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Welcome, welcome, my lovelies, to another fabulous guest on #ShatteringStigmas!! Today I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to interview Francesca Zappia, who just so happens to be the author of one of my all-time favorite books Made You Up! If you haven’t read this one yet, I insist that you do, for it is amazing. I flail about it right here. So here it is, my interview with Francesca! Her answers are bold and black, my questions are blue, just to differentiate!


Hi Francesca! First, I want to thank you so, so much for taking time to be a part of this event! It’s a cause that Kayla, Inge, and myself are quite invested in, so we are absolutely thrilled that you are participating.

 

Thank you so much for having me! I’m so happy to be here.

 

Being a debut author must be incredibly challenging, but writing from the perspective of a teen with schizophrenia sounds exceedingly so! Did you pull from any personal experiences while writing Made You Up?

 

Interestingly enough, my personal experience came in while writing about every other aspect of the book. Because I don’t have paranoid schizophrenia, and at the time didn’t know anyone else who had it or any way to interview someone who did, I had to do a lot of research to make sure I wasn’t getting things completely wrong. Alex and her illness took a lot of work, but Miles, who is neuroatypical in his own way, came much more from my own experience.

 

One of my favorite aspects about the book was that we’re not just reading about an illness, we’re reading about Alex, and her entire life. Yes, her schizophrenia plays a role, but it doesn’t define her, which I found so refreshing in a book that includes mental health. How were you able to find that balance so well?

 

That was the thing for me — I was always only writing about Alex. I was never writing about schizophrenia, not entirely. Alex has paranoid schizophrenia, and it has shaped who she is, how she sees the world, and how she interacts with other people, but it isn’t the only thing she focuses on in her life and it shouldn’t be the only thing the reader focuses on, either. Keeping all these things in mind was what let me find the balance, I think. It was seeing Alex as a person, rather than an illness.

 

There’s always been a stigma surrounding mental illness, but it feels like some of the stigma is lifted every time a positive and appropriate book like Made You Up is released.  That said, I feel like schizophrenia is especially stigmatized in our society. Readers being able to view a teen like Alex as a person and not an illness is a huge step in the right direction. Is there anything else you would love to see more of in YA literature in terms of mental health discussion?

 

Some stigma is definitely lifted every time a story portraying a mental illness in a positive light is released, and I’m glad so many people see Made You Up as one of those stories. What I think people like about Made You Up is also what I’d like to see in other mental health books–lightheartedness. Not lightheartedness about mental illness itself, but scenes in which the characters suffering mental illnesses can be lighthearted. Alex has a lot of fun in this book. She makes jokes. Silly things happen. When this is mixed in with the heavier, darker material, it creates a juxtaposition that does a better job of opening people’s eyes.

 

What do you hope readers are able to take away from Made You Up?

 

There will always be someone willing to help you. They might come to you; you might have to find them. But they’re there, and they’re ready to listen.

 

I have seen your amazing artwork, and am pretty much blown away! Some people find art incredibly therapeutic, has it been so for you? (Sidenote: You can find Francesca’s fabulous work here: http://www.francescazappia.com/p/artwork.html

 

Haha thank you! I do find art therapeutic at times. It helps me work through ideas for stories, and when I’m drawing I’m able to relax and let go of the stress I’ve built up throughout the day. It really helped in high school, when I spent far too much of my time angry because I was cooped up in a building with 800 other teenagers for seven hours a day.

 

Are you able to talk about any future writing plans at this time? Do you think you’ll ever do another book involving mental health?

 

Whether or not I’ll do another book with a character who is already diagnosed is up in the air, but I am interested in exploring undiagnosed characters, and characters who may not even realize that something is wrong. There’s something to be said for that important first step–accepting that there is a problem and understanding that it’s not a defect in you as a person–and I’d like to explore that. (That first part happened a little in Made You Up, when Alex had to come to terms with the fact that her coping strategies were no longer working, but I’d like to see it from someone who doesn’t know there’s something to cope with.)

 

I would also like to explore mental illness more in sci-fi and fantasy books. I think a lot of SF/F have characters that could be diagnosed with mental illnesses, but like the horror and thriller genres, they’re never acknowledged as mental illnesses and they usually only serve to make those characters villains.

 

So, let’s end on a fun note with a little Getting-to-Know-You Lightning Round!

  • If you could only eat one food for the rest of time, what would it be? Lettuce!
  • Dream vacation destination? The Bavarian Alps!
  • Cat or Dog person? Both, except if I have to keep one as a pet, then cat!
  • Coffee or Tea? Milk!
  • Best book you’ve read so far this year? Do graphic novels count? If so, Saga!
  • Latest TV or movie obsession? *weeps silently over lost TV and movie watching time*
  • Song of the moment? Oh No! by Marina and the Diamonds! Fits perfectly with one of the stories I’m working on.

Thanks again for participating in our event!

Thank YOU!


About Francesca Zappia

YA writer represented by Louise Fury of the Bent Agency. My debut, MADE YOU UP, will be out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins on May 19th, 2015. I like writing, reading, drawing, anime, playing way too much Pokemon, and other things.

About Made You Up

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Published by Greenwillow Books on May 19th 2015
Pages: 448

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

I absolutely cannot thank Francesca enough for joining us! I love the idea of a person with a mental health issue in a sci-fi/fantasy world, that is one thing I have always wanted to read about! And what Francesca touched on about lighthearted moments is my favorite part of Made You Up because it shows that Alex is a person first and foremost. Yeah, she has a mental illness, but she is always Alex

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Is there any particular genre that you’d like to see deal with mental health more? Or perhaps a specific mental health condition that you’d like to see addressed more in general?

Posted August 20, 2015 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in #ShatteringStigmas, Interview, Mental Health / 33 Comments


33 responses to “A #ShatteringStigmas interview with author Francesca Zappia

  1. Oh, hello Francesca! (Shameful confession: I have not yet read Made You Up. I keep meaning to nab it, but I haven’t! I SWEAR I SHALL SOON. Your artwork is super fabulous and argh, basically talent all around. I AM ALL THE JEALOUS. (Also, milk is clearly the best. And parenthesis, since I can’t seem to stop using them.)

    • DOOO ITTT. You must because I loved it. That’s a good enough reason, right? 😉 No seriously, it is phenomenally done. And isn’t Francesca healthy!? She wants lettuce all the time and milk instead of coffee! I think she should probably be my life coach 😉

  2. I had this book from the library and didn’t get to it in time. I am definitely going to read it at some point, though. I think it would be nice to see NA deal with mental illness. I was a new adult when depression and PTSD dominated my world, so I would relate to that. It seems that NA books are mostly romance *sigh*.
    I loved this interview, it makes me want to read the book right now. Great job. I have to say something about Lettuce, though. Really?

    • Oh I really hope you do, it is one of my all time favorites, and SO worth it! I agree with you- that is when my mental health issues were (are?) the worst, and it WOULD be great to have some diversity in NA (another reason why I don’t read a ton of it actually!)

      I was thinking that too- homegirl is healthy! Lettuce AND milk!? I need some cheetos and margaritas, STAT!

  3. Wow Shannon you did an amazing job with the interview! I haven’t been able to pick up my copy of Made You Up, but I’m sooo freaking excited to dive in. I’ve heard mixed things, people either love it or they don’t but I really think I’ll love this one. I don’t read too many stories about Mental Health, and I’ve been wanting to change that, so you’ll see my thoughts on this very soon!

  4. I completely agree that every time a book like Made You Up comes out shedding positive light on the people suffering from mental illness that the stigma is slowly being eliminated. I haven’t read Chelsea’s book just yet (too many books, too little time!), but I’m looking forward to reading it. I own a copy of the book already so it’s just a matter of finding some time to read it.
    But OMG! I definitely want to see mental health issues being tackled in other genres, especially sci-fi and fantasy like the author said. There are just so many possibilities!
    Thanks for sharing, Shannon!

  5. I love this interview. I have this book on my Kindle, just waiting to be read. Soon!! I love that the author talks about the illness not defining the main character of the book. That is so important. I can’t wait to read this one.

  6. This post is fantastic!! This part definitely sticks with me: “Alex has paranoid schizophrenia, and it has shaped who she is, how she sees the world, and how she interacts with other people, but it isn’t the only thing she focuses on in her life and it shouldn’t be the only thing the reader focuses on.” This book isn’t just about schizophrenia, it’s so much more than that!! 🙂 Lovely and thought-provoking interview!

  7. Francesca was one of the first authors that came to mind when I hear you were doing author interviews for Shattering stigmas Shannon! Made You Up is absolutely incredible and I love the way it realistically portrays mental illness – it’s clear Francesca did a ton of research and it obviously paid off. Thanks for sharing Shannon and wonderful interview! Thanks for stopping by Francesca! ♥

  8. SO I JUST ORDERED MADE YOU UP THIS WEEK AND I’M SO WILDLY EXCITED FOR IT TO ARRIVE!! 😀 I’ve wanted to read it foreeeever and this interview was just the best thing ever. (And zomg, Shannon, I ADORED your questions.) And I loved the answers and YES TO THAT LAST QUESTION about seeing more mental illness (and disabilities would be nice too) in fantasical books. I hate how not being neurotypical always casts you as a “villain” in fantasy. It’s really sad. SO YES TO EVERYTHING. And I seriously can’t wait to read this!! *flails*

    • YAYYY! I hope you love it! I really agree- especially in relation to your newest post, this is something so, so important! I want this to be a thing.

      Speaking of neuroatypical villains, this reminds me of a HUGE controversy that happened over a Disney movie right before my son was born. In it, the villain had a cleft- and Disney even mentioned it as one of his “bad guy” traits. Well, of course parents were SO upset, like their cleft kids didn’t have enough to worry about. I usually don’t get mad about much, but MAN that pissed me off- don’t go turning a birth defect into a quality of villains, just as no one should do it with mental illness either! Rant over 😉

  9. Loved reading this interview and I agree with so much she is saying! We already talked about how it was focused on Alex as a whole and not just her mental illness – which makes me happy. But I liked what was mentioned about the lightheardness in the book and how it shows people that even with a mental illness you are still a person!

  10. YESSS I would love to see mental illness and diversity explored in SFF books! It’s fascinating to hear that the author doesn’t draw it from her own experience and did a lot of research – it sounds like she was thorough and approached the topic sensitively. Lovely interview!

  11. That’s exactly why I loved it, how the focus was more on Alex and not her mental illness, it was just something she had to deal and live with and obviously, it is going to change you and be a part of you, but it’s not just what or who you are.
    And exactly, I would so love to see that in more books to do with mental health, I mean, obviously, there’s the darker side, especially undiagnosed or medication not working, but there’s happier moments and It’s got to have a good balance (which Made You Up definitely did.) 😀
    I didn’t know about her art! How amazing is #ThisStoryHadMonsters?!
    OHMYGODOHMYGOD SHE LIKES MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS?! Holy crap. I freaking love them! I’m a Ruin has basically been on repeat since February. And I’m a little in love with Marina’s voice.

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