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.
|Artwork by Francesca Zappia|
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!
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|
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!