The write way with Gabrielle Tozer

Life experience proved fruitful fodder for first novel

The raw experience of being a young intern at a magazine was rich fodder for a YA novel, Gabrielle Tozer tells Clare Kennedy.

Gabrielle Tozer had always aspired to be a writer. The door to that career opened a chink when she landed an interview with Dolly, the magazine on fashion and trends for girls.

“I had nothing to wear to the interview so my eighteen-year-old sister, who was more into clothes than me, took me out shopping and acted as my stylist,” Tozer says.

The then 21-year-old, raised in Wagga Wagga, was studying journalism and creative writing at The University of Canberra and harboured hopes of becoming a magazine journalist and author. “I caught the bus to Sydney, which took seven- and-a-half hours, and changed into my interview clothes at Central Station,” she says. “It was nerve wracking. Even back then it was a tough job climate in the media, so there was a lot riding on the interview.”

She missed out on the job to someone with more magazine experience. But a month later Tozer got her big break and landed the position of chief sub-editor at DisneyGiRL and Disney Adventures magazines. “It was a life-changing moment when I received that phone call and moved to Sydney a week later. Everything happens for a reason, though – once I had more experience, Dolly hired me, two years later!”

Time and experience

Tozer, 29, has carved out almost twelve years in the magazine and newspaper industry, with her first article published inBMA Magazine at 18. The author, journalist and copywriter has since worked in a range of editing and writing roles for publications ranging from Cosmopolitan, Girlfriend, Bride to Be, Prevention and Mother & Baby. Now working as a freelance magazine writer, she writes features on entertainment, health and lifestyle.

But it was her early days as an intern and work experience student that became fodder for her sassy debut novel The Intern, published by HarperCollins in February. The story is about a young woman who lands her dream job at a glossy women’s magazine, with all the funny, absurd and embarrassing moments that brings.

How much of it is true to life? I ask. She laughs and points to her first interview with Dolly an experience that wended its way into the opening chapters of The Intern. “That was pretty true to life,” she laughs.

“I wanted to focus on that relatable awkward time of life, what it’s like to be that age, rather than write the story of a high-flying aspirational editor, which has been done a lot already,” she says.

An author, published

The surreal experience of speaking at the Sydney Montessori Literature Festival 2014 with one of her favourite childhood authors, Morris Gleitzman, has been a highpoint of the year. “I’ve adored his work since I was a little girl, especially Two Weeks With The Queen and Misery Guts, so to meet him in person really made me take stock of how far I’ve come,” she says. “I chickened out on asking for a signature though! It’s moments like this that keep me inspired to keep writing books to entertain a younger audience.”

Writing can be a lonely business but the internet has helped alleviate that challenge for Tozer, who is an extrovert at heart. “There is a lot of time spent on your own if you’re a freelance editor or author and it can be quite lonely – especially staring at those same four walls of your home office! Not everyone fits the cliché of wanting to hide away inside,” she says.

“Luckily there’s a solid community of writers on Twitter and Facebook now, and I’ve been part of that world since I was working at Dolly in 2008. It’s brought me together with so many other authors, journalists and creative writers and we support each other along the way.”

This July, she is the writer-in-residence for Inside A Dog – the terrific Australian website for teen readers. You can find her blog here:

The social media savvy Tozer has an excellent website that’s a valuable showcase for her books and offers free resources for aspiring writers. “I take a lot of joy from sharing my experience with everyone online,” she says.

“I’ve been with Media Super since starting my first job in magazines. It’s reassuring to be in a fund with likeminded, creative people who understand the changing state of our industries.”

Faking It, the sequel to The Intern will be released on January 1, 2015.

Follow Gabrielle on Twitter @gabrielletozer

Photo credits: Simona Janek @ gm photographics