The premise of Francesca Zappia’s upcoming book, ASK AGAIN LATER, immediately drew me in.

From Goodreads:

Francesca Zappia’s debut ASK AGAIN LATER is 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.

Expected publication: 2014

What would you like everyone to know about you and your journey toward becoming a writer?

It was never really a journey toward becoming a writer, because I’ve always been a writer. It was more a journey toward becoming a published author, and I think the most important thing about it was that it wasn’t any harder or easier than anyone else’s. I think when people look at a certain author’s agent or book deal announcement story, they think, “Wow, why did they have it so easy? What did they have that I didn’t?” I know I used to think that. But then I realized that sure, that person might have had a smooth path to getting an agent, but an extremely bumpy one to getting a book deal. Or vice versa. Or maybe they got an agent and a book deal easily, but then they run out of ideas, or can’t deal with the stress of deadlines and edits. Everyone’s journey is different. Mine was different than anyone else I know. But I’m perfectly happy with it.

Excellent answer. It’s true–everyone’s journey is different–and each author I’ve interviewed has a different story. Thanks for sharing yours!
I love the premise of ASK AGAIN LATER! Where did the idea come from, and how has it changed from when you first started writing it?

Thank you! To be honest, I’ve been working on it for so long, I’m not sure anymore. I wrote the original story back when I was in fifth or sixth grade. Before, it was about paranoid schizophrenia. Since then, it kind of mutated with each draft. Some parts of it stuck, other parts fell away. Schizophrenia became the driving force behind it. I saw someone say that they read the summary and thought it sounded like a plotting nightmare, which made me laugh–of all my stories, I never felt like I was really plotting while I wrote it. It came together from scenes from different drafts, from pieces of ideas about the characters and the places. I never sat down and made a concrete plot. It has a concrete plot, but not by design.

If I had to guess where the story originated from, it would be my need to write about the two central characters, Alex and Miles. Not necessarily as a schizophrenic and a genius, but as people. In my head, they’ve always existed independently of ASK AGAIN LATER, but this story was a way to show them to the world.

What a great example of how characters can drive plot–and I’m glad it wasn’t a plotting nightmare after all!
The design on your website is fantastic! What recommendations might you have for authors building a website or online presence?

Thanks! But all credit for that has to go to Hafsah over at IceyDesigns. Advice? Talk to people. I mean, trust me, I am the biggest shut-in you will ever meet. If I’m not at work, I am embarrassingly socially awkward. But the best way to build an online presence is to talk to people. Get to know them. Make connections. Leave comments on blog posts, retweet giveaways and interviews, congratulate others on their good news. They’ll reciprocate, I promise. (Also, the writing community is a lot more fun when you have other people to interact with.)

As for building a website, make it easy on the eyes. You don’t have to hire a website designer–Blogger and WordPress both have great templates you can use–but seriously. No neon text on a black background. No weird extra graphics all over the place. And for the love of everything holy, no Comic Sans.

Great tips! My husband is a graphic designer, and he loathes the Papyrus font (I’ll have to ask him how he feels about Comic Sans!).
Is it a challenge to divide time between your artwork and writing? Has your writing been influenced by your artwork, or vice versa?

I’ve never seen it as a challenge, mostly because making art has always kind of been a extra facet of my writing. It’s like, you have this big machine called Story Creation: the writing is the main engine driving it, but drawing is the outer covering, what makes it look pretty. My artwork has been influenced by my writing in that I rarely, if ever, draw anything that isn’t in my stories. Occasionally I’ll draw something that makes its way into the story. For example, in ASK AGAIN LATER, Alex has a tendency to notice Miles’s freckles. He didn’t have freckles until I added them in on a drawing one day.

The only time I have to divide my time is when I’ve been commissioned. I occasionally do artwork for other people, usually writer friends, and for that I have to force myself to sit down and just do it. I did a set of six comics for Leigh Ann Kopans’s ONE, coming out this June, and I set aside a few hours every weeknight and every Saturday for a few weeks to work on them.

 Great analogy with the machine! What are some of your current projects?

It’s kind of funny, because I’m in one of those in-between spots where I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to be doing next, so I’m working on a little bit of every idea I’ve ever had. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to give details on any of them, though. I will say that none of them are contemporary. I think people will think it’s weird, but ASK AGAIN LATER is the only contemporary book I’ve ever written (and ever plan to write). Normally I’m a sci-fi/fantasy kind of person.

Though I am working on a story that’s kind of a sci-fi/contemporary hybrid, and I think it’ll appeal to contemporary fans. (Or at least I hope so!)

Thanks Francesca, for the awesome interview!

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