#LoveOzYA Q&A with Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich for IF THIS GETS OUT
Sophie Gonzales is a YA contemporary author best known for her Grease retelling Only Mostly Devastated and 2021’s Perfect on Paper. Cale Dietrich is a self-proclaimed YA devotee whose debut, The Friend Scheme, hit shelves in 2020.
The two talented Australian writers collaborated on their latest work, IF THIS GETS OUT, and chatted to #LoveOzYA’s Kelsey Mahoney about the queer YA boy band romance.
From someone who may be browsing the shelves and see IF THIS GETS OUT, what’s it about, and what can they expect?
Sophie (S): IF THIS GETS OUT is about two members of America’s biggest boyband who fall in love and start dating. But when they feel it’s time to share their relationship to the world, they realise their management have no intentions of allowing them to — ever. Think high angst, high drama, romance, found family, and a scathing look at the entertainment industry.
How did you come up with the idea, and how did your collaboration take shape?
Cale (C): It’s difficult to point out exactly how I came up with the idea, because I had it while I was on a work and was like: oh. But it makes a lot of sense — I’m a huge music nerd, so I’ve heard all of the stories from artists about the controlling, often insidious nature of the industry. I also write queer stories, and queer artists are often especially told to control their narrative – so it all sort of fell into place as a concept.
S: Once Cale came to me with the idea, we had many chats about the plot and characters. We were each pretty responsible for our own characters — though some parts, for example, Zach’s bisexuality and “people pleaser” arc came later in the draft after the both of us, and our agent at the time, saw an opportunity to explore these topics within the story! But ultimately, once we had the synopsis and the parts planned out, we each took a chapter, wrote it, and passed it on to the other author who took the baton.
Why was it important to show not just the fact of an unhealthy parental relationship, but the flow-on effects of one?
S: When telling a story, I think about who the character is, what their backstory looks like, and how that affects every aspect of their lives. Nothing exists in isolation when you’re writing a character. Once you write a character with a bad parental relationship, you need to carefully consider how that affected every aspect of their lives: their personality, their belief system, how they handle conflict, how they form relationships with others, etc. Without this, the character simply doesn’t feel real, and readers get left with a sense of something being thrown in for “shock value”, rather than because it’s who the character is.
With Ruben, especially, his strained relationship with his mom parallels his relationship with the authority figures in his management team. He has to learn how to set boundaries in one area before he can begin to set boundaries in the other. Thematically, it’s a depiction of how people raised in abusive environments can become more vulnerable to abuse in other areas.
On that same topic, I really liked how you showed the role of a support system including friends, as opposed to making the love interest the sole source of support. Why do you think it’s important to depict that for younger readers?
C: First up, thanks! The group and found family dynamic is one of my favourite things in the book, so it’s so great to hear that you liked it! I think it’s important to show to readers because I think it’s a healthier way to live — limiting yourself to one source of support can quickly put you in dangerous waters if something goes south there. Not that everyone can have control over that sort of thing, or the amount of friends and support they get, but in a situation like the one the boys of Saturday are in, working together as a group makes them all much stronger.
S: As wonderful as romance is, a romantic relationship cannot — and should not — fill your every need! Kids want to see themselves in stories, and they have more in their life than a love interest (if they have one at all!). They have family members, friends, teachers, authority figures—all sorts of people they look up to, and seek advice and support from.
Why do you think young adult literature has a role in helping to unpack complex relationship dynamics, for young readers?
S: Modelling! The more we see things worked through, the more we recognise and can apply it to our own life.
C: Exactly! Seeing something on page can make someone feel like someone else there understands what they are going through, or the complex relationship dynamic that they find themselves in.
What did you learn from each other, as writers?
S: Cale is wonderful at the small moments and build-up scenes. The early tension. I’ve been employing some of the things he taught me in my newer books already!
C: Sophie is a MASTER planner. Like, a detailed synopsis was so instrumental in this book. I tended to be more of a pantser, but she’s shown me how good it is to be a plotter, something I am using going forward.
What do each of you have on your work-in-progress list at the moment, that readers can look forward to?
C: My next book is called THE PLEDGE, and it comes out this year! It’s a gay frat boy slasher, about a boy called Sam who is the survivor of a horrific attack by a masked killer. The book starts two years after the initial attack, when Sam is going to college with the hope of leaving his dark past behind for good. He joins a fraternity, drawn in by the promise of brotherhood and an abundance of cute guys, but just when he starts to truly move on…one of his new brothers is killed. This leads to a new string of murders and the reappearance of his enemy from his past. Now Sam will have to figure out who is under the mask before the new killer finishes what their predecessor started.
S: My next book, NEVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER, comes out later this year. It’s a sapphic hate-to-love rom-com, following a girl whose cheating ex-boyfriend becomes famous and goes on a reality show in which he re-dates all his exes to find the one that got away. She signs up with one goal: make it to the finale so she can expose him and break his heart on national television. But to do so, she has to team up with the girl he cheated on her with, who also happens to be bunking with her while filming the show.