieces in this anthology, but was particularly struck by the concept in Amie’s ‘One Small Step…’, the humour in Jaclyn Moriarty’s ‘Competition Entry #349’, the bittersweet romance in Will Kostakis’ ‘I Can See The Ending’ and the emotional punch of Alice Pung’s ‘In A Heartbeat.’
How different is the story you wrote to your existing work? Do you normally write in the same genre, or were you trying something new?
‘The Feeling From Over Here’ is contemporary YA so it’s the same genre as my latest novel Remind Me How This Ends (although it has a different tone and feel to the romantic-comedy vibes of The Intern and Faking It).
I knew this going in, but it was the story that I was ready to tell so I went with it. I was already juggling writing my picture book Peas and Quiet and a forthcoming middle-grade novel so figured there were plenty of new styles and stories on the way in coming years to surprise my readers. I’m a big believer in writing the books that are begging you to write them, rather than trying to force something that may need a little more time brewing in your brain and heart before you take it to the page.
What was the first book you ever saw yourself in? What parts of yourself do you see in the story you wrote?
I connected with everything I read from Morris Gleitzman and Margaret Clark during those early school years.
I see myself in all my characters – from Josie Browning from The Intern and Layla and Milo from Remind Me, to Pip and Pop from Peas and Quiet. Lucy and Cameron from ‘The Feeling From Over Here’ are no different: I connect with Lucy’s devotion to her friends and family, her feistiness when something angers her, and her involvement in school and extracurricular activities. As for Cameron, I relate to his desire to fit in during the hardest years of high school and his guilt for standing by while someone was bullied. Unfortunately.
What does your writing schedule look like? Do you like to write in a specific place, or at a specific time?
I don’t have a writing routine anymore. When I wrote The Intern and Faking It, I woke up at 5.30am and wrote for 1-2 hours every morning before going to my full-time job.
I’m a freelance writer, editor and speaker now so every day, week and month of my life is different. I can go weeks without writing a word, or I can write 14,000 words in a weekend on a retreat. My favourite spots to write are in my home office (a nook in the corner of our tiny apartment), at my hot desk in the city or at The State Library of New South Wales.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Do you feel as though there’s a big difference between writing short stories and writing novels?
Write first and edit later because you can’t edit a blank page.
There are many differences between short story writing and novel writing, but they’re both wonderful in their own ways. To me, novel writing feels more like a juggling act. I do adore the challenge of refining an idea down to a short story length though – it’s more challenging than people may expect. I love bouncing between different mediums and always have: short film scripts, TV show scripts, novels, short stories, picture books… variety keeps things interesting! If I’d never written short stories during high school and university, I doubt I would’ve had the confidence to take on a 75,000-word novel.
What books have you already published? Are you working on something right now?
I have published three YA novels – The Intern, its sequel Faking It and a standalone contemporary YA Remind Me How This Ends – and a picture book with Sue deGennaro called Peas and Quiet.
I’m now well into the first draft of a middle-grade novel, which will be published by HarperCollins, and have started planning a new YA contemporary novel.
If you could write a book with one author of your choice, who would that author be and why?
Confession: I have too many terrible habits to co-author a book! I would drive another author batty with my overthinking and stresshead freakouts. Although, if I ever get those annoying behaviours under control – and I’m working on it – then I do have a Black Mirror-worthy idea that I would love to workshop with a spec fic author.
Thanks for having me!
Thanks so much for answering our questions, Gabrielle! We absolutely loved getting to know more about your writing and your favourite #LoveOzYA novels!
If you haven’t already picked up a copy of the phenomenal #LoveOzYA Anthology yet, you should definitely do so!
‘Slice’ image sourced from Gin and Co.