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Success Story Interview - Francesca Zappia

An Interview with Francesca Zappia (ZapAdRem on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Louise Fury of The Fury Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Francesca Zappia:
ALEXITHYMIA is a YA contemporary novel about a girl with paranoid schizophrenia who has a lot of trouble telling what around her is real and what's not. I've always been fascinated by mental illnesses, and how one person's crazy can be another person's normal.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Francesca Zappia:
I've been writing for about ten years.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Francesca Zappia:
It's gone through a few different forms, but the way it is now, since last November.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Francesca Zappia:
I only wanted to give up once I started getting near the end of the list of agents I wanted to query, and I felt like the manuscript had run its course. My critique partners definitely helped me stay on track -- it was because of one of them that ALEX made it to Louise in the first place!
QT: Is this your first book?
Francesca Zappia:
Nope -- I have several completed books.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Francesca Zappia:
Nope! I actually almost couldn't sit through my creative writing class in high school. I learn better from reading books from good authors than I do from writing exercises and things like that.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Francesca Zappia:
I try, but it never works. I try to write a least a little bit every day.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Francesca Zappia:
That's a dangerous question. I think I rewrote ALEX a grand total of six times over about seven years. This last rewrite I've edited twice so far.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Francesca Zappia:
Of course! I think I had five that did in-line edits and a few more that gave general feedback.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Francesca Zappia:
I think I outlined it somewhere along the way, but I've rewritten it so many times I'm not sure anymore. Probably the original first draft was from the hip.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Francesca Zappia:
I queried this book for five and a half months. Mid-January to the end of June. The first time I ever queried a book was five years ago, and I've been in the query trenches pretty much the entire time.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Francesca Zappia:
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Francesca Zappia:
I made sure they represented my genre while I was compiling my preliminary list, and when I was writing up the query letters I did more in-depth research to see if there was any other reason I should/shouldn't query them.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Francesca Zappia:
I always tried to, because I think it's important to let them know that you care and that you did your research, but sometimes it was hard to find anything extra to mention. Usually I looked for recent interviews where they said what they were looking for, and if I felt that matched my book, I'd put it in the query.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Francesca Zappia:
Never deny yourself an opportunity. Even if you don't think you're going to make it into that agent contest, enter anyway. Even if you think that agent is going to form reject you, query them anyway. It really only does take one person loving your manuscript, and you never know where you're going to find them.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Francesca Zappia:
Sure. It didn't work that well for me, all things considered, but Louise loved it so it can't be too bad!

Query Letter:

Despite being a paranoid schizophrenic, Alex Ridgemont knows Abraham Lincoln isn’t really chilling in her dad’s La-Z-Boy, communists aren’t really coming to kill her family, and the unbelievable little boy she met when she was eight just wasn’t real. Knowing these realities are all that keep her away from her mother’s mental-hospital zealotry and keep up her chances of getting into college and having a real life.

But when she transfers to East Shoal High and meets Miles Richter, a high-functioning genius and the douchebaggy, definitely-very-real incarnation of the little boy from ten years earlier, all Alex’s carefully conceived realities begin crashing down around her. Miles, the only person who can help her find the dividing line between real and not, has life-threatening problems of his own, and some of them are linked to Alex's schizophrenia. With or without him, Alex will have to pull herself together—or risk losing more than her sanity.

ALEXITHYMIA is an 95,000-word YA contemporary novel with psychological elements that takes something ordinary - the absolute insanity of high school - and shows it through the eyes of someone who is literally insane. It showcases the destructive effects of parents’ high demands on their children, and the fear of never escaping the expectations of society set on us as teenagers.