If This Gets Out authors shine light on queer romance

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich
If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich /

What happens when two members of the most famous boyband in the world fall in love? That’s the central question behind If This Gets Out, the first collaboration between beloved young adult authors Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich.

The novel follows Ruben Martinez, a perfectionist musical theatre nerd who is openly gay to everyone in his life–except his fans. Ruben is best friends with fellow frontman, Zach Knight, an anxious songwriter who is discovering his own identity and what he wants.

As the two friends grow closer, their already complicated world becomes that much more difficult to navigate as the pressures of celebrity and public persona weigh down on them. Will they be able to be themselves and true artists at the same time?

Culturess sat down with Gonzales and Dietrich to discuss their writing process, the delightful premise behind If This Gets Out, and the important concepts the authors embedded in the swoony friends-to-lovers story.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Culturess:  This is the first co-authored book for both of you. How did you two connect and find the opportunity to work together?

Sophie Gonzales: Cale and I have been friends since 2014 when I joined Twitter in the hopes of creating a writing community.

Cale was one of the first people to reach out—and he was agented, which was fancy, and it was all very exciting for me! Fast forward to the end of 2019, when he approached me with a book idea he had . . .

Cale Dietrich: She said yes! Which was so nice because I was nervous to ask her about collaborating – it’s unexpectedly scary!

Culturess:  How did you determine who would write which character’s perspective? What was the overall writing process like compared to your previous books?

Gonzales: We started off by creating our main characters. We basically talked to each other through our characters, and what they would be like, via Twitter direct message!

You can spot parts of us in each of our characters—Ruben’s Spanish, sarcastic, and loves watching and performing musical theatre like me, and Zach loves punk music, and is super thoughtful and kind, like Cale.

We put together a general plot, and wrote a handful of chapters, and, once we sold those chapters to my publisher, we had to go in and nail down the synopsis so we could write the remaining 95%.

While the alternating chapters were very different for me, luckily I’m very Type A and love working with thorough outlines! But Cale’s more of a pantser, so I think that was a pretty new experience for him, right Cale?

Dietrich: New, but in a very good way! We had a much more detailed synopsis for this than I generally have with my books out of necessity – it would be almost impossible I think to co-write without a super detailed synopsis.

It was also so much fun seeing Sophie’s chapters come in, every time they did it felt like such a treat because even if I knew the plot bullet points of what was going to happen, I didn’t know how Sophie would flesh it out, or what jokes she would make. So having that was a definite change that I really enjoyed.

“You can spot parts of us in each of our characters…” – Sophie Gonzales

Author Sophie Gonzales. Image courtesy Melbourne Actor’s Headshots
Author Sophie Gonzales. Image courtesy Melbourne Actor’s Headshots /

Culturess:  How much research did you have to do into boy bands and the entertainment industry? What surprised you the most?

Dietrich: A lot! We both had a pretty solid base knowledge, but we wanted to make sure we made it as realistic as possible, which meant researching contracts, as well as watching every behind-the-scenes music documentary that we could think of.

What surprised me was how often artists face this kind of control – it seems to be a pretty open secret that the music industry is brutal on artists. Even someone like Taylor Swift isn’t immune.

Another shocking thing:  I found out that there are some artists who get signed, but then their label never allows them to release music, putting them in an impossible situation. It’s brutal.

Gonzales: While both Cale and I were casual listeners of a range of boybands, neither of us were exactly experts on the industry or any boybands in particular (we actually both lean heavier in our music taste!).

We spent countless hours watching every documentary we could find, reading every interview we could source—dating back to the ’90s at times!—and reading up on entertainment law and entertainment contracts. Something that surprised me was how easy it is for the wrong contract to strip artists of their royalties!

I can think of some particular examples from the ’90s where people from a very famous band were left with almost nothing to their name at the end of their very illustrious—and exhausting—career.

Culturess:  Sophie, this was the first cover you’ve illustrated. How did that opportunity come about?

Gonzales: I enjoy scribbling on my iPad, and was drawing some early “fan” art of the boys for fun, which I was then posting on my Instagram page to share the excitement around the book.

Then, when we got our cover layout email—in which we usually get a draft from an artist where they’ve sketched out their direction—instead, our publishing design team had taken one of my drawings and placed it in a cover mock-up!

That’s when I found out they were offering to hire me to draw the cover. I’m no professional artist, but it was such a cool opportunity, and it’s been incredible to see something I drew last summer sitting on my bed on the front of the book!

“I love spectacle, tension, and action, and this has all of them!” – Cale Dietrich

Cale Dietrich. Credit Shaye Beth
Cale Dietrich. Credit Shaye Beth /

Culturess:  Cale, this was a departure from your previous books in terms of genre. What was it like to work on a more straightforward contemporary romance?

Dietrich: An absolute blast! I love genre books as well, and this has a lot of the things that appeal to me with those. I love spectacle, tension, and action, and this has all of them! It’s just instead of a big fight scene it’s a flashy concert scene!

I think I was lucky, too, having Sophie there, because she’s incredible at writing contemporaries, so I learned so much from her about what makes them work.

Culturess:  You mention in the acknowledgments the ways that If This Gets Out explores the various aspects of forced closeting. The novel also deals with figuring out how to come out and when.

How did you land on exploring these themes in the book? What do you want young readers to take away from the story?

Dietrich: Those themes were definitely on our minds from the initial idea, but after the research, we definitely wanted to explore them even more.

It’s just terrible the way some people are treated within the music industry – and it’s way too easy for me to envision a company pressuring a young queer person to be silent “just for now” in order to have a career.

That is a truly awful thing that is shockingly widespread, so we really wanted to have the book examine this and point out how wrong it is.

Gonzales: Both Cale and I felt really strongly, at the start but especially after doing some research, that the way vulnerable artists are treated in the entertainment industry can be absolutely shocking.

I think this is something that’s coming to light more recently, perhaps, with some well-publicized cases of celebrities speaking out, but a lot more goes on behind closed doors.

I especially notice that some people are beginning to get the idea that homophobia has vanished, and isn’t a factor in the lives of queer artists anymore—which is categorically false, as unfortunate as that is to say.

But how can we fight for the artists we support if we don’t even know the kind of conditions they’re facing? Knowledge is key. It’s everything.

Next. If This Gets Out is a queer boy band romcom that hits all the high notes. dark

If This Gets Out is on sale now wherever books are sold. Let us know if you add it to your TBR!