During business hours, University of Indianapolis alumna Francesca Zappia works as a Tech Support Specialist at UIndy Information Technology. However, in the evenings, Zappia develops her career as a writer.
Zappia’s latest novel, “Now Entering Addamsville,” was published on Oct. 1. The Greenwood Park Mall Barnes & Noble held a party and book signing to coincide with the book’s release.
Zappia said she began telling stories when she was eight years old, and she cites her friends, family and the “Harry Potter” book series as inspirations. While she initially told her stories with drawings, she found as she grew older that words were more effective for her storytelling.
“When I read books, I see them kind of like movies in my head…. I want to do that for other people,” Zappia said.
Zappia entered her freshman year at UIndy in 2011. Wanting to study something other than writing, she majored in computer science with a mathematics minor. The summer after her freshman year, she began working as a Student Tech in IT and did so until the end of her senior year. With her IT job, Zappia said she thought she could obtain useful skills. Full-time positions in IT were made available by the time Zappia graduated in 2015, and she was hired and continues to work four years later. Between her education and her employment at UIndy, Zappia spent most of her free time writing, including publishing her poem “In The Mist” in the fall 2013 edition of Etchings.
Two weeks after graduating from UIndy, Zappia’s first novel, “Made You Up,” was published on May 19, 2015. She has since published two additional young adult novels, a serialized novel, and has also expressed interest in publishing a webcomic after releasing a teaser on her Wattpad page. According to UIndy Intercom, Zappia received a 2017 Emerging Author distinction at the Indiana Authors Awards. The article said that Zappia’s second novel, “Eliza and Her Monsters,” won Kirkus Best Teen Book of 2017, a Junior Library Guild Selection. It was among the Top 10 of the Young Adult Library Services Association 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. In addition to these accolades, Zappia said she took on many opportunities for public speaking, such as writing workshops and conventions.
“With the writing side of things,” Zappia said, “I get to go talk to… educators, librarians, teachers, all these people who have a whole different way of looking at things, and I think that’s been my favorite part of it.”
Zappia said she aims to explore several themes in her writing. In addition, she also said that many of these themes come about through her writing style.
“Most of my stories are about friendship of some kind or another,” Zappia said. “I attribute a lot of that to my friends and how great they are.”
Zappia said one particular way in which she likes to incorporate themes of friendship in her work is through what she calls a “Scooby Gang aesthetic,” referencing the comradery in the Scooby Doo franchise. She also said she touches on themes of mental health in her work.
“For the first two [novels] mental illness was a big theme,” Zappia said. “Dealing with it appropriately, creating a support system around yourself, really listening to yourself [and] seeking help.”
Zappia said she frequently hears comments that her writing is weird. However, she also said she views this as a strength rather than a weakness.
“I think that is one of my favorite things that anybody says about [my writing],” Zappia said. “I do something that is weird, and I think that helps it stand out a little bit.”
Above other literary elements, Zappia believes that readers are drawn to YAL in particular due to the connections they make to the main characters. She said that while elements such as plot and world-building are important, the main character’s internal struggles draw readers in the most.
“I think what really makes people die-hard for a story is that they see themselves in the character so much they want to live in that world,” Zappia said. “I think there is an immediacy of emotion in young adult books that you don’t necessarily always get in other categories of fiction.”
In terms of big takeaways, Zappia has several hopes for readers of her books. Above anything else, however, she says her biggest hope is that her readers are entertained.
“First and foremost, I just hope they enjoy it,” Zappia said. “I hope they maybe get a little bit of hope out of it.”
Zappia went on to say she hopes her books allow readers to think about aspects of the world they had not considered before. Furthermore, she says she hopes the themes of mental illness give her readers something to think about as well.
“I particularly hope it helps for certain people who deal with those things,” Zappia said. “I hope it helps them be kinder to themselves.”