Today I’m interviewing debut author Kat Zhang. She’s written one of the most cleverly crafted books I’ve read all year. It’s thrilling and intense and really raises some interesting questions along the way. I could go on and on about how much I liked it, but I’m going to let you guys get to the interview already! Kat answered these q’s with very great insight and it was a blast asking her these questions. Happy release day!! Enjoy!
1. On your fabulous blog, you talk writing and publishing and all manner of other things in between. Anything you feel an author shouldn’t talk about on his or her blog/site?
Hmm, well, certainly it’s up to each author to decide what she should and shouldn’t put on their site. I don’t think there’s a set of rules that applies to everyone. Personally, I stay away from reviewing books unless I really loved them, or otherwise criticizing a book. As a reader, of course I have thoughts about the books I read, and sometimes they’re critical, but I’m also an author, and as such, I respect the feelings and relationships I have with my fellow authors more than I feel the need to critique their work publicly.
2. You offer great advice about writing on your site, from making time to write to how to edit more efficiently to what movie scripts can teach about writing. Anything you want to add? Any newly learned secrets of the trade you can tell?
Thanks! Really, more and more, I’m realizing there aren’t a lot of “tricks” to writing, only things that work in certain situations for certain people. I try to make sure people know that the “tips” I talk about are just things that have worked for me 🙂
3. Let’s talk about your book, What’s Left of Me. I DEVOURED it in one sitting. (Review to be posted.) You just got your hardcopies in the mail. Congrats!!! How did THAT feel??? 🙂
Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I did just get my hardcopies in the mail. It was incredibly exciting, and I had a good long time to ponder it because the box was too heavy for me to carry all the way from the university post office back to my dorm! I had to make two trips and get my roommate to help me 😉
But really, seeing one’s book in all its shiny, hardcover glory is amazing.
4. Got ya. You wrote an interesting post on writing a second novel (which we’ll get to in a minute) but you mentioned that when you talk about your first book, you wrote it so long ago it’s kind of like going into a dreamlike version of the past. So now that What Left of Me is about to release, is the NOW what you thought it would be back when you were just starting to write this story? Has your journey been what you expected?
It’s funny, because I first started writing WHAT’S LEFT OF ME to distract myself from the querying process for another book, so many of my “what it’ll be like to publish” dreams focused on that story, and not this one. Of course, that changed when I decided to trunk the first story, but by then I had a better idea of the industry. Some things actually went more smoothly than I’d expected–I signed with an agent relatively quickly, and we sold much more quickly than I’d expected. I didn’t think social media would be so huge before I got into everything, but I’m actually very glad it is because I love interacting with other writers and readers online 🙂
5. What’s surprised you most about writing and then finding an agent and publisher for What’s Left of Me?
Hmm, I dunno. I guess in the beginning, I didn’t expect to revise the manuscript so much! Now it seems obvious, but back when I first began, I figured my first drafts were good enough to go! Silly me 😛
6. Okay, now on to that second book. I’ve heard about the dreaded sophomore slump from writers before. Have you experienced that? If not, what’s your secret? 🙂
Book 2 has been harder to write in some ways, but actually easier in others. It’s been easier in that I already know the characters and I know the world, so I get to build on that framework rather than construct an entirely new one. It’s much harder, though, in that I have so much less time to write and revise the book. The first draft for WHAT’S LEFT OF ME took a year. Of course, I wasn’t writing continuously, but that time allowed the story time to incubate and develop. I then revised for a good half year before the book sold. There were literally more than 10 drafts. Book two needed to be drafted in about half a year (while work was still being done to Book 1!), and I’m not going to get another 6 months to edit 😛 Writing on strict deadlines, and while promoting Book 1, is a new experience.
7. Your main characters in What’s Left of Me are Addie and Eva. Their voices are very distinct. Tell us a bit about how you crafted their personalities and voices and who they were to make them different?
Addie and Eva developed pretty naturally, as my characters tend to do. Which isn’t to say that they emerged on the page fully formed! Both were pretty different during the very first draft, and it wasn’t until I started revising (and actually wrote a few “diary entry” like pieces from Addie’s POV) that I pinned down their voices and personalities. I rarely go into character building with personality traits already in mind, unless it’s for more minor characters.
8. So…what’s next for Kat Zhang?
Well, right now I’m just enjoying WHAT’S LEFT OF ME’s release! 🙂 I’m also working on book 2 and keeping a couple brain cells fixated on Book 3 😉 I’ve also got a number of other, unrelated, stories on the back burner. And of course, I’m working toward graduating college in the fall.
9. Any exciting plans for your big release day?
Not really for the day–it’s actually my longest day of class, so I’ll be in classrooms for most of the day! I do have a launch party the following weekend, though.
10. Finally, I never end an interview without asking: what advice do you have for someone just starting to query their story?
Show your query to as many people as you can, especially people who know the industry, and edit accordingly! Do know your market and the guidelines you ought to be following, but don’t get too caught up in the minutia. An agent will not reject you for having the wrong font! (unless maybe it’s wing dings or something…) Or margins that are 1.5 inches instead of 1 inch! Write a good story, write a good query letter, and the rest is just a matter of finding the right agent who will “click” with your book 🙂
Thanks for having me, Bethany!