Friday, September 14, 2012

Feature Friday: Kat Zhang


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 Me–about a girl with two souls–is 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.

Interview:
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Kat:
Finish that book! Many people underestimate the importance of (and the difficulty of!) this first step. Do your industry research, but don't stress too much about the little things. In other words, if your query letter is in yellow font, 5 pages long (sans sample pages), and full of how your mother loved your book and you think it's going to be the next big thing after Harry Potter, it's probably going to be an issue. Having 1.5 inch margins instead of 1 inch, however, is *not* going to matter. Cross my heart ;)

Write, write, write!

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Kat:
Ooh, I can't ever answer questions like this ;) As a kid, it was THE GOLDEN COMPASS. I adored Lyra so much, and I was in love with the idea of having a constant companion in the form of a daemon.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for What’s Left of Me?

Kat:
I don't really have a super interesting story to tell about how I came up with the idea for WHAT'S LEFT OF ME :P I wish I did! Really, though, I just started wondering one day--everyone has a bit of an internal monologue going at times; what if that little voice in the back of your head was a real person? What would it be like to live trapped in your own body? That was how the idea for Eva began, and the rest of the story grew around her.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing What’s Left of Me? What were they and how did you fix them?

Kat:
I re-wrote the latter half of the book many, many times! It was definitely a tough process, one I worked through with a lot of help from critique partners as well as my agent, and later, my editor (though the book was, of course, in much better shape by the time it sold!). It taught me a lot, though, about the revision process and the tenacity and love you really have to have for a story to see it through to publication.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in What’s Left of Me is your favorite and why?

Kat:
I actually really liked writing Dr. Lyanne, who is someone you meet later on in the book. I can't say I'd like her a ton if I met her in real life, but she's a lot of fun to write because she is so different from Eva, the main character.

A.L.:
What’s Left of Me is one of the most unique story ideas that I’ve seen in a while. What did you do to prepare yourself for writing two souls sharing one body? What kind of world is that?

Kat:
Thanks! I didn't really "prepare" for writing from Eva's POV any differently than I do for any other character. There was some finagling to be done with pronouns and some idioms had to be axed (if one soul is feeling angry, but the other is not, you can't really have her say something like "fire rushed through my veins" or something), but otherwise, things came weather naturally. I'm not sure what that says about me :P

A.L.:
What’s Left of Me is part of a trilogy, so we can expect two more books, but what else are you working on/interested in writing?

Kat:
I'm working on a sort of dark fantasy, as well as a YA contemporary, and I have plans for a high fantasy standalone, but that's on the back-back burner.

A.L.:
If I’m doing the math right, you sold your book at a wicked-young age! Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?

Kat:
I sold at 19 :) I started writing What's Left of Me the winter of my senior year of high school. The first draft took me a little more than a year. Then I revised for a few months and, after querying about 2 months, signed with my agent, Emmanuelle Morgen. I revised with her for a few more months, and then we went on submission to publishers and announced the deal with HarperCollins about a month after that! :)

A.L.:
You’re a prolific traveler. Can you tell us what your near-future traveling plans are? What country would you most like to visit? Which countries/states that you’ve already visited do you love the most?

Kat:
Next summer, I have plans to go to the UK to travel a bit with one of my friends who will be studying abroad there. We'll probably go to France and Italy, too. Things aren't set, though :) I'd like very much to go to Australia, and more asian countries, as well!

I can't say which countries I've liked the most! They've all got such unique things to love about them. I always enjoy visiting China, of course, since almost all my family is there.

A.L.:
Can you give us an abridged version of one of the stories you made up as a child?

Kat:
Do you mean one the plays I talk about in my longer bio, or books I started? I began writing my first book when I was 12. It was about a little girl who ran away from home and ended up at the house of a young doctor and his "troubled" (read: 15-year-old delinquent exasperating his parents) cousin. Her own family is rather broken, but they fight to have her back, and her new "family" fights to keep her. It's funny, because it's the kind of story I'd almost be too nervous to tackle today because I'd be afraid of doing it "wrong." I guess at 12, you don't really worry about those things.

The Giveaway:
Kat is giving away signed cards and I'll be pitching in a copy of What's Left of Me, her debut novel.

What's Left of Me: I should not exist. But I do.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

Read Goodreads reviews.
Buy it at Barnes and Noble.
Buy it at Amazon.

How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the green "Do It" buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the green enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter). I will contact the winner via email. This contest is open to national entrants only.

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