Friday, April 26, 2013

Feature Friday: Mindy Raf

Mindy Raf is a writer, comedy performer, and musician based in Brooklyn, New York. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, and grew up in a suburb of Detroit right around here (visualize the bottom of your left thumb. Mindy has written for CollegeHumor, VH1, TNT, The Daily Comedy Network, and was a contributor to the My Parents Were Awesome anthology. She continues to perform stand-up and music across the country.


Twitter: @mindyraf

Interview:
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Mindy:
Write, write, write. Don’t worry about what other people think about your writing or or what you think they think about your writing. Don’t be precious with your work. Share it, get feedback, blog it, get it out there. And if you’re wondering, “Am I writer?” Yes.  You ARE a writer if you write. I really do think it’s that simple.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Mindy:
That’s so hard. One?  Depends on when you ask me. Growing up I loved, and still love, Judy Blume. FOREVER, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET. You can’t go wrong with Judy Blume. I always have a new favorite book based on what I’m currently reading. I just finished ELEANOR & PARK so that’s my favorite book right now, but maybe the book I start today will be my new favorite. Clearly I have book commitment issues.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for The Symptoms of My Insanity?

Mindy:
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.  From the start though I had a general goal: write a relatable, funny story that also awakens a little girl power.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing The Symptoms of My Insanity?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Mindy:
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 during revisions. Since Izzy’s relationship with her mom wasn’t parallel to my own, things got a little muddy as I was dealing with my own loss. Once I was able to recognize this through emotional trial and error, it became easier (and actually very cathartic) to separate and transform my own struggles to fit Izzy’s story.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in The Symptoms of My Insanity is your favorite and why?

Mindy:
Izzy was my favorite character to write. I had a lot of fun researching and writing as a major hypochondriac. I loved writing as Pam too, but I think Blake is my favorite overall. I really wanted readers to not see him as “bad” but more as a complicated, confused teenager who makes bad decisions. Blake’s character has come such a long way since my first draft, and I’m really happy with the results

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Mindy:
I got into writing YA through stand-up. I met my editor Jessica Garrison at one of my shows. She randomly caught my act, we chatted a bit after, and then she reached out to me about writing YA. At the time I was working pretty consistently as a comedy writer. Writing YA why actually a really natural transition. When I started writing SYMPTOMS my mom was diagnosed with a rare stomach cancer. I wrote draft one while she was recovering from her first major surgery. By the next round of revisions, I was saying goodbye. Throughout my journey as an author, I needed Izzy’s story  just as much as she needed my own. I hope those reading find they needed it too.

A.L.:

What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Mindy:
I’m working on another book, something new. No details ready to be revealed though, I’m superstitious that way. I’m also working on a stand-up show and a comedy music album.

A.L.:
What made you choose to write about a hypochondriac?

Mindy:
I remember free writing (long before Izzy) a cafeteria scene. A girl was telling a cute boy not to eat a cookie because the eggs might be raw and he would get salmonella. That cracked me up. (no pun, okay a little pun intended) It just seemed natural to me as I started writing as Izzy to make her a hypochondriac. Especially when I knew the story would go places that would really need that humor.

A.L.:
What's it like being a comedian?  Have you always known you were hilarious or did it just kind of get pointed out or do you actually try?

Mindy:
I never thought “I’m funny, I’m a comic,” but I was always cast in the comedic roles. I remember in drama class doing a very serious monologue and making people laugh and my teacher was like, “you found the funny!” And I was like, “No, I was just trying to emote.”  I would play original songs I wrote at a coffee house my freshmen year of college and after friends were like, “those songs were so funny!” I’m thinking, “wait, no,  those are my serious angst-ridden folk songs.”

A.L.:
As a comedian, it seems organic that you would write a humorous novel; but, do you think you'll ever write a serious novel?

Mindy:
SYMPTOMS is humorous, but it also takes on some serious subjects as well. I think it’s important for characters (and readers) to have humor to move through pain, or just move through life. So my goal is always to include both.

The Giveaway:
Mindy is giving away 1 signed ARC plus three signed bookmarks and a surprise swag item from the book trailer shoot!

The Symptoms of My Insanity: A laugh-out-loud, bittersweet debut full of wit, wisdom, heart, and a hilarious, unforgettable heroine.

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.


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