Sweet Sixteener Nisha Sharma recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Francesca Zappia about her YA contemporary novel, MADE YOU UP (May 19, 2015 from Greenwillow/HarperCollins).
Francesca Zappia lives in Indiana and majors in Computer Science at the University of Indianapolis. She spends most of her time writing, reading, drawing, and playing way too much Pokémon.
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.
NISHA: I absolutely LOVED this book and spent most of the night reading it. I even missed a morning meeting at work because I had to get to the end! I’m so honored to be the one interviewing you. So let’s get started:
Your book bio mentioned that you started writing this story at eight years old. What was the inciting factor or the inspiration that encouraged you to finish the book?
Francesca: Actually, that was a bit of a misquote [during initial publicity announcements]. I started writing when I was eight, but I didn’t have the idea for the first draft of this story until I was about ten or eleven. (Huge difference, I know…) As for the inspiration, I think it was mostly love of the characters. I really love Alex and Miles, and I have since the first time I put them in a book, so it was for them that I wrote and finished the story (and then rewrote and revised it a billion times over the past twelve years).
Nisha: You deal with some heavy issues in the book such as abuse and mental illness. How did you do your research?
Francesca: I tried to find my information from a variety of reputable sources. Since I wasn’t able to speak to an actual paranoid schizophrenic while doing the research for this book, I had to do my best to make up for it–documentaries, case studies, etc.
Nisha: Your main character’s world is so fascinating because what’s not real for everyone else is real for Alex. At times, as the reader, I didn’t recognize the illusion from the reality either. Was this world building part of the drafting process or created during revisions?
Francesca: A little bit of both, actually! A lot of it was already there before we began revisions, and the revisions either padded it out or tweaked it to make it more believable or more cohesive. The hazy line between reality and hallucination definitely didn’t all come out perfect on my first try–but I’m glad so many people have felt the final effect!
Nisha: What is your greatest hope for the future of this book?
Francesa: Maybe just that it finds the people who need it. At its core, the story is about knowing that it’s okay to ask for help, and that when you do, there will be someone willing to help you, no matter who that person might be. So I hope this story gets to someone who could use a message like that.
Lightning Round Questions:
Favorite writing snack
None. Snacks are for the weak.
Writing music on repeat
Depends on the story. Pendulum, Madeon, Coldplay, typically.
Dream vacation destination
My room, with no one allowed to speak to me for any reason.
Favorite subject in high school
Lunch. All my friends were there and I never got homework.
Favorite fictional hero
Aerin, from THE HERO AND THE CROWN.
Class valedictorian hottie or bad boy hottie? (I’m a Miles fan ALL THE WAY!)
Oh, class valedictorian, definitely. (Although I mean, Miles is kind of both? …no? Porque no los dos?)
About the Interviewer:
Nisha Sharma is an honorary Sweet Sixteen member (whose release was bumped sadly into 2017). Her book, MY-SO CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE, is about an Indian American teenager who uses Bollywood movies as her guide for seeking revenge against an ex who dumped her a week before senior year.