Today I have best selling author, Francesca Zappia on the blog as part of the promotional tour for her latest young-adult contemporary novel, Eliza and Her Monsters. In this latest young adult contemporary novel, Francesca give readers a story that is not only fun and heartwarming but also respectful to a sub-culture where people with common interest unite.
Eliza and Her Monsters is out tomorrow, so don’t forget to grab your copies. But before that, check the interview and book review below to get an idea of how good the book is.
Also, there’s a giveaway at the end of the post for a chance to win copies of Eliza and Her Monsters.
Interview with Francesca Zappia
Eliza and Her Monsters deals with mental illness and depression just like your first novel, Made You Up. What drew you to write stories with these sensitive themes? As a writer, do you feel a sense of responsibility? If so, how do you deal with this?
I write about these topics because I think more people should be aware of them and sensitive to them. I definitely feel a sense of responsibility. I think all writers should—no matter what your genre or subject matter, you’re portraying human lives, and real people are going to be impacted by what you make. I don’t know necessarily that we should “deal” with responsibility; I think it’s something we should carry with us. I always do my best to research what I’m writing about and make sure I look at it from many different angles, because everyone who reads the story is going to have a different experience and is going to see it through a different lens. At the end of the day, I may still mess things up, and I have to own that, too.
Eliza and Her Monsters was a little different to write because it is very much about my own experience with anxiety. I felt like I wasn’t just writing for other creative people who deal with anxiety, but for a younger version of myself.
I love the inclusion of graphic art illustrations, convo messages and other snippets in Eliza and Her Monsters. I must say, I envy your artistic talent. What inspired you to add those illustrations? Do you think the story will still work the same way without them?
Thank you! The inclusion of the artwork was actually part of the whole concept of the book, and was there from the very beginning. Monstrous Sea (the webcomic Eliza draws) is my own earliest story, and I’ve been drawing artwork for it my whole life. Putting some of that into the book was a super fun way for me to introduce readers to that world and give them something visual to hold on to. There isn’t that much of the Monstrous Sea story in the book, so with pictures, the readers can actually see those characters and understand better what Eliza and her friends are talking about.
I think the story would work without the pictures (I wrote and edited the whole thing without them!), but I think it’s way less fun.
Eliza and Her Monster is very respectful to fandom. Are you a fangirl yourself and if so what are you a huge fan of? Could you tell us about some of your own experiences with fandom?
YES. Oh, geez, yes. I’m pretty picky about what I call myself a fangirl of, but when I do fangirl, I fangirl hard. My first big experience with fandom was on some Harry Potter forums online. When you signed up, you got sorted into a house with a common room and prefects and everything, and you could go to different threads to attend certain classes for roleplaying, and you could claim certain magical objects from the books, and it was GREAT. I used to draw Harry Potter fanart on those boards, too. I really miss that. I’m also right now working on an epic Pokémon fanfiction. I’d definitely call myself a Critical Role fangirl, too—Critical Role is a webseries where a bunch of professional voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons, and it’s better than any TV show I’ve ever seen. I also really love Dragon Age: Inquisition, and right now I’m obsessed with Final Fantasy XV. (In Eliza, Monstrous Sea is described as a cross between the Faust legend and the Final Fantasy video games. It’s because I LOVE THEM.)
It’s taking all my will power not to start yelling about my favorite characters from all of these things.
What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in creating Eliza? How did you go about putting yourself in her mindset?
The most surprising thing was probably exactly how easy it was to put myself in her mindset. There is so much of myself in her—her insecurities, her anxiety, her love of her art—that the difficult part was not putting myself in her mindset, but forcing myself to write down what I found there. I sometimes felt kind of sick while I was writing because it was all hitting so close to home.
In Eliza and Her Monster, online communication plays a huge part in the story. Do you think it is important for writers like you to use online mediums not just for promotions but also to interact with your followers? Is social media more useful than distracting?
For me it is more useful than distracting, but that’s not true for everyone. For writers, promotion comes best when you’re doing what you’re good at, and what you’re comfortable with. For me, mediums such as YouTube and Snapchat haven’t really been an option, because I don’t have the time or interest to use them. Some writers don’t like using Twitter or Instagram; some don’t like using any social media. Personally, I love interacting with my fans on social media, and I enjoy giving them more content to see and updates about what to expect from me in the future. Social media can be a scary place sometimes, and can be a real time suck if not monitored, but it does a whole lot of good, too.
Are you working on any project right now? What we should expect from you after Eliza and Her Monsters?
I’m always working on something! My two books so far have been contemporary novels, but what I really love is fantasy and science fiction. I have The Children of Hypnos, my serial novel published on Wattpad, that’s urban fantasy, and I actually do have a draft of the real Monstrous Sea written. I have fantasy books, I have near-future sci-fi books, I have horror books, I have all kinds of things! It’s mostly a question now of what people are going to want to see from me, and what will work best.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.
In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.
Eliza and Her Monsters is instantly captivating, heartwarming, and immensely entertaining. It celebrates fandom, and online community without forgetting to remind readers the pros and cons of Internet fame.
Eliza Mirk in her school is a loner, quiet, shy and unknown. But online, she is the beloved LadyConstellation – anonymous creator and artist behind the hugely popular webcomic, Monstrous Sea with millions of passionate followers. She has online friends but only a handful few who really know her identity beside her own family. Though she communicate with her followers she never brave the chance to interact with them in person. Until she met Wallace, a die-hard fan of Eliza’s work, Monstrous Sea. But Wallace didn’t know Eliza as LadyConstellation. For him, Eliza is a friend who also love Monstrous Sea. Can Eliza share her identity to Wallace? What she will do if her online life and real life finally collide? How will she deal with her own monsters?
Eliza and Her Monsters depicts a realistic view of fandom in general. Through Eliza’s story and the webcomic inside it, we see how a subculture of fans and their world behave and operates. It’s a close representation of community that get together for the common love or passion.
“I do have friends. Maybe they live hundreds of miles away from me, and maybe I can only talk to them through a screen, but they’re still my friends. They don’t just hold Monstrous Sea together. They hold me together.”
While the story is about fandom and art, don’t make the mistake of dismissing how important this book is. Though lightly touch, Francesca Zappia incorporate mental illness such as anxiety, panic disorder, and selective mutism in the story. Eliza is an introvert who prefer conversing with her online friends than her family and classmates. For her, online world is better than real world. It is easier to navigate and much more welcoming. But as much as she love her online life, she cannot stay there forever. She is missing a lot of things. At some point she need to face the real wold and be brave. No matter how real her online life is, she still needs to be present in real world and live in it. She needs to face her own monsters both real and imaginary.
Then we have Wallace and his selective mutism. Wallace just like Eliza doesn’t participate much to real world. He communicate to Eliza mostly through writing. He prefer not talking and spend most of his time writing/translating the webcomic Monstrous Sea. This behavior is a form of anxiety disorder. Wallace may be really shy or has a social anxiety – conditions that is lightly address in the story but surely leave an impact.
Overall, Francesca Zappia takes a lighter approach in handling sensitive themes without disregarding the heaviness of the topics. With illustrations, convo messages, and graphic story snippets, Eliza and Her Monsters is a unique and creative story that is not only powerful but also compassionate.
* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Greenwillow Books an imprint of HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.
What’s up for Grab?
- 2 ARCs of Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
- Open PH residents only
- There will be two (2) winners
- Winner will be chosen and announced through rafflecopter
- Prizes will be sent by tour host, Precious of Fragments of Life