The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati {Author Interview}

The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati {Author Interview}The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati
Published by Delacorte Press on October 11th 2016
Genres: Family, Social Issues, Suicide, Young Adult
Pages: 400

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disorder, almost triumphed once; that was her first suicide attempt. 
Being bipolar is forever. It never goes away. The med du jour might work right now, but Zero will be back for her. It’s only a matter of time.

And so, in an old ballet-shoe box, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its living death on her again. Before she goes, though, she starts a short bucket list.

The bucket list, the support of her family, new friends, and a new course of treatment all begin to lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. The problem is, her plan is already in place, and has been for so long that she might not be able to see a future beyond it.

This is a story of loss and grief and hope, and how some of the many shapes of love—maternal, romantic, and platonic—affect a young woman’s struggle with mental illness and the stigma of treatment.

Happy Monday, friends…hope you all had a fabulous weekend! I’m here to make your Monday just a little bit more wonderful with this fantastic interview with Karen Fortunati, the author of ‘The Weight of Zero’. Her debut novel has been getting some amazing reviews and serious buzz among the bookish world. Check it out…

  • A Summer/Fall 2016 Indies Introduce Selection
  • Featured in SEVENTEEN MAGAZINE, September 2016
  • A Barnes and Noble 2016 Most Anticipated Debut
  • An Amazon Editors Favorite YA Book for Fall 2016
  • A Shelf Awareness BEA2016 Buzz Book

“Catherine’s acerbically witty narrative voice is razor sharp and often raw, and the confessional tone of her present-tense narration makes clear how overwhelming her pain is…. An honest, informative, and ultimately optimistic novel about living with mental illness.” – Kirkus


Sarah: Can you talk a little bit about what inspired THE WEIGHT OF ZERO? Why was it important to you to shed light on mental health issues that so many people are hesitant to confront today?

KAREN: I can’t point to a person or event that inspired this story. Catherine just appeared in my head during a writing retreat. I knew that she had bipolar disorder and that she was uncertain about whether she could live with it. So why did I find the need to tell her story? I think it stems from a number of life experiences. First, I’ve witnessed the mental health journeys of many family members and friends. Second, my husband is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and I’ve learned a great deal about illnesses and treatments. And third, my life has been touched by suicide: the first by a work colleague and the second by an extended family member.

In telling Catherine’s story, my plan was to lay it all out – this is how it feels, this is what therapy can be like, here’s what is required of her to manage it and this is how stigma affects her. The book is different in this regard because nothing is glossed over or dismissed or trivialized. I learned so much in writing this story and I’m hoping the reader will come away with a better understanding and respect for those who manage mental health issues.

What was the easiest thing about writing THE WEIGHT OF ZERO? Alternatively, what was the most difficult?

The easiest thing was writing Catherine. Her voice came to me so effortlessly. For the four years before I started writing THE WEIGHT OF ZERO, I had been working on a middle grade novel exclusively. It may be that writing in an older voice was a better fit for my writing. But I’m thinking that it might be more that I had an immediate sense of Catherine  – she came to me fully fleshed out so that made the writing surprisingly smooth.

The most difficult part was making sure Catherine’s experiences were authentic. This is a gritty contemporary story with themes of depression and suicide ideation among many others. I did research throughout the writing of the story and consulted often with my husband to ensure that the portrayals were honest and respectful.

Do you have any quirky rituals when writing?

The room that I’m in has to be clean and the desk or table that I’m writing on has to be neat. It’s hard for me to concentrate if there’s a lot of clutter. Some of my best writing happens in my car while I’m waiting or out of the house – at a coffee shop or bookstore – where there’s less distractions.

I love to ask authors to share fun, little known facts about themselves. What are some tidbits of information that you think your readers should know about you?

My life goal from third to seventh grade was to be an Olympic gymnast. Nadia Comaneci was my hero and for those years, I breathed gymnastics. I was never that good – I lacked the right body type – weak with gangly arms and legs. But what put the final kibosh on any hopes of athletic glory was the arrival of fear (a.k.a. reason.) I can remember standing on the balance beam about to do a back walkover. I was standing there, my arms straight up in the air when it dawned on me exactly what I was about to do: bending backwards and blindly searching with my hands for a four inch surface that was raised four feet above the ground.  I remember thinking, “This is not the smartest of moves. If I miss the beam…” My gymnastics career came to an end shortly after that realization.

If you could visit the home of any fictional character in the history of literature, who would you pick and why?

I’m on a huge Stephen King reading rampage and just finished listening to the audiotape of DOCTOR SLEEP, the amazing sequel to THE SHINING. I loved, loved, loved both stories and the movie!  Without fail, every time I walk down a hotel corridor, I’m always on the lookout for those creepy twins: “Come play with us, Danny.” King based his fictional Overlook Hotel on the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. So right at this moment, I’d love to visit Dan Torrance’s “home.” I’d also love to visit with my agent, Sara Megibow. KT Literary is based in Colorado.


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