Thursday, July 18, 2013

Author Interview: Francesca Zappia

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Debut Author Francesca Zappia's book, Ask Again Later, doesn't come out until 2014, but I'm already dying to read it. Why? Well just check out this summary:
Francesca Zappia's debut ASK AGAIN LATER, about the ultimate unreliable narrator, a schizophrenic teenage girl unable to tell the difference between reality and delusion who discovers -- thanks to her Magic 8-Ball, her little sister, and a boy she thought was imaginary -- that sometimes there really is someone out to get you.
I mean, how awesome does that sound? Francesca was nice enough to stop by to tell us a bit more about Ask Again Later, as well as to talk about writing, authors, and art!

About Ask Again Later 
One of the reasons Ask Again Later sounds amazing is that it has an unreliable narrator. How challenging was it to write a character like that, or was it easier in some aspects?
In some ways, it was difficult to write an unreliable narrator, but in others it was easier (and a lot of fun!). It's difficult if you think about it too much. Trying to think of ways to mislead an audience with a character's narration is like staring at a blank word document and trying to come up with a whole story idea. The secret is having a good grasp on what your narrator knows and what they don't before you ever start writing the story. As the writer, I knew all the details of the plot and how it would play out, but while I was actually writing, I had to stop being a writer and start being Alex, the main character. All first-person narrators are unreliable to some degree, but Alex's illness kind of bumps her up to the next level, and that put the pressure on to immerse the reader in her world, where you can never be sure what's real.

In Ask Again Later, the main character suffers from schizophrenia. How did you go about doing the research on this mental illness?
Artwork by Francesca Zappia
I wish I could say I got the chance to visit actual paranoid schizophrenics--or even talk to a psychiatrist or psychologist who had treated one--but unfortunately I didn't. All the information I used came from libraries and the Internet. I knew that if I wrote a book about something as misunderstood as schizophrenia, I couldn't shirk the research, so I made sure I learned everything from the symptoms to the (supposed) causes to effects on the family to types of treatment and therapy. In a lot of mainstream media, schizophrenia is a trait given to criminals or villains to explain why they're so messed up and dangerous. (Or, in some other books I've read, a way for a teenage character to be extra rebellious/quirky). I wanted to steer far away from using mental illness as a plot device, which meant even more research.

Ask Again Later is your debut novel. (Congratulations, by the way!) How did you celebrate your first book deal?
Thank you! To be totally honest, I think I sat at home and played World of Warcraft. (I was too much in shock to go out and do anything.) This was after I screamed a lot and jumped up and down on my couch. I imagine there will be a lot more "normal" celebrating when the book actually comes out.

According to this interview, Ask Again Later used to be called Alexithymia. What other titles were considered?
Oh, Alexithymia. We actually went through a few different ideas for titles before we went on submission to editors with "Ask Again Later", and all those other titles got shot down. (I'm not so great at titles, haha.) Examples of some of my really bad pseudo-titles: Lobsters, Germans, and Other Things I Made Up; The Exquisite Horror of Reality; From Inside the Lobster Tank. All sorts of fun stuff. But now it's with my editor, and who knows--Ask Again Later may not even be the final title!

About writing
You’re an artist (and a really good one, too) as well as a writer. If you had to decide between your writing and your art, which would you choose?
Thank you, again! I do love art and drawing--it's so close to my writing, and yet it's a completely different way of getting an idea on paper--but I would definitely choose my writing, every time. Writing is everything to me: it's how I function throughout the day, it's what I'm thinking about when I stare into space, it's influenced by everything I see and hear. My art is just an addition to that, an extra way to get my writing-related ideas out. I can go months without drawing anything, but I can only go a few days without writing. And I can't last any length of time without thinking about one of my stories.

Artwork by Francesca Zappia
What is your writing process like? (For example, do you need a playlist and a certain snack before you get started?)
Good question! I guess I've never really thought about it. I do, usually, have music playing. Every story gets its own playlist, since each one has a different feel. Sometimes I'll get lucky and find one song driving a scene, so I just play that song over and over again until I can't wring any more words from it. (Although sometimes the music sidetracks me into brainstorming rather than writing, and I have to turn it off.) I have noticed that I tend to write more (and better) late at night before I go to sleep. 

Will you continue to write YA in the future?
Most likely. All the ideas I have right now are YA. Maybe someday I'll try my hand at adult, but MG's probably forever out of the question--I like the option to curse WAY too much.

Random Question Time! 
You get to meet any author, living or dead, for lunch. Who do you choose and why?
OH. Okay, well, my top two are a living and a dead author, and they're so tied I don't know how I'd ever pick between them. The living author is J. K. Rowling, because she's an amazing human being and the Harry Potter series was what made me want to start writing in the first place. The dead author is Oscar Wilde, because he has the best ways of describing things that have been described a million ways, and any possible conversation you could have with Oscar Wilde would be an amazing one. 
Want to find out more about Francesca Zappia? Check out her blog, Twitter, and Tumblr. And don't forget to add Ask Again Later on Goodreads


  1. Unreliable narrators are so intriguing to me, especially when there's a strong reason for their unreliability (like a medical reason rather than them just being a liar). I like how the title really works with the issue the character is dealing with, too.

    1. Unreliable narrators are the best ! :)

  2. Such a great interview, and for real, I cannot even convey how good this book is. I will not rest until it is on EVERYONE'S TBR. I will say I'm a little offended that my awesome title suggestion didn't make it into the interview, but WHATEVS. (No, but seriously, everyone read this book. It's absurdly good.)

    1. Ooh what title did you suggest? (And is it as awesome as Lobsters, Germans, and Other Things I Made Up because I seriously love that one.)

      Also, thank you for setting up the interview! <3

  3. What a great interview! And your book sounds fantastic :)

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