Hey, John Green, there’s a new young-adult lit phenom in town. Zappia, 22, is fresh out of college—and hot off the presses with a widely acclaimed debut novel, Made You Up, that explores teen schizophrenia.
IM: Does Indy show up in your book?
Mostly just the south side of Indianapolis, because that’s where I’ve lived my whole life. The town that “Alex” lives in and both of the high schools that she went to, they’re all made up. But they were kind of based off of my hometown and, like, the schools I went to. People who went to Franklin Central will read the books and be like, “Oh, yeah, I know this.”
IM: How did you develop your writing style?
I think for any writer, it’s kind of a combination of all the things you like. Like for me, I read Harry Potter a bunch of times when I was growing up, and that’s how I learned to write characters. And I like anime, and a lot of people have been saying that the beginning of Made You Up kind of reminds them of an anime show.
IM: Was it hard to find an agent while living in Indy?
Actually, the living-in-Indiana thing didn’t affect it that much. It might have been better if I had been able to go to a lot of writing conferences and book conferences—we don’t have very many of those here. But most people get their agents by just emailing out cover letters and manuscripts. That’s what I did, and that worked out pretty well for me.
IM: You’ve been called the next John Green. What do you make of that?
I mean, it’s cool. I certainly will not say no to that.
IM: He gave you a shout-out on Twitter once, didn’t he?
Yeah, the day [the book] came out, he just said, like, “Happy book birthday.” That was really cool. I didn’t think that was real at first.
Good morning and a happy book birthday to fellow Hoosier @ChessieZappia on her first novel, MADE YOU UP, which I’m super excited to read.
— John Green (@johngreen) May 19, 2015
This article appeared in The Ticket, a 2015 special publication.