Into YA with Sophie Gonzales (author of Perfect on Paper, Only Mostly Devastated, and If This Gets Out)
I'm so so excited to bring you my quick conversation with author Sophie Gonzales because it's been months in the making. Perfect on Paper was the first 2021 ARC I let myself read last November, and it immediately ran away with my heart. I've been talking about it on all my social platforms ever since. I was so thrilled to get to chat with Sophie during release week to get into the creation of Perfect on Paper further.
1. In my review, I likened Darcy to a Hannah Montana of sorts because she has a secret identity only her sister knows about. She runs Locker 89, infamous at the school for giving expert relationship advice. Did you ever encounter a real life version of the locker, or what inspired that part of the book? How did Darcy evolve into a relationship researcher?
I never encountered a real life version – although I would’ve loved it! Darcy’s interest in relationship advice stems from a fascination I had with self-help books as a teenager, combined with the incredible number of relationship coaches and “how to get (them) back” videos on YouTube that highlight all of these theories and pieces of advice in accessible ways. To me, it’s not a stretch to buy that a sixteen year old could have a thorough understanding of these theories—both because I did, and because the information is so easy to find and digest these days, far more so than when I was a teen.
2. There’s a love triangle of sorts happening in the book between Darcy’s burning crush on her best friend, Brooke, and her new friend Brougham (who she’s ironically giving relationship advice to so he can get his girlfriend back). I’m a vocal love triangle hater because they are always so obvious, but yours wasn’t. Even though I could guess who she was meant to end up with, it always felt like there was a possibility the triangle could tip the other way. Darcy loves them both at comparable intensities, and that is rare. Was this something you were particularly aware of when writing? What advice do you give to writers about balancing a love triangle?
I actually have to give the credit here to my wonderful editor, Sylvan. She put me through several rounds of edits focused entirely on Darcy’s feelings for Brooke to ensure they came through correctly! I think in the case of Perfect on Paper, the triangle worked because a lot of people (certainly me) can relate to being in unrequited love for someone, and thinking you’ll only be happy if you can be with them because no one else would ever make you that happy, only to find yourself meeting someone who can and does make you just as happy. At the beginning of Perfect on Paper, if Brooke had returned Darcy’s feelings, Darcy would’ve jumped on it in a second, but I truly believe that when Darcy got to know Brougham, even if Brooke’s feelings had changed, Darcy would’ve chosen Brougham. Brooke was kindness, but Brougham challenged Darcy—and as someone of keen intelligence, she’s attracted to that constant call to (friendly) battle that Brougham provides. Of course, for other reasons, Darcy and Brooke wouldn’t have worked out—it’s really not ideal to start a romantic relationship on such a toxic foundation, and I think that would’ve come up more than once in arguments.
3. Brougham is Australian, which adds a fun layer to the book as Darcy discovers the different customs and expressions he grew up with (not to mention his very specific accent). I know you live in Australia as well. Why did you decide to set the book in California, and did you ever consider setting it in Australia? Was it difficult to write about American high school?
If you’re selling books in America, as I do, choosing to write a main character who isn’t American can be a barrier to sales. As a relatively new author who hasn’t ever set foot on a bestseller list, the last thing I can afford is including anything that might make my book a harder sell. Luckily, in Australia, the vast majority of our entertainment and media comes from America, so it’s perhaps not as foreign for me to write a book set in America as it might appear (although it does mean there will be things I get wrong, no matter how hard I try or how many American friends proofread!). I specifically chose California, as that’s one of the only places in America I’ve visited in person, and it helped to be able to write about places I’ve seen personally, such as Disneyland! One day, I would love to set a book in Australia. Maybe if I ever get lucky enough to hit bestseller status.
4. In the book, Darcy explores her identity as a bi woman. She deals with subtle biphobia from others as well as fears about not being “queer enough” if she gets into a relationship with a guy. These are super common experiences that aren’t explored enough in YA, and I loved seeing Darcy gain confidence, particularly through conversations with the Q&Q club. Is there something you hope bi teens, and bi girls in particular, will take away from the book?
I hope they take away that queerness does not only mean men dating men, and women dating women. I especially hope that they come to reflect on what preconceived ideas they may have about bisexuality, whether they’re bi or not, and the perceived hierarchy that is largely unspoken, but still present, within the queer community in which some identities are considered more reflective of the queer experience than others.
Learn More About Sophie's Upcoming Project:
I am so so incredibly excited about Sophie's book co-written with Cale Dietrich because it's all about boybands. Check out the full summary of If This Gets Out ahead of its release in December:
Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.
On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?
More About Sophie:
Sophie Gonzales writes young adult queer contemporary fiction with memorable characters, biting wit and endless heart.
She is the author of THE LAW OF INERTIA and ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED. PERFECT ON PAPER and IF THIS GETS OUT (co-written with Cale Dietrich) are forthcoming in Winter and Fall 2021 from Wednesday Books / Macmillan.
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.
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