{Blog Tour} The Things We Can't Undo - Author Interview with Gabrielle Reid

Monday 30 April 2018

The Things We Can't Undo by Gabrielle Reid
Released: 1st May 2018
Published by: Ford Street Publishing
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 300
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
There’s no backspace key for life’s decisions.

Samantha and Dylan are in love – everyone knows it. So it’s no big deal when they leave a party for some time out together.

But when malicious rumours surface about that night, each feels betrayed by the other.

Will Sam make a decision she can’t take back?
Author Interview with Gabrielle Reid

Something I found really interesting about this book is how you really delved into the issues of the perceived ‘grey area’ that can surround the idea of consent between Dylan and Samantha. What was the catalyst for you to write a book that explores these topics?

Without wanting to go into too much detail, there were some personal experiences that led me to being very aware of how “no means no” is an insufficient standard. The world has been coming to realise that too, with cases involving victims who didn’t fight back or say no, because they were drunk or drugged, assaulted in their sleep, groomed by someone in a position of power, or stopped protesting after their first few “no”s were ignored. There were many times as a teen - not just when it comes to sex - where I froze or felt unable to stand up for myself and allowed things to happen that I didn’t want to. And some of that is part of being human and learning to be my own advocate, but I think when we are talking about sex, the standard needs to be higher.  It can feel like such an intense violation to have someone encroach on your body - the parts of your body that you try to protect most - so it’s more important to have clear consent. When I was writing, it was also important to me to demonstrate that “the perpetrator” can be the nice guy you trust who doesn’t think of himself as a rapist, so Dylan had to miss some signals that Sam was trying to stop things as best she could.

The impact of social media and how it can act as both a support network and rumour-mill in the wake of a tragedy or scandal was also quite prominent throughout the story. How much of an impact did it have on the direction of the plot?

That aspect really came about by accident. I was writing alternate chapters in epistolary format, so social media accounts were just a natural part of how to do that when setting a book in 2018. But then as the story went on, the bits I was writing from those accounts started to take more of an influential role, which again, I think reflects the way social media does influence people’s lives. Social media is really just a modern communication tool with a uniquely extensive reach, and people do communicate in both positive and negative ways..

It was good to see a focus on not only the teens in this story directly involved in the scenario, but the families around them as well. How did you find striking a balance between portraying how the students were reacting in comparison to the adults behind them?

The editing process helped! One of the earliest criticisms of my early drafts was that there was too much adult perspective (from teachers, counsellors, witnesses) so I did pare it back a bit. But for most teenagers, parents and teachers are an inescapable part of life and when an event as huge as this happens, they’re going to be involved whether teens like it or not. It is a YA novel though, so I tried to keep the majority of the focus on how the adult responses impacted my teen characters and how the teens decided what to share with the adults. I think the main “rule” I tried to stick to was to have the teens make their own decisions and mistakes, with the families there to react and be part of the consequences without making the decisions for them or directing where their lives go.

What are the most important messages you hope readers can reflect on from The Things We Can’t Undo?

I hope readers, male and female but particularly young men, will reflect on how much better things are with a clear “yes”. It’s not just about whether something is illegal or *technically* one thing or another, it’s about having high enough standards to want good sex with an active participant.
More generally speaking, I hope readers think about how their decisions impact those around them. The thing Sam can’t undo has a devastating impact on her family and friends, and Tayla’s good intentions don’t protect anyone from the consequences when she loses control of her message. I don’t want people to be afraid to act, but I do think trying to make sure our actions are active and helpful rather than reactive and vengeful, can prevent some regrets.

What was your biggest challenge in writing a novel compared to the shorter works you’ve had published before?

It’s a different process, that’s for sure. I actually find short stories the hardest, anything from about 2000 words to 20 000. Flash fiction means I can focus on a particular moment, event or action and just explore that without thinking too much about the backstories and deeper character profiles, whereas in a novel I feel like the length gives me freedom to create whole people with realistic lives, thoughts and relationships. I have written a couple (not published). I’d say the two biggest challenges are 1) running out of motivation midway through and having to push to get to a point where the end is in sight and it doesn’t feel so unachievable, and 2) finding people to offer ongoing constructive criticism to help improve it. I’ve been lucky with the latter in that I now have a “team” who will stick with me, reading the latest bits every week and brainstorming through all the plot changes and rewrites that happen before I get to the end of a complete draft. A good writer’s group is pure gold.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as an author which you would share with other writers who hope to get published?

I think I just shared one about a good writer’s group, but if I’m allowed a second, I’d say don’t get too hung up on one project. The Things We Can’t Undo isn’t the first novel I’ve written, and I only started it (rather than spending all my writing time on editing, polishing, and continuing to pitch my previous manuscript) because I had an agent already trying to find me a publisher for the previous book. That was ultimately unsuccessful, but I know writers who after several years are still obsessing over their first unpublished manuscript. Sometimes, like first loves, it’s better to let go. Besides, if it does get picked up, your readers are going to want to know about the next thing!

Could you give us any hints as to what you’re currently working on?

See, you conveniently proved my previous point ;-) I’m in the ugly stage of brainstorming whether I should continue trying to fix a project I keep getting stuck on, or starting something new. I have vague plans for either option - the current manuscript deals with issues like eating disorders and Australian asylum seeker policies, while the new idea is mostly about family relationships and the closeness of two sisters who are separated by distance.

You can find Gabrielle Reid on her Website | Twitter/ Instagram @reidwriting | Facebook

She is also represented by Creative Net for school workshops

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