Hello, everyone! Today I’m thrilled to host an interview with author Amy Zhang!
✖ Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself! What’s the quirkiest thing about you?
Hi! I have these really weird thumbs. I have a typewriter named Mattie Ann. I love buying old books with margin notes and underlines, because it makes me feel like they’ve been loved before. Once, a cockroach chased me through the subway. A few years ago, I bought a cricket lollipop that I’m still trying to gather the courage to eat. My nose is two different colors because of the tan line from my glasses. I love scarves, paint-chipped doors, and fancy cheeses.
Quirkiest thing: all of the above.
✖ Tell us a bit about your book! What inspired your book or drove you to tell this particular story? What sets it apart from others in its genre?
The book actually began as two short stories. The first was about a suicide note written in terms of Newton’s Laws of Motion. The second was about growing up, told from the perspective of an abandoned imaginary friend. I had already been planning to turn the first into a novel-length work, and the second one kind of slipped in as I was outlining.
As for what sets it apart: I really loved writing through a narrator who wasn’t strictly real, because it opened up so many possibilities. The story is told in a non-linear fashion—it’s woven of (primarily) three different time chunks: the present, which follows my main character, Liz, as she hovers on the brink of life and death in the hospital, the hour-long drive before she crashes her car as she tries to understand her life through Newton’s Laws of Motion, and the week before the crash, as she tries to find a reason to live.
✖ Do you think you could share your favorite excerpt or tease us with a single quote even?
This scene follows Liz’s second surgery. Her family, friends, and classmates are crowded in the emergency room, waiting for a prognosis.
There are three kinds of people in Liz’s world after the surgery is pronounced successful.
There are those who are breathless, shaking, crying in that crushing and desperate kind of relief—namely, Julia and Monica. When the doctor first told Monica that her daughter had not, in fact, died on the operating table, Monica went to Julia and held her, because she couldn’t hold Liz.
There are those who aren’t at all impressed. They shrug and say that they were never worried, because they knew that Liz was strong enough. They sit around and share stories about Liz over cards, laughing together at the things she had done, things that were once bitchy but are now decidedly hilarious and awesome and so effing badass.
And then there is Matthew Deringer, who’s just the slightest bit disappointed, because he had already ordered flowers for the funeral.
✖ What was your process for writing your book? Did you make a story outline, map out scenes with index cards, or did you just go with the flow?
Well, I pretend to be a plotter, but the truth is, my laziness always ends up overtaking my OCD-I-need-to-know-what-happens-next-ness. I’ve started an outline for every story I’ve ever written, and I think I’ve maybe finished…none of them. But this usually works well for me—making an outline is how I build momentum, and by the time I run out of outline, I’m pretty familiar with the characters and the plot.
✖ What advice have you most benefited from? Do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to impart to all the writers still on their journey toward publication?
“Embrace the suck.” Like, I can’t emphasize enough how much I needed this advice, still need the advice. Writing is this weird mix of narcissism and paralyzing self-doubt, and embrace the suck is my way of keeping the two balanced. Writing can be crazy-lonely at times, but I always found the fact that we all start at the same place really encouraging. Suckage is our universal launch site.
And don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. There’ll be countless people who will tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t let them be right. Don’t let yourself be one of them.
✖ If you could visit a fictional setting, what would it be and why? Also, who would you most likely get into a fight with?
I think I would visit the Scorpio Sea in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races. I love the magic and the beauty and the danger, and I also love the fact that the island comes equipped with the modern phenomena I couldn’t live without, like indoor plumbing and hot chocolate.
And I’d probably get in a fight with one of the magic-fairy-flesh-eating horses over the best tanning spot on the beach, and it would probably eat my face. Which would suck. But at least there’s, y’know, indoor plumbing.