Today, we are thrilled to kick off the What’s Left of Me blog tour! We have author Kat Zhang over to talk about her debut novel, a harrowing, original, truly awesome science fiction dystopia.
Give a warm welcome to Kat, everyone!
The Book Smugglers: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Your debut novel, What’s Left of Me is a science fiction dystopian story that features a society where everyone is born with two souls that coexist, until one dominant soul emerges, and the other fades. The concept of twin souls occupying a single body is fascinating – can you tell us a bit about this conceit, and what works or myths (if any) inspired you?
Kat: Thanks for having me!
I wasn’t really inspired by any one work for What’s Left of Me. Rather, the idea for the story actually came from my thinking about the idea of a person’s inner monologue, that “little voice in the back of your head” that people sometimes call a conscience, or the “angel/demon on your shoulder dynamic” or what have you. I was watching a movie with this kind of voice over, and I started wondering, what if that narrative inner voice was a whole other person? What if they were nothing more than a voice? They couldn’t control your body, couldn’t communicate with anyone but you. What would that be like?
That’s how the idea for Eva, a girl trapped in her own body, came about. The rest of the story developed from her
The Book Smugglers: Eva and Addie are two souls trapped in the same vessel body, but they are very different people. Tell us about your heroines, their similarities and differences. Did you end up preferring one to the other?
Kat: Since Eva is the POV character, we do end up knowing her best, and we see the world from her perspective. She’s more naive than Addie, I think, but also more desperate and more impulsive. Addie has a drier sense of humor and is often more cynical. They both have an unfortunate propensity to panic in times of chaos! But they’re also both fiercely loyal and very protective of those they care about.
I can’t say I like one more than the other!
The Book Smugglers: The world of the Hybrid Chronicles is a bleak, frightening place, and confronts issues of xenophobia and identity. Are there any other worlds (dystopian, science fiction, or otherwise) that you drew from to create your own? Are there other particular fictional societies or worlds that you think are just as bleak, terrifying, and rigid as Eva and Addie’s own?
Kat: Hmm…I drew a lot from history, actually. The “other”-ing of groups of people has existed since the start of civilization (really, before that!), and though I didn’t base the situation in the world of the Hybrid Chronicles on any one piece of the past, I thought a lot about different historical events and societies.
I think many fictional worlds are just as frightening, if not more so, than Eva and Addie’s! In fact, I would say that if you asked the average person living in the Americas, their world is not bleak, or terrifying, or rigid at all. They have enough food. They have homes and jobs and televisions and safe children. Their lives aren’t perfect (those hybrids keep causing trouble!), but it’s what they know. It’s normal.
It’s mostly just the hybrids who are having the really big problems, and while the rest of the population hears about them, it’s still a generally abstract concern. It’s somebody else’s problem.
The Book Smugglers: What’s Left of Me is the first book of a planned trilogy in the Hybrid Chronicles – can you give us a little sneak of books 2 and 3 in the series, and what readers can expect?
Kat: Well, I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that each consecutive book gets larger in scope
The Book Smugglers: Your top 5 favorite science fiction dystopias of all time are:
Kat: (in no particular order)
1. Ender’s Game
2. The Giver
3. Animal Farm (guess this isn’t really Sci-Fi? Hmm)
4. Among the Hidden
The Book Smugglers: We Book Smugglers are faced with constant threats and criticisms from our significant others concerning the sheer volume of books we purchase and read – hence, we have resorted to ‘smuggling books’ home to escape scrutinizing eyes. Have you ever had to smuggle books?
Kat: I’m rather ashamed to admit that I used to smuggle books out of my school library in elementary school. We were only allowed to check out 2 fiction books at a time (3 if one was non-fiction), and that was simply not enough for me! …so I sometimes took books without checking them out! I always brought them all back, of course, but I might have confused my librarian by turning in books that had never been checked out!
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 is her first novel.