I’ve read and enjoyed Gabrielle Tozer’s books from the start of her career. She has become a pivotal part of Australia’s YA author community.
Gabrielle writes about her new novel, Can’t Say It Went To Plan for PaperbarkWords.
Gabrielle Tozer on Can’t Say It Went To Plan:
The idea for Can’t Say It Went To Plan arrived a few years before I put pen to paper. My previous novels required an excruciatingly painful excavation to unearth the bones of the story, but this coming-of-age tale felt different. It came to me like a bolt of lightning and I knew in my gut that it was my story to write. I knew that because I’d lived it.
My high school friends and I went to Schoolies for 17 days when I was 17 years old. Seventeen days. We had it all planned out. A week at an apartment block in Surfers Paradise in Queensland, followed by nine days in Noosa staying at a hostel and my friend’s mum’s house. Turned out, the clichés were true: it was a holiday we’d never forget and thankfully one we’d want to remember. Well, mostly.
As the years rolled on, stretching our lives across borders and oceans, my friends and I still reminisced about the trip. How we’d convinced our parents to let us leave our country town and travel to another state for over a fortnight. How our bodies and minds – exhausted by relentless exams and the anticipation of what comes after high school – survived on little more than junk food and minimal sleep. How we went through rolls of camera film a night, filling photo albums with blurry memories of sunburnt friends, beach parties and midnight adventures. It was a time and setting rich with possibilities.
Fast-forward to my creative lightning bolt in 2017: a YA novel set at Schoolies with multiple perspectives woven through the narrative. By then, I had four books published with HarperCollins – three YA novels and a picture book – so, on paper, the timing seemed ideal to write another contemporary story. But then I fell pregnant with my first child and everything changed. I was nauseous and exhausted from pregnancy, not to mention emotionally drained from exploring themes of grief and heartache in Remind Me How This Ends, so I convinced myself that I may never write YA again. Instead, I decided to work on a big-hearted fantastical middle grade novel called Melody Trumpet, and pushed aside any thoughts of Schoolies and YA novels.
Until I didn’t. The baby haze eventually lifted and the idea remained – and so did my hunger to write it. This time, I reframed my process and asked, “Why? Why do I want to write this story? Why me? Why now?” After all, I didn’t want to spend years untangling plot points and sacrificing time with real-life people I adored unless I loved my idea and characters. And I did! I do! Creating Samira, Zoë and Dahlia taught me so much, especially about vulnerability, courage, going with the flow and living in the moment. I pushed those girls out of their comfort zones over and over again, and they simply felt the fear and did the hard thing anyway.
Can’t Say It Went To Plan is a story close to my heart because I wanted to explore changing friendships, messy first loves, and grief and anxiety, all underpinned with the immense pressure of Year 12, the magic of that era and the uncertainty of what comes next. I think I did that. I hope I did that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I better hide the decades-old photo evidence from those 17 days before my kids are old enough to find it…