Hi, guys! Long time, no see. (This is Blythe here, and, as you may or may not have known, I took a break from Twitter, reading, blogging, etc for reasons that are behind me as of now.) However, I like to think that I'm coming back with a bang, because today I have an interview with the lovely Kat Zhang for you guys as part of the blog tour for Once We Were (which is released tomorrow!). And then tomorrow I have another interview for you all! But anyway, if you haven't read Zhang's What's Left of Me yet, you should really get to that because both that, and Once We Were, are really just great.
Now, let's welcome Kat to the blog!
Hi, Kat! First off, as I was reading What's Left of Me and, more prominently, Once We Were, I couldn't help but read some aspects of the novel (the overall prejudice towards Hybrids) to be something of a metaphor for the xenophobia that is throughout our world today. Although I'm sure readers may disagree with me on that point, did you go about writing The Hybrid Chronicles with the intention of having some aspects of it be a metaphor for xenophobia?
When I first got the idea for the Hybrid Chronicles, it was very much focused around Eva and Addie and their private situation (Eva being unable to move, unable to really live, etc). The rest of their world hadn't even solidified yet. So it definitely didn't start as a metaphor for anything like that. But as I built the rest of the world more during the initial drafts of What's Left of Me, I think hybrids became, more and more, a kind of "othered" people.
I wouldn't say they're a stand-in for any one marginalized group. There have been many, and their stories are unique. But human beings have always tried to draw lines between "us" and "them," for various reasons, and I think xenophobia and the Americas' dislike of the hybrids (and, by proxy, foreigners) certainly have similarities.
How were you able to juggle the responsibilities of writing two full length novels, as well as the responsibilities of a college student (considering you've drafted both novels as a college student)?
With some difficulty, haha ;) I can't say it wasn't pretty hard sometimes to balance everything. I'm a perfectionist, so I want to do everything well, and both college and writing are obviously huge time sucks. Sometimes, I definitely wished I had more time to focus on one or the other. There was a lot of waking up early/staying up late to write (...I won't tell you how many scenes were drafted at 3am in the morning...). On the other hand, I wouldn't ever give up what I had--the writing and publication of these books is an inextricable part of my college years (and really, my life from about age 17-now...).
On the topic of writing novels as a student, what advice would you give to a young aspiring writer hoping to eventually be published?
Finish the book, read lots (and analytically--try to figure out why you think certain books are good, and others not-so-much), and learn the industry ropes, but try not to stress about it all too much. A lot publishing (trends, if the right agent/editor sees your work at the right time) can be outside of your control. Focus on what you can do.
Is it difficult for you as a writer to have to provide such a wide array of characters who are Hybrids with two very distinguishable voices?
It wasn't hard for me to come up with the characters, but it was hard, especially in Once We Were, when we have a larger cast, for me to try to get them all into the story. When you need, say 5 characters, but they're really 10, because they're all hybrid, it's hard to have enough page-space for all 10 of them to shine through. Inevitably, a lot of backstory/scenes get cut, and I always mourn the fact that some of my favorite, albeit more minor, characters don't get fleshed out as much on-page as they are in my mind.
If you were a character in your novel, and you were given the choice of being a Hybrid or not, what would you choose? Why would you risk the consequences all Hybrids face in your world if you choose to be one?
In the Americas, probably not, haha. If I were overseas, though, where it would be considered normal? I'm not sure... My gut reaction is "No!" because wow, awkward, plus complicated. But there are definite pluses--never being lonely, always having someone to understands you, etc. And really, many of the "downsides," if you think about it, are "downsides" because of what we're used to.
I get questions a lot about how hybrids can possibly have relationships because isn't it just incredibly weird for everyone involved? Well, yes, it is for our main characters, because they (like us) were raised in an environment where relationships are supposed to work a certain way, and bodies are supposed to work a certain way, and the idea of family, and relationships, and life, have been formed around this "way." But if everyone were hybrid? Well, then, society would have developed entirely differently. What we see as "weird" wouldn't be weird at all.
Once We Were is, in scope, very different from What's Left of Me. How difficult was it for you to transition from one tone--What's Left of Me's--to a very different tone--Once We Were's?
I think it was pretty natural for me because Addie and Eva are in a different place, mentally, and emotionally, and physically. The scope of their world has changed, so it's only natural that the scope of their story changes, as well.
If you could describe the world in the Hybrid Chronicles in three words or less, what words would you choose?
Hmm... Well, I guess if I were to describe the Americas from the POV of a hybrid living there: Claustrophobic, Regulated, Dissemble.
In Once We Were, Eva is met with a subtle yet remarkable growth, having used the words "I" and "my" more than she did "we" and "our," like she did in What's Left of Me. Did you plan out Eva's growth before even starting the series to be so reliant on something as simple as a change in how she refers to herself?
Eva's use of pronouns is definitely something I pay a lot of attention to, and I choose which set of pronouns she uses (I/my/me; we/ours/us; she/hers/her) in each scene with a particular meaning in mind. She's a character who is literally forming a greater sense of self throughout the series, and while I planned for that, I think a lot of the pronoun choice happens while I write, as I think about the state of mind she's in.
Also, while we're on the topic of the change in how Eva refers to herself from What's Left of Me to Once We Were, how did you know when to use "I" versus "we," or "my" versus "our"?
It's mostly a case of how she's viewing herself/herself+Addie during the scene. Sometimes, she sees them more as a unit. Sometimes, she'd rather delineate more clearly between the two of them (when she's with Ryan, for example, or when only one of them is awake, or when one of them is making a decision separate from the other).
Do you have any plans for future projects outside of the Hybrid Chronicles you can tell us about? Or do you plan on continuing the Hybrid Chronicles after you're done with Eva and Addie's story, with a different set of Hybrids?
I definitely have plans for future projects! There are a couple I'm exploring right now, and they're all quite different, so we'll see how things turn out :) Right now, I don't have plans for continuing with the Hybrid Chronicles after the trilogy, though. For me, it was always really Eva and Addie's story, in the end. :)
Thanks for having me on the blog!