'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Monday, 12 January 2015

Interview with author Gabrielle Tozer

Kids' Book Review was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with author Gabrielle Tozer about the release of her latest book, Faking It. Published by HarperCollins, Faking It continues the story of fledgling writer and journalist Josie Browning, first introduced to readers in The Intern.

Faking It is a fabulous follow up to The Intern (KBR review). Did you always intend to write a series of books, or did it surprise you that there was more of Josie’s story to tell? Will we see Josie appear in a third book?
Thank you so much – thrilled that you enjoyed it! Funny you should ask: I’d originally pitched THE INTERN as a stand-alone, so it was a lovely surprise when there was more of Josie’s story to tell. I was finessing an early manuscript draft to send to HarperCollins when I realised I had more ideas buzzing around in my head. I knew that if they weren’t interested then the first book would stand on its own, but I jumped at the chance to share Josie’s next adventure – and I’m glad they agreed!

As for a third book, I wouldn’t say never… but I’d only ever pitch something if the right idea tapped me on the shoulder.

What has been the most enjoyable or interesting part of writing for a teen audience? What has been the most challenging?
I love remembering those years. They were tough, and amazing, and awful, and awkward, and the best at all once – mainly because you experience so many ‘firsts’. First kisses, first loves, first heartbreak. As a writer, it’s interesting to explore those feelings again and again in different ways. I love it – and the passion of a teen audience. If they love something, they love it passionately… and they’ll tell you and everyone around them. The challenge is, if they don’t love something, they’ll also tell you! Ha!

Nah, truthfully, the most challenging part for me is not getting to spend enough face-to-face time with my readership. I’ve been juggling fulltime work and books for three years now, so have been limited by how many schools I can visit… but this year, I’m going freelance, so hopefully I can change things up a bit!

There are strong messages in Faking It about being genuine and not feeling pressured to pretend to be something you aren’t. Why do you think this message is important for teen reader?
The older I get the more I realise how important this message this is to all people, in some shape or form. We’re all just doing our best to fit in and get on with things, and it’s an even tougher issue to comprehend when you’re a teen! I’m glad I had the creative freedom to explore the theme at such a great length, as it’s a little reminder that we all feel doubt, out-of-place and unsure at times. It’s part of being human… we’re all flawed. No-one is perfect because – and here’s the part you don’t realise when you’re younger – there’s no such thing as perfect!

The idea of ‘faking it’ because you are too worried that others will realise you are inexperienced or unsure features heavily in the book. Do you have a personal experience you can share of ‘faking it’ in your work as a journalist?
Sure! There was plenty of faking confidence in those early days – and sometimes even in recent jobs, too! I would be trembling with nerves until the moment in question – whether it was an interview with a celebrity, a job interview, an important meeting, a presentation, a media junket – but then, when it counted, I’d go into autopilot mode: smiling, chatting, laughing, asking questions… all while butterflies flapped like mad in my stomach.

Josie is 18 and YA fiction is often read by readers as young as 12 and 13. How did you ensure that her story would be both relevant and suitable for younger teen readers or do you think that Josie’s story is more suited to slightly older teens?
Good question! I think my main focus was on telling an entertaining story – telling Josie’s story in the best way that suited her character without alienating younger readers. Luckily, while Josie’s a go-getter with school and career, she’s a slow-burner when it comes to guys and partying, so that made it a little easier to keep things above-board.

In terms of writing, with the first draft I’d let anything and everything pour out through my fingertips. The real work happened during the editing process – that’s when I’d pull back on themes, scenes, swearing and dialogue that was getting a little too in-your-face!

Both The Intern and Faking It offer readers a glimpse of the stresses, personalities and excitement behind-the-scenes of a glossy magazine. You have written for several magazines including Dolly, Girlfriend and Cosmopolitan. Do you ever have previous colleagues recognise themselves or someone else in the characters in the books? 
Other than Josie, who shares a few similarities with me, no-one in the books is based on anyone I’ve ever worked with. Can you imagine that potential minefield? I’d be blacklisted! Although, in a semi-awkward moment, I’ve had someone proudly assume that I’d based one of the characters on them when I hadn’t! Er…

There is a lot of humour in Faking It, largely due to Josie’s mishaps and misunderstandings. How important was it for you to include humour in the story? Why?
Many of my early reading/writing influences were humorous works (shoutout to these legends: Morris Gleitzman, Margaret Clark, Paul Jennings, Roald Dahl etc), so it’s probably natural that Josie’s ‘voice’ morphed into something a little fun and ridiculous. At the end of the day, I wanted to write an entertaining read – rather than a serious, fashion-heavy how-to of working in magazines (which hasn’t been my experience at all) – so I’m glad people are enjoying it the way I intended.

What’s next for you now that Faking It has been released into the world?
Writing another book… or twenty, I hope! I am in the early planning stages of a standalone – it’s also YA, only this time it’s set in senior high school – so we’ll see where that takes me. I’m also tinkering with a children’s book idea, as well as building up the courage to dip my toe into a book geared more towards 20-30-somethings. We’ll see. More hours in the day, please!

Gabrielle Tozer is an Australian author, journalist and editor. She has written for publications including Cosmopolitan, TV WEEK, Bride to Be, DOLLY and Girlfriend. Her YA novels THE INTERN and FAKING IT are out now. You can find out more about Gabrielle's writing at her website and chat with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Feel free to squeeze in the hashtags #fakingitau #theinternau and #gabrielletozer if you fancy, too. Distractions are always welcome. Clearly.

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