Francesca Zappia, Indiana young adult fiction author, has written two books - "Made You Up" and "Eliza and Her Monsters". Francesca has a degree in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics, loves science fantasy, thinks peppers are disgusting and strongly believes the stegosaurus is the best kind of dinosaur. Read an interview with the author before her visit on May 19.
Johnson County Public Library: Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
Francesca Zappia: Imagine building a Lego model with only half the instructions while trapped in a small room with a very rowdy dog. Depending on the day, the dog is either my imagination or my anxiety, but either way that model is getting smashed at least once, and I’m going to have to rebuild it from the pieces left behind. I might have made this sound kind of awful, but it can actually be fun—I love everything from the initial planning of the story to finding new and better ways to combine and transform the pieces I’m left with after my brain decides to run amok. My writing process is half structure (outlines, character profiles) and half chaos (“you know what would be cool? A giant hammer that destroys nightmares”). It’s always a good time.
JCPL: What sort of research do you do for your books?
FZ: For both "Made You Up" and "Eliza and Her Monsters", I had to do a lot of research from a lot of different, reputable sources on both paranoid schizophrenia and anxiety. In general, my first course of action is to find someone (or many people) who have experience with the thing I need to research. Then I look at academic resources, online forums, or official websites. I use my own experiences, as well. I’ve done research on everything from how calendars are formed to the color of Indiana’s prison uniforms.
JCPL: Do you take a break in between writing books?
FZ: Haha, I probably should, but I don’t always. Or when I do, they aren’t as long as they should be. I’m always working on something, whether it’s actually drafting it out or just thinking about it while I’m walking around during the day. The times when I’m not thinking about one book or another are very few and far between. I’m working on taking more real breaks, though.
JCPL: What are you working on now? Will we see a new book from you soon?
FZ: I’m working on a lot of different exciting things! I’m hoping I’ll be able to announce something soon.
JCPL: What advice do you have for teens or those who are aspiring writers?
FZ: Write what you feel passionately about. Write what you want to read. These are the two things that got me through those rough spots when I wasn’t sure how to put a story together, or how to push through all the way to the end. Writing is tough and lonely and it takes a long time, so you have to learn to love the thing you’re creating. And you have to let yourself love it—ignore that little voice that says you aren’t good enough, or that your story is garbage, and just let yourself enjoy what you’re making, flaws and all. Let yourself be excited.
JCPL: In your bio, you mention your favorite genre is science fantasy. What are your favorites?
FZ: So this is a little weird, because I think my love of science fantasy actually came from anime and manga. Those mediums seem much more flexible in how they play with genre. Things like Code Geass and Fullmetal Alchemist* (and Pokemon, my eternal childhood love) come to my mind much faster than any science fantasy book I might have read in the past. A really great science fantasy graphic novel is Saga, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. (*Fullmetal Alchemist can be seen as straight fantasy, I guess, but alchemy’s magic system is treated as a science, so I’m going science fantasy.)
JCPL: Young Adult literature is full of such talented authors! Who are some of your favorite writers, YA or otherwise?
FZ: It IS full of talented authors! In terms of YA, some of my favorite authors are Laini Taylor, who makes my head hurt with how great and beautiful and expressive her stories are, and Rainbow Rowell, who really just got me with "Fangirl". I also love Marieke Nijkamp, Fonda Lee, Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, and Angie Thomas. Outside of that, I’ll always owe something to J.K. Rowling for teaching me how to write through Harry Potter, Stephen King for showing me you can put pretty much anything in a book if you set it up properly, and Robin McKinley for writing my favorite book of all time, "The Hero and the Crown".