Author Interview: Kat Zhang, Author of WHAT’S LEFT OF ME

Lately, there have been more and more young writers that are being published and making it big in the Young Adult book market. And who better to write Young Adult novels than actual young adults!? Kat Zhang does a terrific job in writing her first Young Adult Dystopian book, WHAT’S LEFT OF ME. And we had the great pleasure of interviewing her, so check out our interview with the lovely Kat Zhang.

How has writing changed your life?

This is a hard question to answer because I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I started my first novel at twelve and have been writing short stories and things like that since I was ten or so, poetry even earlier. I remember writing plays with my best friend for our stuffed animals and making “character sheets” for our stories in elementary school.

Writing is simply a huge part of my life. It (and story-telling in general) is rarely far from mind, and often I’ll find myself in a situation thinking to myself, “I need to remember this so I can describe it in a story!”

What inspired the idea behind THE HYBRID CHRONICLES Series?

I wish I had a really funny/unique/awesome story behind how I came up with the idea, but sadly, no! I just thought one day–you know how everyone has a sort of “internal voice”–what if that internal voice was a real other person? What if this other person was trapped inside you, passive and watching, but unable to move? And that’s how Eva, the main character of The Hybrid Chronicles, came to be.

WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is about one girl with two souls. Was it difficult to incorporate two different personalities into one body?

Some things did take a little finagling. I never had to pay so much attention to pronouns before! Also, a large number of metaphoric emotional responses involve the body (“my heart stopped,” etc), and I had to get around that a lot with Eva since her body is also Addie’s body, while her emotions are separate from Addie’s.

The YA dystopian book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets WHAT’S LEFT OF ME and the rest of your series apart from the rest?

WHAT’S LEFT OF ME and the rest of the Hybrid Chronicles are set in an alternate universe, an alternate version of the world we live in now, so it differs from many other dystopias in that it’s not supposed to be a vision of our future. Also, I like to think the twin-souls concept is relatively unique 😉 Although, of course, many people bring up THE HOST! (there are no aliens in WHAT’S LEFT OF ME).

What challenges does writing a series pose that would not normally exist in a stand-alone novel?

I didn’t think too much about the series as a whole when first writing WHAT’S LEFT OF ME, but I’m definitely keeping all the books in mind now that I’m drafting Book 2. It’s a balancing game, I think. You have to keep enough of the same from Book 1–you can’t just bound off in a completely different direction and abandon the themes/characters/plot threads you started in the first book. But at the same time, you can’t just re-tread old ground, either. You have to expand and (hopefully!) improve. Also, on a purely technical level, there’s more pressure to keep to a strict writing timeline, I think, since you’ve already sold books 2 and 3 and need them to come out regularly after book 1!

How did your friends/family/teachers react when they learned you were going to be published?

I think they think it’s pretty cool 🙂 They’re all very supportive and awesome.

From reading your bio, it seems that you have had story ideas and characters floating through your mind your whole life. Did you always think you were going to be a writer or did you transform into one along the way?

I decided pretty early on that I was going to write stories, but it was always, “I’m going to write books and–” and what came after the “and” varied greatly from year to year 😉

How has your traveling experiences influenced your writing and have any of the places you traveled to figured into your writing?

I really love being able to see other cultures and learn about other histories, and I think that the more you know about the various places that do exist, the better you’re able to make up ones that don’t for a story. As far as specifics, go, I write about some walled cities/compounds in two WIPs, and seeing some of the castles and walled cities of Europe helped me formulate how my own imaginary cities might be laid out.

Which books do you think should be on every teen’s reading list and why?

Ahh, I terrible at questions like this! I can only recommend books that I love, many of which are “older” books like THE GOLDEN COMPASS, ENDER’S GAME, SABRIEL, and THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND. These are all books with worlds so real I fell easily into them and honestly never wanted to leave (well, except for Ender’s world. I’m not sure I’d like to live in that world!).

What do you need to start writing? i.e. coffee, tea, music, etc.

I don’t like distractions when I write, so really all I need is a quiet room. I’m thinking once I get my own place, I might need to install some black-out blinds, haha. When I was in Spain, my room had some, and it was lovely–I could make it dark as midnight when it was noon. Since I write best in the dark, it was very handy!

Kat Zhang’s Website | Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter
What’s Left of Me Amazon | B&N

Kat Zhang is an avid traveler, and after a childhood spent living in one book after another, she now builds stories for other people to visit. An English major at Vanderbilt University, she spends her free time performing Spoken Word poetry, raiding local bookstores, and plotting where to travel next. What’s Left of Meabout a girl with two soulsis her first novel and will be released by HarperCollins on 9/18/2012. She is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong. You can read about her travels, literary and otherwise, on her website or check her out on Twitter.


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