After a short break for the holidays, I'm stoked to get back to our weekly #BeyondTheBio segments! We've got some amazing authors lined up for this new year, starting with today's guest: Francesca Zappia, author of Made You Up and Eliza And Her Little Monsters - due out May 30th. Francesca lives in Indiana and works at the University of Indianapolis. She spends most of her free time writing, reading, drawing, watching horror movies, playing way too much Pokémon, and scaring her friends. We're so glad she was able to join us today!
James: Hi Francesca! Thanks for making time for us today! Your first book, Made You Up, came out in 2015 and was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award for Debut Authors. Congratulations! What's the most exciting thing about being a debut author?
Francesca: Thank you! By far the most exciting thing about being a debut was the realization that real people were reading my book. The emails I received from fans about how the book helped them or how they saw themselves in the characters were amazing and really made it feel like all the hard work had been worth even more than I’d imagined.
James: Made You Up tells the story of a schizophrenic teenager named Alex who is unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. What was it that prompted you to tackle such a complex issue as mental illness?
Francesca: Mostly I wanted to address it because I had seen it portrayed so badly in so many other places. The way people view mental illness is slowly getting better (I hope), but there’s still such a stigma surrounding it. We still have books with mentally ill characters who throw away their medication, or who are healed by love, and those are tropes that have to go.
James: What do you think good representation looks like when it comes to mental illness?
Francesca: I think it looks like building a good support network of friends, family, and medical professionals around the mentally ill character. I think it looks like allowing them to make mistakes and learn to forgive themselves. I think it means portraying them like they are whole people, because they are. Mental illness can be scary for both the person who suffers it and the people around them, but that’s why it should be treated with care.
James: You have another book coming out later this year entitled Eliza And Her Monsters. What can you tell us about that?
Francesca: Yes! Eliza and Her Monsters is about a girl named Eliza Mirk who draws a wildly popular webcomic, but has kept herself anonymous because of her anxiety and the intense connection she feels to her art. The webcomic Eliza draws, titled Monstrous Sea, is the story I’ve been working on since I was eight years old, so many of the feelings she has toward it are the same as mine. I’ll be honest, it’s a little terrifying putting into words how I feel about something when the feeling is so overwhelmingly strong—and, to a point, obsessive—but I think that makes Eliza’s voice and narrative more believable.
On a less serious note, the book will include artwork drawn by me! There will be some panels from Monstrous Sea, as well as character drawings, spot art, and sketches. AND, since Eliza’s love interest is a fanfiction writer, there will also be snippets of his Monstrous Sea fanfiction throughout the book. I’ve seen the interior of the book, and it looks absolutely amazing.
James: That sounds incredible! An author and an artist? So impressive! (Readers, check out Francesca's mad art skills here.) What are some other YA books coming out this year that we should be excited for?
Francesca: Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me. Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited. Laura Silverman’s Girl Out Of Water. Julie Murphy’s Ramona Blue. And of course, Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, of which just a snippet gave me chills.
James: All right, speed round! But here's the Alex-inspired twist: You can only answer with Magic-8 Ball answers. Let's get to it.
Did you ever think you'd be an author? Without a doubt.
Do you sing karaoke? My sources say no.
Can you draw? As I see it, yes.
Are you a Wes Anderson fan? Outlook good.
Are you addicted to social media? Better not tell you now.
That's it for today's interview with Francesca. But if you have any questions for Francesca or want to let her know how Made You Up has impacted you, be sure to check out her website and reach out to her on Twitter or Tumblr. If you are an artist yourself and want us to share your artwork with the world, be sure to enter our #FanArtFriday contest. And, whatever you do, be sure to come back again next week, when we'll be talking to NY Times bestselling author and all-around awesome dude, Jason Reynolds!