Gabrielle Tozer is a journalist, author, editor and former 18-year-old, among other things. Her second book, Faking It, came out in January, and we thought now was the perfect time to bombard her with a stack of questions and see how she holds up. Oh, shhh, here she comes now.
Hi Gabrielle – we were just talking about you. Now, your book Faking It came out earlier this year – a sequel to your debut novel. Can you tell us what it’s about in exactly 92 words please?
“It follows the crazy adventures of 18-year-old protagonist Josie Browning. Junior writer Josie is thrown into the world of new media and start-ups and is forced to face her biggest career challenge yet: helping her boss plan the launch party of the year. Throw in guy troubles (including grappling with all the awkwardness and uncertainty of deciding whether to lose her virginity or not), family drama, an embarrassing group email and a magazine ‘frenemy’ ready to take her down, and Josie’s in for another year packed with awkward, hilarious and heart-warming shenanigans…”
…90…91…92. Wow. Well played Tozer. Well played. So how different was it writing this one to your first one? Easier/quicker/harder?
“It was somehow all of those – and more – at the same time!”
Okay, thank you. Most helpful. Care to elaborate?
“The ‘voice’ was easier to write in Faking It, because after writing The Intern I’d already pinned down what I was after. I also learnt plenty of lessons during the first book’s editing process, especially around tightening the pace of a scene and fixing up the structure, which I was quick to fix before sending off to my publisher. But there were elements that were much harder second time round, such as trying to fight through relentless self-doubt of writing to readers who had expectations based on my first novel. I found that difficult and had to push those thoughts aside constantly.”
We do actually hear that a lot from writers regarding their second book.
“I’ve since heard from many authors that writing books never gets easier and I finally understand what they mean – every novel comes with its own set of challenges, because you try to up the ante every time! It stops life from getting boring, though, that’s for sure.”
Also try wearing outfits that are either four sizes too small or too big. That will solve the boring thing too. Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, the Young Adult (YA) market. Why write for this age group?
“It just feels right! I joke that maybe I’m still a 17-year-old girl on the inside.”
There are specialists who could rule that out with x-rays… But please, continue.
“There really is a part of me that can tap into the emotions from those formative years. Many people talk about how they’d never like to relive school. Well, while I wouldn’t like to go back in person (I’d have to come up with new excuses to get out of PE all over again), but I love exploring it through my writing. Those high school years are packed with so many ‘firsts’, making them ripe for uncomfortable, moving, funny and emotional experiences – which are some of my favourite to write.”
That could actually be a bestseller – a book purely consisting of PE excuses. Maybe we won’t give up our day job just yet… Hey, but speaking of day jobs – do you have one? And if so, how do you fit writing around it?
“I had stressful day jobs in the media while writing and editing The Intern and Faking It. For a while, it was manageable – well, just. I’d write for 1-2 hours before work every day, then set aside time on the weekends, too. But then other areas of my life started to get a little shaky – my health (physical and mental), my happiness, my time spent with loved ones – so, after three years, I took the plunge earlier this year and went freelance. Now, I pick my own hours and juggle in-house writing, sub-editing and editing work, feature writing and copywriting from home, author talks and workshops (in schools/libraries etc), and books. No two weeks are the same, which is brilliant.”
Sounds rather utopian. Do you wish you’d figured this out sooner?
“I’ve had many ‘I should have done this years ago!’ moments, but deep-down I know all those years grinding helped me to build up my contacts so I could eventually go freelance. Love a silver lining!”
Indeed. Our favourite silver lining is the one around chocolate blocks. But enough about us. For you, what’s the most challenging thing about writing?
“Most recently, struggling with moments of crippling self-doubt – yes, even though I’m lucky enough to be doing what I’ve wanted to do since I was six years old. I’m a bit of a nerd from way back, so I stick daggy post-its near my desk, such as ‘I’ve done it twice, I can do it again (and again!)’ and ‘Write first, edit later’, to keep myself on track when the blank page seems too scary to face.”
And the most rewarding thing?
“Three things (OK, there’s even more, but I’ve already cheated with this answer): the first time I hold a bound copy of the printed first draft (I always have a teary moment in Officeworks), the first time I see the final, published book in real life, and – of course – hearing from happy readers! It’s also been amazing to be longlisted for a Gold Inky Award in the 2015 Inky Awards, which is an annual award for youth literature, voted for by teen readers.”
Congratulations! (We’ve had teary moments in Officeworks too in the past, but they usually involve buying expensive printer cartridges.) So, are you working on your next novel?
“I sure am! It’s early days right now, but, what I can say is, I’m dying to get some quality time with my computer and notebooks. Watch this space…”
Hashtag excited! Finally, any advice anyone wanting to become published novelist?
“Read – read as much as you can. I read everything from children’s picture books and YA, through to adult fiction and non-fiction. And don’t wait for conditions to be perfect before you start writing! There are hundreds of excuses NOT to write – trust me, I’ve used them all (and sometimes still do). Carve out writing time just for you, schedule it in your diary and make it a priority.
“If you want to write professionally, then you’re going to have to get used to icky deadlines and working under pressure. Writing is not glamorous. You usually don’t have time to wait for inspiration to strike, so you have to seek it out – not the other way around. So, practise your craft as often as you can to build momentum and confidence.”
“Oh, and last but not least, know your ‘why’. Why do you want to be an author? Write it down somewhere and read it often to stay focused, especially when life gets in the way. Good luck – and have fun with it!”
Gabrielle Tozer’s YA novels The Intern and Faking It are out now. You can get in touch with her via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her website. And maybe at her local supermarket, but some might call that stalking.