Today I’m here with Kat Zhang, who wrote the Hybrid Chronicles, a pretty awesome dystopian series. She also does some great artwork on her blog. Basically, she’s that type of person who’s amazing at everything and at the same time extremely likeable. These are her thoughts on literature and her life.
- How did you know you wanted to be a writer?I’ve been a reader/pretender as long as I can remember, and I think it developed pretty naturally from there. I used to come up with elaborate “plays” for my stuffed animals and dolls, and I read so much in elementary school that one of my teachers remarked “I don’t think that kid needs to eat…she just reads.” It wasn’t until I was eleven or so, and started reading stories people posted on the internet, that it really hit me: people actually wrote these books, and so could I.
- What were you like in school?I moved/changed schools a lot when I was really little, and attended something like 5 schools by third grade, which probably helped develop the reading habit early on 😛 I think I was quieter in school than I am now. I’ve always liked learning things, so I was really studious–but if you ask my friends, they might say I managed to be a nerd and yet somehow ditzy at the same time!
- What are some of your favorite books?Right now, I’m loving The Raven Boys Cycle (how much longer until we get that last book??). As a kid, The Golden Compass and Ender’s Game built a lot of the foundations of my early writing. I love anything with strong, imperfect, intriguing characters and lovely writing.
- Do you outline your novels or jump right in?I used to be a complete pantser, but I’m becoming more and more of an outliner. I’m definitely still figuring out my process, and I’m sure it’ll keep changing!
- Do you have a writing schedule?Not a long-term one. I check in with some writing friends, so we keep each other accountable. I currently have a daily check-in going on with one of them. Otherwise, my schedule really depends on what sort of deadline I’m on.
- How long does it take for you to write a book?Oh, man, haha. That is the question, isn’t it 😛 The fastest I’ve ever written a book (from first words to handing it in for copy edits) was probably in less than 6 months, but that’s not ideal. I’ve also had books that took years of “back burner” simmering before being written, and, of course, books in between.
- What was your inspiration for the Hybrid Chronicles?In the beginning, it was all about the idea of two souls in one body, and what that would be like. I also wanted to explore the idea of not being able to make choices in your own life, and how frustrating that would be. Quickly, though, I also started exploring the idea of how the hybrids are treated in society, and how actual minorities are treated in society, and different ways people try to address this.
- Are there any hidden messages in the Hybrid Chronicles?Hidden messages? Hmm, I don’t think so? If you pay attention to the first word in each book though, they might progress in an interesting manner 😉
- Would you change anything in your published works? If so, what?Honestly, I try not to dwell too much on books once they’re out of my hands. I learn so much with every book I write, it’s ridiculous. Maybe in ten years, the learning curve will have evened out a bit, but right now, I feel like I’m still trying to find my way. So yes, if I were to re-write the whole Hybrid Chronicles, there would be things I’d change. Which isn’t to say that I’m not proud of the way they are, because I am–I worked really hard on every book, and did the very best I could at the time. But luckily, I do think I’m improving as a writer with every story I write, so the series written now would be different!
- What were the easiest and hardest parts in the writing processes?It depends on the book. For some, the characters just jump out at you fully formed, so that part is easy, but plot takes forever to come together. For others, the plot arcs develop early on, but the characters just don’t “click” until much later.
In general, though, beginnings are easier for me than endings 🙂
- What are some pet peeves you have about the writing industry?Hmm. I’m not sure this counts as a pet peeve, and it’s certainly not something limited to the writing industry, but I’m ready for some more risks taken as far as the stories told. There should always be room for exploration in art.
- What are you working on right now?Ooh, it’s in early-early stages yet. Too early to talk about, for fear of bursting the bubble. It’s YA, though, so no fears on that front 😛
- How much research do you usually do?A lot, usually. I think that’s the way of writing. You do a ton of research, and only about 5-10% of it actually shows up in the book, but the rest hopefully bolsters the book up invisibly. On the other hand, I’m trying to learn how to balance out my instinct to make everything absolutely realistic and correct, and how to just tell a good story.
- You also paint/draw/photograph some amazing artwork. Between painting and writing, which do you prefer? And which do you spend the most time on?Aw, thank you! Right now, I’m definitely putting more of an emphasis on my writing, since it’s my job, while drawing/painting is more of a hobby. I really enjoy both, though–in general, they’re very different and use different parts of my brain. But some things cross over. For example, in both writing and visual art, I tend to focus on people/characters, because that’s what I love. I draw and photograph portraits or landscapes, and I write books emphasizing character arcs and interaction 🙂
- Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?Write and keep writing. That’s always going to be your foundation, no matter which part of the publishing journey you’re on. At the end of the day, you have to love writing for writing’s sake.
- Favorite food and drink?Right now, I have a terrible weakness for Chinese rice cake (nian gao). It’s usually steamed, but I bake it with red bean paste and almond slices and polish it off entirely too often to be healthy 😛
I also drink too much Pepsi, which is sacrilegious for someone who’s grown up near Atlanta, like me!
- Favorite activity?How am I supposed to choose? 😛 Writing, drawing/painting, and photography are high up there, obviously. I also love film (both watching and creating), and hanging out with cuddly animals. (Hanging out with people isn’t so bad, either.)
- Favorite TV Show/Movie?This changes a lot, and as you can probably tell by now, I’m terrible at choosing lasting favorites. Right now, I’m really into “Person of Interest.” I started out thinking was terribly boring and only played it in the background while I drew (I do this a lot with TV shows). But over the seasons, it got really good!
- Favorite part of the day?If I’m hanging out with friends, I rather love that feeling of being up at 3am and rather deliriously exhausted, but still not wanting to go home because you enjoy your friends so much.
In general, though, I need my sleep, so I actually like the morning!
Thank you, Kat!