interview with S. Gonzales, author of THE LAW OF INERTIA

I'm mega excited to host this interview with S. Gonzales - my fellow 2018 YA debut and Melbournian. She's a also a top human all around. Her first YA novel THE LAW OF INERTIA is coming this October with Amberjack Publishing. Her sophomore book, ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED, is scheduled for a 2019 release with Wednesday Books (Macmillan). 

The Law of Inertia by S. Gonzales (2018)


S. Gonzales

All right, let's get into it! Though so you know, THE LAW OF INERTIA comes with some content warning for heavy mental health and suicide discussions, so please keep that in mind. The author herself does a fine job outlining these trigger warnings in her note on Goodreads. Check it out here.

All right, and here's the interview!


What book influenced you the most when you were a child (and why)?

The GOOSEBUMPS series and the ALEX RIDER series. I just adored any books that have a high level of action, drama, and high stakes situations. Still do! Plus, the GOOSEBUMPS series had so many twists. Like, WHAAAAAAAT? HE WAS ACTUALLY A MONSTER THE WHOLE TIME? Oh, it blew my six-year-old mind.

If you have one, what is your favorite book of all times?

HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN. Isn’t that everyone’s? No?

When did you first know you wanted to become a writer? What was your path to publication like?

When I was in year 4 or 5, we had an author of the Aussie Nibbles series visit our school (I so wish I could find his name!!). We had to do an activity where we wrote a short story about our pets, and then he went around the room and made everyone read out what they had. I was one of the last, and once I was done he asked for my name. I told him, and he launched into this big, theatrical show, waving his hands around, saying “You walk into a bookstore. You see a book on the shelf, with the name (S.) Gonzales. You pick it up, and it grabs you immediately and you run to buy this book because you have to know how it ends! You’re a natural writer!”

Obviously, I was totally star struck, but even though I loved reading and making up stories it hadn’t occurred to me yet that I might be any good at it.

Between then and when I was 18 or so, I wrote online for Mugglenet.com and Fictionpress.com, all for fun but also because I got addicted to other people reading what I wrote! When I was 21 I started querying, and signed with my agent, Moe Ferrara at Bookends, after about 5 months and 2 manuscripts. Moe and I subbed one book that didn’t sell, so THE LOW OF INERTIA was my second book on sub.

THE LAW OF INERTIA is a YA thriller that has been marketed as LGBTQIA+ GONE GIRL (that sounds amazing, by the way!), and it deals with some serious topics such as mental health and suicide. Can you tell me how you came to write this book and what kind of research have you done for it?

I studied mental health for about seven years, and have been working in the field for a while. This has given me a good understanding, but, more importantly, it gave me the opportunity to speak to many, many clinical psychologists about the themes in my book. Like, double digits, many. There’s a lot of really important things we need to be aware of when writing about mental illness, particularly when writing about suicide. For example, we need an awareness of the guidelines for journalism reporting on suicide, and how this is similar and different for fiction (such as, we know that knowing a person who has died by suicide puts us at a greater risk ourselves, but hypothetically hearing and talking about suicide methods does not—we had to determine where, within these guidelines, discussing the death of a fictional character fit and how to sensitively portray this so I wasn’t inadvertently placing any more vulnerable readers at risk!).

As for how I came to write this book, I wrote it while I was in quite a good place, but it was partly a way for me to work through some experiences from a few years before. I have seen some early reviewers comment that it’s quite emotionally taxing to read, and I can imagine it would be. It was emotionally taxing to write. I think it’s important to examine mental illness, and the effects it has both on an individual and the other people in their lives. In saying that, however, it’s a heavy discussion, and THE LAW OF INERTIA doesn’t shy away from the very real suffering that mental illness can bring. A lot of the book, you’re viewing the world through the eyes of Ash, and, if I’m doing my job right, you’re feeling what he’s feeling. So if you’re a person who might be in a vulnerable place, please be aware that this story can be very heavy, and do what you need to do to ensure your wellbeing is looked after.

I’m a huge sucker for books with a Big Twist (I love being masterfully deceived, and my three most favorite twists of all times are: Gone Girl, We Were Liars and Never Let Me Go), so it sounds like THE LAW OF INERTIA is exactly a book for me, especially since I’ve been hearing that some of its early reviewers have been surprised by its amazing twist. Without giving anything away, can you share some thoughts on what makes a good twist in a book?

I loved Gone Girl, and Never Let Me Go was devastatingly amazing! (We Were Liars was spoiled for me—boo!).

To start with, I think it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone likes twists, or the same sort of twists—for example, figuring out the twists in LADY IN THE WATER was one of my best childhood memories, but I believe the reactions to that movie were rather mixed. But then you have twists like in THE GOOD PLACE, which are so well received (and for good reason—WATCH IT if you haven’t!).

I think for me, a good twist has to be twofold: build up and believability. If a twist comes totally out of nowhere, there’s no satisfaction. In THE LAW OF INERTIA, there’s a whole number of little hints as to what’s really happening scattered about, and they feel obvious to me because I know the characters, but I’ve had a lot of people tell me they only noticed them on the second read-through—which is exactly what I was going for!

When it comes to believability, in a lot of ways twists are easier to set up in speculative fiction, because the author can create the rules of the world, whereas contemporary writers have to play within the constructs of the real world, which also leaves a lot less room for movement when it comes to what readers will accept. For me, I had to do a lot of research for my set up—I’m talking several conversations with multiple police officers, an interview with a state coroner, and discussions with lots of clinical psychologists. I was lucky, as well, that the twist was based in part on two real-life events, and that allowed me to examine firsthand what would and wouldn’t realistically work.

Additionally, I think twists involving mental illness must avoid misrepresenting mental illness in order to make a twist work (I’m referring to a range of commonly used tropes here, so in an effort to not single out any particular authors, think the 2017 movie SPLIT for an example of what I mean). I think as writers we need to be extremely cognizant of how we represent mental illness, and presenting a mentally ill character as dangerous, or unpredictable, for the sake of a shocking twist can do real harm to real people.

Finding the right voice for a book is so important – could you give some pointers on how to get the voice right, especially in a book for young adults?

For me, I tend to write first drafts quite conversationally. I start with a character in my head, and try to imagine this character telling a friend, or a police questioner, or a gameshow host, or celestial beings conducting the final judgement in the afterlife, their story. Young Adult voices tend to be, for me, less about the word choice and more about where the focus of attention is.

For example, if you wrote seventeen-year-old S. meeting a love interest, she’d be quite focussed on their physical appearance, their smile, who their friends are, if she’s heard any rumours about them, what their sense of humour is, etc. Twenty-five year old S. would certainly be aware of all of those things, but she’ll also be thinking about the love interest’s life goals, if they want to buy a house or rent, if they want to travel, if they want children, if they want to settle down in this city or have dreams of moving—a lot more future oriented focus.

And this isn’t to say that no teenagers have a future-focus, but for a character you have to be very aware of what they currently care about, what they hold important, and why they hold this important, before you can create a convincing voice for them.

Do you listen to music when you write? (If yes, what's been on your play-list lately?)

Always! I listen to a lot of punk, metalcore etc. when I write. You’ll always find things like Bring me the Horizon, Dance Gavin Dance, Ice Nine Kills, Slaves, Hands Like Houses, All Time Low, Fall out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, etc. on my Spotify.

What comes next? What are you working on at the moment?

My next book, ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED, is coming out next year with Wednesday Books. (P.S add it to Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38898560-only-mostly-devastated).

It follows Ollie, who discovers at the start of his senior year that his family have decided to stay in North Carolina to look after his sick aunt, rather than returning home to San Jose. Ollie’s one comfort is that he now goes to the same school as sweet, thoughtful Will, with whom he shared an epic summer romance. The only problem is, at school, Will is popular, closeted, and . . . kind of an asshole now?

Any advice for all the aspiring/emerging writers out there?


My advice is, watch this clip! 



Bonus questions!




Your dream holiday?

Genoa + Interlaken + Greek Island Hopping. Genoa for the unbelievable food and views (you might think you know what focaccia is, but unless you’ve tried it in its birthplace, you’re so, so wrong), Interlaken for those glacial lakes the colour of Kool-Aid, the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted and the extreme sports activities available, followed by Greek Island hopping to spend a few weeks lying in the sun, swimming, sleeping in and eating amazing Greek food. Yes, most of my holidays revolve around food, so sue me. Food is amazing.

In your writing process/routine, are you… a planner, pantser, or…?

Big, big planner. I get story ideas all in one hit, like, POOF now the whole plot exists in my head, okay, wow, hi there. Then I quickly write the whole thing down from beginning to end, then slot it all into Blake Snyder’s beat sheet to make sure everything’s landing where it should be. THEN I start writing it.

Honestly, the thought of writing a whole book then getting to the climax and realising I’ve got nothing gives me hives. Noooooo thanks, pantsers!!!

Cats or dogs?

Two dogs plus a cat that kind of thinks he’s a dog.

Coffee or tea?

Neither. Pepsi Max? Hot chocolate in a pinch, but it has to have a lot of hot chocolate powder and sugar. Extra points if it’s made with real melted chocolate. 


Many thanks to S. Gonzales for dropping by and chatting with me about books, twists, writing and stuff. 

You can preorder/buy THE LAW OF INERTIA at following sites (or check if your local shop sells it!): 



Angus & Robertson
IndieBound

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