Ahhh, reading my old writing was such a nostalgia trip! There are lots of things that I notice straight away from my oldest stuff—the obsession with adverbs (so many adverbs!), the fancy dialogue tags (murmured, whispered, shouted, cried, yelled, sobbed . . . no one ever ‘said’ anything!) and the script-like style (description has always been my weakness).
But there are still so many similarities! I found out that my humour was the same when I was 12 as it is now, and a lot of my word choices reminded me of my current writing. I would describe my current writing as ‘teenage writing, but better’. I’m the same writer, just more polished (I hope, hah).
The first excerpt is from 2005, when I was about 12 years old. This was my first attempt at original fiction (I’d been writing HP fanfiction up until this point), and I tackled an enormous, dramatic fantasy. Not . . . very well. Turns out I don’t have much of a flair for fantasy! I also noted how preoccupied with violence I was as a kid. No wonder my parents used to freak out when they read my stuff . . .
- Sophie Gonzales, author of Only Mostly Devastated
“Isobel was a fantastic little sister, wasn’t she?” Bethany asked gently, and Nicholas looked alarmed at the topic choice.
“Oh, she loved you Nicholas. You were her idol, the big brother who always had time for her. You were so generous with your time; and she always appreciated it. You thought she was the most beautiful little girl in the world. Remember those two little plaits she wore in her hair? And how your mother taught you how to fix it, for when she didn’t have time to do so herself?
“You had so few problems back then. Remember, how you had the flu several days before, Nicholas? You’d been in bed, too sick to play with her. She was worried about you, and she made you a beautiful card. She was always very good at painting and drawing, wasn’t she? She never got to give you the card.”
Nicholas looked shocked at this; it was obviously new information, and, from what I could tell about the way Bethany seemed to be handling the information she obtained, it was probably information that was never meant to be revealed to Nicholas.
“You never, never knew. She went to see the boy next door, Christian. He kissed her that day, and she was so excited. She wanted to tell you, and she came home to talk to you, but you were still too tired. You told her you wanted to sleep first, and you promised you’d talk to her after a sleep. You broke your promise. You slept for too long.
“And, then, you woke up, didn’t you? Was it the heat from the flames, or the crash as part of the ceiling in the room next to you collapsed, or was it the smothering smoke? Remember how you ran to the door, and opened it. And the flames, they were there. And on the other side, was Isobel’s room. You tried to call to her, to give her instructions, but you don’t know if she ever heard you.
“When you were climbing out of the window, she was burning, Nicholas,” Bethany whispered, and I had had enough. I lunged forward, and was instantly restrained by Norbert, who placed one hand firmly around my mouth, and didn’t remove it, while the other arm was hooked around my throat. Nicholas was sitting motionlessly. His face was deathly pale.
“She burned slowly, and she was crying for you, and for her parents. Before she died, she could smell her own skin cooking, and her own hair singeing. The ribbons were the first of her face to catch fire, and they spread. What a picture that would have been. Burning eyelashes, and blistering lips, as she cried; as she screamed your name. But you couldn’t hear her… because you were safe, weren’t you-”
Another note from Sophie: This next excerpt was from 2010, when I was 17. I noticed straight away that my descriptive skills had improved a lot, and I had more of a knack of getting into the character’s minds. I was still attempting contemporary fantasy here. Unfortunately, world building is a skill I’m still very much working on, so it’s unsurprising I ended up moving into contemporary when I started trying to get published a few years later!
The lake, of course, was as magical as she had predicted. Sunlight glittered on the smooth water’s surface with such brilliance she was sure that if she touched it, she would pull her hand away to find it covered in pure gold.
The sky was such a vivid blue, and the scattered clouds were so white and fluffy, and the grass looked as though it were fashioned from mint crisp flakes.
It looked like a scene from her fairytale books; beautiful, safe, and no scolding, boring parents in sight. Acting on impulse, and loving every moment of it, she announced to her friend that she was going swimming.
He suddenly didn’t think things were so fun anymore. He wouldn’t join her, he explained, as he couldn’t swim, and she really shouldn’t swim without an adult, and they would know something was wrong if she returned home wet, and if something went wrong he couldn’t help her.
She wasn’t listening, though. In her eyes, the sunlight was transforming. It was no longer a reflection, a fancy of riches; the water had turned into liquid gold. It had a brilliance to it, it was so much thicker than water; it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
Suddenly, all she wanted, needed, was to touch it; if she could, she would be lucky, wealthy, beautiful and happy forever.
She didn’t know how she knew this; but still, she knew with all her heart, that this was true. It was a difficult concept to wrap her young mind around, so, instead, she merely trusted it, wading out into the water. The shouting of the boy was ignored, the hem of her dress grew wet, but she barely felt it.
The boy felt panic overwhelm him, an instinctive, urgent fear that he didn’t, couldn’t, understand. He looked behind him, for an adult, a policeman; even a bigger kid would do. But there was no one.
When he looked back to her, she was past her knees in the water. He opened his mouth to call her name again, but before he could utter a single syllable, she was gone.
She hadn’t sunk, or fallen; she hadn’t moved.
Nonetheless, one moment she was there, and the next she was quite certainly not.
He blinked. Myriad possibilities ran through his mind; he struggled to make sense of this, to explain it logically, to understand.
But he couldn’t.
So he began to scream. The shrill, terrified, desperate scream of a terrified, desperate child. The scream caused birds to take flight in the nearby trees. If an adult, or, indeed, a bigger child had heard those screams, they would have rushed to his assistance in a heartbeat.
But, as it happened, on that particular, very hot day, there was no one.
About The Author: Sophie Gonzales is a YA contemporary author. Her debut YA rom-com, Only Mostly Devastated, is out March 3rd 2020 with Wednesday Books. She graduated from the University of Adelaide and lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she currently works as a psychologist. When she isn’t writing, she can be found ice skating, performing in musical theatre, and practicing the piano. She is also the author of The Law of Inertia. You can find her on social media at @sgonzalesauthor or on our website, sophiegonzalesbooks.com.
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