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New York-based author of If I Stay, Gayle Forman, had almost given up on writing before she wrote her latest novel. 

I Have Lost My Way is about three teenagers colliding in Central Park, and the whole story is told over a single day. In our interview below, Gayle tells us about re-discovering her creative expression through writing a character who had also lost her voice.


Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from home to find the boy that he loves, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City after a family tragedy leaves him isolated on the outskirts of Washington state. After the three of them collide in Central Park, they slowly reveal the parts of their past that they haven't been able to confront, and together, they find their way back to who they're supposed to be.

Told over the course of a single day from three different perspectives, this is a story about the power of friendship and being true to who you are.


Your latest novel plays out in the space of a day. What made you decide to constrain the immediate stories of Freya, Harun and Nathaniel to only a day’s worth of time? 

I love playing with time in my novels. Both If I Stay and Where She Went take place over a 24-hour period. Just One Day and Just One Year are divided into two sections, one of which takes place over a day, the other over a year.  There’s something about a condensed time period that elevates the stakes. There are all these pivot points in life; sometimes you don’t even recognize them until years later (or even at all) but as an author, I am kind of obsessed with taking a microscope to these small , transformative moments. 

Are there any other novels you can think of that you’ve read that play out in a single day?

This is a popular trope in young adult and I think the first time I encountered it was in David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Recently, I read Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also A Star, which I loved. Mrs. Dalloway comes to mind, as does Patrick Ness’s excellent take on it, Release. One of my favourite reads of the last few year was Pamela Eren’s Eleven Hours, which takes place over a woman’s labor and delivery. 

Nathaniel arrives in New York City after a family tragedy. What do you think is it about New York that you think attracts people who are searching for something, or who are looking to create or chase their dreams?

New York City is a city of dreamers. It’s also a city that can break you. I think the reason I still love writing about NYC, and still love living in NYC, in spite of its myriad frustrations (and don’t’ get me started on the subway), it represents possibility. Anything can happen here, and frequently anything does. I didn’t intentionally set the book here—it’s a bit of a cliché to have novels set here—but I kept picturing Freya, Harun and Nathaniel, pulled toward each other by some invisible force, and I knew that the magnet, so to speak, was New York City.

While publicising Leave Me, your first book starring adults, in 2016, you said that you were working on a YA novel that you’d been trying to finish for years, but you’d only just found the ‘missing piece’. Was the novel you were referring to I Have Lost My Way? If so, what was the missing piece you needed to finish it?

Oh, how I wish. No, that novel, which I thought I’d cracked, turned out to be one of the many books I crashed and burned on (there were six more). I had been trying to write a new YA novel since 2013 and I hated everything. Then, after the election here, everything I had seemed insufficient, inauthentic, and I was really at a loss. I began to fear that I would never write again and that was terrifying. I didn’t understand how this thing I’d always done, I couldn’t seem to do.  I kept thinking that I’d lost my way. 

How did each of these characters come to you? Did they each come to you separately and then collide?

After a few months of muttering “I’ve lost my way” to myself, thinking that I might never write again, there was someone else whispering those words to me. I wrote them down. It was Freya. Like me, she was suddenly unable to do the thing she’d always done, the thing she was known for, in her case, singing.  I wrote down the words I have lost my way from Freya’s perspective. And just kept going.  From Freya came Harun and after Harun, Nathaniel.

The way the book is written – largely in a present tense point of view that jumps from perspective to the other – is really born out of this sense that they are separate entities  but also a singular one.  So the answer is they came to me separately and they came to me together.

Which of your three main characters do you feel is most closely based on your own life experiences, and which of them is furthest away from you?

When it comes to actual experiences, as in, this thing happened to me, none of them are based on me. I’ve never been a pop star or an Internet celebrity, I’ve never been a closeted gay kid, I’ve never lived alone with a mentally unstable parent. But when it comes to the emotional experience – questioning your worth if you can’t do something of value to the world, feeling shame that if the world saw the real you, they’d reject you, needing help but being unable to ask for it accept it or feel entitled to it – all of that comes directly from me.

After we’ve finished devouring I Have Lost My Way, are there any other recent YA books you recommend? 

I adored Emily X R Pan’s The Astonishing Color of After, a stunning book about coping with loss. I devoured E Lockhart’s Genuine Fraud, a juicy, feminist take on The Talented Mr Ripley (told backwards).  Arvin Ahmadi’s Down and Across was charming and funny. Patrick Ness’s Release was fantastic.

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman is published by Simon & Schuster, rrp $19.99.

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