YOU AND ME
I always anticipated mixed feedback. Posting the conclusion to my 'Someday' series has been an emotional rollercoaster for me. I've done my best to be unscathed by your reviews, but some of you obviously have strong opinions about my decision to take this direction. At the same time, I have been heartened by how many of you have been nothing but supportive - who have identified strongly with the emotion, who have expressed their ability to identify periods in your own lives where you have felt the way that Gabriella feels and why she made this decision.
This story, these characters, this arc – has existed in my life since 2007, and its roots existed long before Troy Bolton was a blip on my radar. It is so close to my heart that I don't even know how to describe. I do want to try to explain, because I respect the reasons for confusion/anger/hurt. I will also touch on my thoughts regarding a sequel, which has been one of the questions I've been asked most about. This involves a long ramble, which anyone who knows me will not be surprised by.
The Origins of 'Someday'
As a teenager I was involved in an extremely unhealthy unrequited relationship with a boy who was overall bad for my health and well-being. I dedicated so much of my time into writing this 'novel' which was essentially a telling of my life – where my character was 'Gabrielle' and the evil boy was 'Will' - in a fantasy world where Will realised that Gabrielle was amazing and in the course of falling in love, she became a confident, amazing person with great friendships and better relationships with her parents. In my real world, 'Will' continued to emotionally batter me and in an effort to understand him, I started working on the second portion of the story, which saw it being told him the male perspective. I was trying to work him out, to figure out why he would behave in such a way and to de-construct him through my writing. Ultimately I realised how self-destructive this story was to my well-being; that I was creating some elaborate fantasy land that was never, ever, ever going to exist. I wrote the last couple of chapters of the story, which saw the female character choose to break up with him at the end of Year 12 as they were going to different universities and she needed to find herself and be happy in her own skin.
It was from here that I developed this fascination with these types of characters – strong, female characters who are not defined by a man, who want to have their own identity in a relationship. I prefer television to movies, Zac Efron films aside. I love the character of Joey in Season 2 of Dawson's Creek, breaking up with Dawson to 'find herself'. I love that Buffy, in Season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, acknowledges that as a young woman she doesn't need a man in her life and instead, she needs to figure out who she is, independently from her relationship with Angel. One of my favourite things about the Ross and Rachel dynamic in Friends is that they were never going to work while she was unhappy in her own existence, and that only when she was successful in her own endeavours could things ever actually be real. I love characters like Diane in The Good Wife, Ellenor in The Practice, Cristina in Grey's Anatomy. I may tend to be drawn toward male actors; however it is strong female characters who I personally identify with and love to see.
Someday - in HSM context.
I came to the HSM fandom in 2007 with this as my background and my overall personal mantra, and it didn't take me long to get my HSM fanfiction muse rolling. I wrote for The Practice fandom back when I was a teenager and the internet was vastly different; and I've read fanfiction in a series of other fandoms and in 2006/early 2007 I felt myself itching to start writing fanfiction again - and HSM was the guinea pig. Believe me, I never anticipated that writing a simple story which sat post HSM1 which is filled with Australianisms and awful grammar would set me on my current life path. At some point with my personal rants and opinions about High School Musical 2, I found myself feeling this desperate need to write this story. This wasn't just me forcing this story onto these characters, not in the slightest. Troy has these darker tendencies, this side of him that becomes completely passionate and obsessed. We see Gabriella in the canon HSM world make decisions for herself all the time. When I formulated my version of what I envisaged for post HSM2, this was well before Zac and Vanessa's relationship ended, and even before we even had High School Musical 3 confirmed, back when Haunted House Musical or whatever it was called was being speculated. I found myself feeling really inspired by a combination of the lyric and the sentiment of Gotta Go My Own Way and one of my favourite songs of all time – which is Someday, Someday by Thirsty Merc. (Side note: I remember once I was in the Hot Seat at the Vanessa Hudgens board on FanForum and I was asked about my favourite song by someone and I had to be coy and avoid answering. This was the answer.) Also a part of my inspiration was my characters of Gabrielle (me – Danielle) and Will (the evil boy who destroyed my teenage soul – I protect his real name, though feel free to hunt him down and throw rocks.) In a post HSM3 world, I found my story becoming even more important to me because I was in so many ways writing the same characterisation but placed in slightly different circumstances and making realistic decisions – as close to canon as one could be, whilst being AU.
I did most of my basic background research in 2007/2008, prior to the release of High School Musical 3. I did a lot of writing while I was overseas in 2008, writing the majority of the really important scenes in this story in their original form. Chapter 12, 14 and 16 have been written since 2008, in one form or another. Actually, chapter 16 I wrote in 2007. I had decided upon a UC Berkeley/Stanford/MIT triangle well before HSM3 spoilers were leaking. Since then I've done more intricate research into things like the recruitment process and college applications, and of course the scenes have been re-written a dozen or more times, becoming gradually more eloquent. However the crux of the basic plot arc and the emotion surrounding it has been carried with me for all of these years. I always knew that my Troy would wind up at UC Berkeley, and I always knew that she would wind up at MIT – and I needed for both of them to have a real alternative, an alternative college which would have them closeby but which in their heart of hearts knew wasn't right. I needed for both Gabriella to make that decision, and I needed for Troy to also make that decision – for her to say no to Stanford because MIT is in her heart, and for him to not pursue offers from Boston University, despite the life he is choosing, a life away from her. I always knew that she would end the relationship. I always knew that he would be heartbroken.
What I wanted to create
I wanted to write an epic love story, a story which told all of those important moments in a relationship, but where the ending wasn't perfect. The bittersweet ending doesn't negate the importance of their love or of those experiences. One of the exclamations I've had via review is this incredulousness that I could take you all on this journey and do this. If anything, I consider this to be exactly the job of an author - to be true to the characters, to the way that they would react, the reality of the kinds of decisions that they would make, and to nonetheless be able to capture the emotion. To me, that is real life. This fandom, especially back in the origins of this story, was filled with stories where you were either a shipper who believed in happy endings, or you shipped Troy with Sharpay and Gabriella with Ryan and you'd have him and Gabriella break up in some tragic way to make it happen. This isn't real life - that Gabriella needs to sleep with Ryan or Troy with Sharpay for them to break up. Sometimes relationships don't work out, and it isn't about making bad decisions or it isn't about not being in they just aren't right for you at that moment in your life.
I wanted to write a story where the ending was real but where it didn't take away from the magic of what existed. I felt like the characters, by taking their characterisation in the films and pushing it into a real world, could go to this place. I very genuinely don't believe that it is healthy for Troy to exist where he is so consumed by her, not at the age of 18 – and especially not when she wasn't at that same place. She tried to be, she had moments of it, but she always had this voice that was grounding her. I tried to foreshadow, in particular to foreshadow Gabriella's motivations (think back to when Gabriella and Taylor went to visit Harvard and MIT in Chapter 32 of OUAT, for example); but at the same time I kind of wanted the shock value in order for the reader to experience Troy's reaction along with him.
The fandom and characterisation decisions
HSM, and in particular Troy and Gabriella, tends to draw in a lot of romantics. People who believe in destiny and fate and that true love can overcome all – these are the morals which HSM in its Disney incarnation teaches us. I wanted to challenge this. In the real world, people are more complicated. In the real world, people get scared, people get confused. In the real world, life doesn't magically fall into place at the snap of the fingers – a scary lesson for Sharpay Evans to learn! I love my Gabriella and what she becomes at the end. I know from feedback I've received that a lot of you don't understand her. I don't know you guys personally, but I can say that I think you see the world in black and white. You need to see the grey. You need to understand that love is complicated. You need to understand that sometimes, you can love someone, but the timing isn't right.
Canon!Gabriella frustrates me, because you have this amazing, intelligent, talented girl who is seemingly set upon her ways and with a wink and a kiss Troy Bolton manages to distract her from those ways. There are genuine issues of mistrust and and miscommunication, genuine issues where she refuses to confide in him – which get swept under the rug. Troy Bolton swoops into town in his truck, presents a corsage, they dance and kiss and he magically has found a way for them to be together. In the real world, it isn't this simple. This fandom has grown up a lot, and I think people over the last couple of years have come to realise these things as a reflection of the real lives of the actors, and I wish in many ways I'd been able to get this all out and posted prior to the break up – but in many ways, I hope that newfound maturity will help people who previously would not have understood my story to now be able to appreciate it.
I make it clear that my personal shipping preferences bare absolutely zero impact upon the plot. Anyone who knows me will know that for me, Someday!Troy and Someday!Gabi are larger than life for me, they are like real life human beings that operate entirely independently of what Zac or Vanessa do in real life. Clearly, if I was taking my personal feelings on board, then as one reader suggested, my epilogue would've been Troy in his first class of freshman year meeting a fabulous Australian international student named Dani ;)
Having said all of this, it's also important for you to know that I'm not a Troy and Gabriella cynic. I believe in their love and their passion and their chemistry. I think I know what happens to them after this. At one point, I was really intent upon writing it. Now, I'm undecided. In some ways, I feel like this is where I should leave it. For me, it's like a television series insisting upon continuing for seasons beyond its time was up, or when the writers hearts maybe just aren't quite in it like they should be. I'm so, so, so proud of my work on You and Me and in some ways, I don't know if I can top it. Maybe I should leave their ending unsaid. Maybe that's something which I should leave up to you, and to your own interpretations of our wider fandom and to my universe within. The summary is that I'm undecided. You can watch the space of my profile for my important updates regarding this decision.
While I mull on that decision, The Simple Need will be concluded. I've written the next three chapters. I'm hoping to write a bit more before I start editing and publishing. But I am hoping for a 2012 conclusion!
I've had so much assistance with this overall series that I wouldn't know where to begin in providing thank you's. In the early days of 2008, it was the people who posted at the Fanfiction thread at the Vanessa Anne Hudgens board at Fan Forum who were my emotional rock. I had Ayen and Martin supporting me through the first installment as pre-readers. Throughout the epic battle of completing This Moment I feel like I can look back and see my own growth in the fandom – I had the most amazing beta reader in Audrey who pushed me in every single way to become a better writer. I can look back to the early days of having Kylie and Nel assist me via MSN. After this, it was Kelly, Abigail, Kirsten, Van and all of the people who would post at the Fanfiction thread at the Zac Efron board at Fan Forum, some of whom I've used as pre-readers over the years. As my muse struggled and the fandom moved on, I found a support base in friends like Lanie and Kerry. Most recently, as I've battled with finishing the series, it's been fairly Twitter driven – people like Kat, Kristen and Shelle providing cheerleading support and responding to my random ponderings as I fought to bring this beast to its conclusion.
To anyone who has ever left me a review, sent a message, provided general support and assistance and advice – whether it be about breakfast cereal, prom dresses, Americanisations, the basketball recruiting processes – anything at all; to the people who message me and let me know that they are looking forward to seeing the conclusion; to the people who listen to me rant and rave and cry and bitch and moan as I forced myself to see this to a finale. I thank every single person because in so many ways I feel like this fanfic was a team effort and I could not have done it without all of your support.