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All Things Asian Interview: Kat Zhang

Today stopping by we have Kat Zhang, author of What's Left Of Me.

What are some of your favorite books?

Well, recently, I just finished A STORM OF SWORDS so I've got the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series on the mind. I put off reading these for the longest time because multi-POV epic fantasies aren't usually my thing, but everyone kept saying I had to read them, and I'm so glad I did! As far as books I have loved since I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the His Dark Materials series, as well as ENDER'S GAME. I loved SABRIEL, too. 

What do you look for in a book?

I think characterization is the most important thing I look for, followed closely by writing. I jokingly tell friends that I'll forgive a lot in a book for a pretty turn of phrase, and I am always envious of people who write characters so compelling I'd basically pay to read about them locked in a white room for 300 pages. Well, maybe not ;) But almost! I like books that surprise me, that are willing to deviate from the norm, with characters I love and love to hate and sometimes both at once. 

What made you choose to write the genre you do?

I don't think I ever necessarily sat down and decided "Okay, I'm going to write YA." When I first started writing, I was mostly reading YA, so I suppose it made sense that I would be writing in the same genres I was reading. On the other hand, a lot of the themes common to YA books--finding a place for oneself, becoming independent, first experiences, etc--are ones that both resonate with me and interest me. Plus, I love the YA community and readership!

What are some of your oddest writing habits?

I like to write in the dark, haha. I need to get one of those laptops with a backlit keyboard. I also write best between sundown and sunup (probably in part because of that writing-in-the-dark thing). Unfortunately, much of that period between sundown and sunup is also known as you-should-be-sleeping time...

If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be?

Hmmm. To be entirely cliche, I've always wanted to fly :)

What advice would you give to another writer?

Keep writing. That's really some advice that will carry you through every step of this process, I think. Can't seem to get an agent? Keep writing. Can't seem to sell a book? Keep writing. Fretting about revisions? Keep writing. Worried about reviews? Keep writing. If you keep writing, you can only get better.

On the other hand, getting caught up in the Need To Be Published rush can be stressful and frustrating, and I think it's a good idea to step back from time to time and try to remind yourself it's not all about where you're trying to get--you started writing because you love it (right? I think!), and that's important. 

Would you say you appreciate Asian inspired literature more, less, or the same as other literature?

It depends. I do think I can be more critical of some Asian inspired literature, especially books that deal with things I've experienced personally, like being a first generation Asian-American. That doesn't mean I enjoy it any less, though, and I think being more critically minded about something that's more personal to you is common. A doctor would probably be more critical of medical dramas, for example, and writers complain about unrealistic depictions of the publishing process in fiction. On the other hand, I'm very interested in fiction dealing with Asian history, especially history I know people in my family lived through. 

Do you think there needs to be more diversity in young adult fiction?

I do, but ideally, I'd like for there to be more diversity in YA fiction without having the book then be labeled as "Ethnic Lit" or "LGBTQI Lit" or what have you. I think we need more books where characters are what they are, and of course that may affect their story, but it isn't the whole of their story at all. 

Do you feel like your Asian heritage influenced your writing at all?

I want to say "Yes, of course," because my Asian heritage has helped made me me, and "being me" is the biggest influence on all my writing ;) 

But going into specifics, like "Yes, because being Asian has exposed me to ___" or "Yes, because being Asian has taught me ___ ," is something I have more trouble with. It's difficult to say whether or not I might have seen/learned these things otherwise.

Thanks for stopping by!


Krispy said...

Thanks for the great interview! For me, it's a quick interest grabber if a book has Asian influences, but like Kat, I think I also tend to be more critical of some of it too because it's kind of more personal to me. But in general, I'm still happy to see the Asian influence.

I'm very much looking forward to Kat's book!

We Heart YA said...

Oh yeah, I'm definitely more critical of Asian influenced books, haha, but at the same time it makes me happy to see them. And like her, I'd love for there to be more diversity without it being labeled as such. The world is diverse, period. Books should be, too.

Great interview!


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