Interview: Sophie Gonzales, Author of Only Mostly Devastated

Hello book nerds. I’m back with a new author interview, and I’m very excited to be sharing this particular one today!

I read Only Mostly Devastated a few months back and admired it so much. And with the author’s announcements of her next books for 2021, I wanted to take the chance and chat with her!

Fortunately, Sophie had the time to answer a few questions for all of us nerds! We talked about her latest book, Only Mostly Devastated, bi representation in the media, her upcoming 2021 books, and more.

Hi Sophie! Welcome, tell us a little about yourself! 

Thank you so much for having me! My name is Sophie Gonzales, my pronouns are she/her, and I’m an author of Young Adult queer rom-coms / contemporary novels. I live in Australia and spend most of my time silently and eagerly observing Americans in their online habitats so I can blend in with them and write American main characters so realistic they can’t tell I’m not American myself. To date, I have seen various levels of success in this venture. When I’m not stalking and mimicking US citizens, I enjoy singing, escape rooms and bothering my cat.

Fun fact about me that you didn’t ask for but I really want to seem interesting: Once I got through several rounds of the X Factor Australia but got eliminated when I didn’t have a cool enough story for the producers (they looked very disappointed when I told them the most tragic thing I’d experienced was my parents divorcing. “Heaps of people have divorced parents”, their expressions clearly said. In hindsight, I should’ve made up something really tragic yet entertaining, like an alien abduction or a stint on a deserted island. I’m a writer, I could’ve totally pulled it off!!!)

I adored Only Mostly Devastated so much! What was the most memorable thing for you when you were writing it? 

Hmm! Apart from selling it? Because that was pretty memorable. I think for me the most memorable part was the little summer excerpts – to give myself a clear picture of Will and Ollie’s dynamic, and why Ollie cares so much about this guy, I spent a lot of time writing their antics over summer just for myself. Picking out which small flashbacks to keep was the definition of killing your darlings!

Especially because, being my first book, I was super careful not to exceed word count and to keep the pacing tight, so I was very aware that I was going to know all of these sweet moments between Ollie and Will that the reader wouldn’t be able to see for the sake of pacing. 2020 me can’t relate. I’m spoiled these days, and I just write whatever I feel belongs in the story, because I have such a great relationship with my editor I completely trust that she’ll tell me if I’m rambling or spending too much time on one aspect, rather than the “oh my god if I write too many words my editor will inexplicably decide she never wants to work with me again” mindset I gave myself while writing OMD (may I clarify, this was 1000% my own anxiety, and my editor has never been anything but amazing and supportive to work with). The benefits of working with someone longer-term!!

Your first book, The Law of Inertia (and I hope to read this soon!), is a YA Mystery/Thriller. Was there a big difference writing from Mystery/Thriller then Romcom next? 
Oh definitely! I actually tended to write darker toned books for the majority of my writing life (especially with fanfic / online original fiction), then one day I had an audition for a writing gig that required a humorous voice. I was surprised at how naturally writing humour came to me, and my agent was really excited after reading my sample, and she encouraged me to write a rom com for my next book. The rest is history! I absolutely love writing humour, but there’s definitely a part of me that misses the drama and stakes of mysteries and thrillers. I think a lot of people who read Only Mostly Devastated spotted a shift in my writing during one of the darker, sadder scenes that explores grief (if you’ve read it, you know the part of the book I’m talking about!). I think that, for me, writing sadness and the darkness is what I’ve been doing for seventeen years, so there’s a real ease and familiarity with diving into that. For that reason, nothing I ever write will be completely lighthearted, even in the rom-com space!

You have two books coming out in 2021 and I, for one, am very excited! Can you tell us a little bit about them? 
Thank you! My first release is March 9th, Perfect on Paper, a YA rom-com that follows sixteen-year-old Darcy, a self-professed relationship guru who finds herself blackmailed into helping a hot guy win his ex-girlfriend back.

The second is a YA romance collaboration with Cale Dietrich (author of The Love Interest) called Off The Record, which follows two members of America’s hottest boyband as they fall for each other, and slowly come to realize that their label has no intentions of allowing themselves to announce their relationship – ever.

Perfect on Paper sounds so exciting, and I love that you wrote it especially for bi/pan readers and especially to tackle biphobia. How important is it that we see more of m/f pairings between queer people in the media?  

Super important! In Perfect on Paper, my goal was to really explore how a m/f pairing affects the experience of being a bi person, from how others react, to your own view of your identity. Personally, when I’ve seen bisexuality in fiction, it’s either in a same-gender pairing where homophobia might be explored, or in a different-gender pairing where I’ve often seen it almost brushed aside? Like, “yes, okay, I’m bisexual, let’s go!”

The thing is, casual queer rep is wonderful and needed, but I think that even when the queer rep is casual there needs to be some space for how queer identity affects many facets of your life. Reading is a wonderful way to gain a new perspective, and expand empathy.

When readers are exposed to a M/F bi relationship, and see through Darcy’s eyes how this relationship affects how people speak to her, how comfortable she feels in places she’s always moved freely, and how it affects how Darcy views her own validity as a queer person, it has the power to change perspectives. My hope is it will help some readers reflect on how biphobia affects them and people around them, and also help bi readers to know they’re not alone in these feelings.

Off The Record already sounds so good! I think many will agree with me when I say that boyband fiction is something we’re all looking forward to! How did this collaboration and concept start? 

It started sometime towards the end of 2019, when Cale popped into my DMs and told me about a story concept he’d come up with involving boybands and forbidden love. I told him I thought it sounded great and he should do it, and then he casually threw in . . . “well I was thinking it’d work really well as a collab”. So I (half-jokingly) told him I’d never forgive him if he asked someone else to collab with him and not me, and he admitted he was hoping I’d say that.

The plot itself came together quite quickly, with us throwing back and forth ideas in dms and creating vague character outlines. Then he wrote chapter two (which ended up being set two years before the book we ended up with was set, so it was ultimately scrapped), then I wrote chapter one, jumping off his setup, and we took it from there, swapping chapters back and forth. At the time, we shared an agent, so we showed her our sample, then decided as a group to fast forward in time and follow the band after they’d become famous, so we rewrote the sample from scratch—which worked out really well, because we knew the characters by then! 

Most of the world has been on lockdown/quarantine since early this year. What were your motivations or what did you do to keep on being productive and keep on writing while on quarantine? 
Yes, and my city (Melbourne, Australia) has been up there with some of the strictest! Luckily for me (and I’m not bragging, I promise) because I’m an introvert and a bit of a homebody to begin with, quarantine didn’t trip me up too badly, and I’ve found it easy to stay motivated. In fact, in a year of deadlines (in 2020 I wrote Perfect on Paper, released Only Mostly Devastated, edited Perfect on Paper, wrote Off the Record, edited Off the Record and put together my two next novel proposals), I’ve said a few times if there was going to be a year to be trapped inside, I’m glad it’s the one where I was so snowed under I couldn’t have attended many social events anyway. (Although I’m more than ready for both deadlines, and the pandemic, to calm the heck down soon!)

Lastly, what recent/upcoming books do you recommend for us right now?
Oh there are some great ones on their way in 2021! Trouble Girls by Julia Lynn Rubin, Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli, You Have a Match by Emma Lord and As Far as You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper are a few amazing 2021 releases I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently. Three books on my immediate TBR (as in, my literal bookshelf ready to go) are The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult, When Villains Rise by Rebecca Schaeffer, and Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall.

And that’s all for now! A big, big thanks to Sophie for this opportunity! (And for entertaining my interview request, even when she was busy with all her deadlines! I’m forever grateful!)

I loved everything in this interview. And of course, I am so excited to read more of Sophie’s works! How about the rest of you? Tell me in the comments!

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