Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Mindy Raf, whose debut novel THE SYMPTOMS OF MY INSANITY hits the shelves this week.
When you’re a hypochondriac, there are a million different things that could be wrong with you, but for Izzy, focusing on what could be wrong might be keeping her from dealing with what’s really wrong.
I almost raised my hand, but what would I say? “Mr. Bayer, may I please be excused? I’m not totally positive, but I think I might have cancer.” No way. Then everyone at school would know, and they would treat me differently, and I would be known as “Izzy, that poor girl who diagnosed herself with breast cancer during biology.”
But Izzy’s sense of humor can only get her so far when suddenly her best friend appears to have undergone a personality transplant, her mother’s health takes a turn for the worse, and her beautiful maybe-boyfriend is going all hot and cold. Izzy thinks she’s preparing for the worst-case scenario, but when the worst-case scenario actually hits, it’s a different story altogether—and there’s no tidy list of symptoms to help her through the insanity.
What inspired THE SYMPTOMS OF MY INSANITY?
SYMPTOMS is partly based on my own experiences as an adult with my mother being sick, and as a teenager dealing with a lot of unwanted attention from boys. My goal was to write something funny, but also relatable. I also wanted a little girl power in there too.
Izzy, your main character, is such an amazing protagonist–she’s funny and smart and capable, but doesn’t quite know how to deal with all the pressures of her life and insecure and uncertain to the point that when she’s wronged by others, she’s not always willing to place blame where it should go. In other words, she’s having an incredibly authentic experience of adolescence. What was your process of creating Izzy? Did anything about it surprise you? How does she speak to the universal experience of growing up?
I’m not much of an outliner, so Izzy was created through free writing monologues. At first Izzy’s comedic voice was very similar to my own. Yet as both the story and Izzy evolved, I was surprised by how much she led the way and took on her own comedic perspective. Izzy is on a quest to find the important people in her life; that much needed support system. I think that search, and the mistakes she makes along the way, is something that’s universal to both the adolescent and adult experience.
In Izzy’s world, there are all kinds of daily perils of young womanhood: a mother who constantly criticizes Izzy’s appearance, a school culture that victim-blames girls. At the same time, there are incredible moments of female friendship and redemption between young women who’ve hurt one another. What made you want to tackle these issues and make them so key to Izzy’s life?
There are so many books and movies out there that depict girls being so mean to each. I just really wanted to represent some girl power in my writing. I wanted to keep the story lighthearted, but also send out the important message that girls need to support each other and band together.
I don’t want to give out too many spoilers, but Izzy’s love interest Blake: Ahhhhhh!! Super fascinating character who makes surprising choices. Did you always know the path he would take? What was it like writing him?
I always knew what path he’d take, but I wasn’t always clear why. Blake definitely started out more black and white than grey. He’s actually one of my favorite characters now because he came so far. It was a challenge for me trying to flesh him out and show his perspective on some of those “surprising choices” through Izzy’s eyes.
You have a background in comedy, which is awesome! It shows in the book. How does your comedy background influence your writing?
My comedy background (telling stories onstage, writing and acting out scenes, and writing one liner jokes) really helped when writing dialogue. Finding the comedic rhythm between two characters came naturally to me. That’s definitely due to my comedy writing experience.
What were the toughest and the best parts of writing this book?
The scenes between Izzy and her mom in the last half of the book were very tough for me to write. My mom passed away as I was revising. Izzy’s relationship with her mom wasn’t parallel to my own and that sometimes got confusing. I realized through emotional trial and error how easy it was write myself into Mindy-Mom –Izzy-Linda circles.
Any exciting plans to celebrate your release day?
Yes! On Thursday April 18th release day I’ll be doing a book launch party and comedy show at Wix Lounge in NYC. Some of my favorite performers will be singing and telling funny teen stories. I’ll be reading from SYMPTOMS, and I might do an interpretive dance to Jewel’s Pieces Of You album. No. Maybe. Okay, yes. But. . . no
I hope there’s a video of that somewhere. One last question! As this community is “All for One and OneFour KidLit,” we’d love to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid!
I loved and still love Judy Blume. FOREVER, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET. You can’t go wrong with Judy Blume.
Thanks for stopping by, Mindy, and congrats on your debut!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mindy Raf is a writer, comedy performer, and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, and grew up in a Detroit suburb right around here (visualize someone pointing to the inner part of their thumb). She has written for VH1 and CollegeHumor.com. The Symptoms of My Insanity is her first novel.
This interview was conducted by OneFour member Kelly Loy Gilbert, and is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Lucky13s —- YA, MG, and children’s books authors debuting in 2013.
|Kelly Loy Gilbert lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she writes (on good days, anyway) and works with teenagers. Her debut, CITY ON A HILL (Disney*Hyperion, Spring/Summer ’14) is about a high school baseball star whose father has just been arrested for a possible hate crime of which the boy is the only witness.|