Balancing Two Lives

While I am in Chicago for Chicon, the World Science Fiction Conference, debut author Kat Zhang has graciously offered to be my guest blogger at the League. Once you get to read her amazing book, WHAT'S LEFT OF ME, you'll look back on this post in a different light.

As a university student and a writer, I often get questions about balancing the two. Life as a student and life as a writer can seem like pretty separate things, but really, they’re not—in the same way I think nothing is separate from the life of a writer.

Writing, more so than, I think, many professions, permeates every moment of life. A writer is really never not being a writer, because an essential part of writing is living/observing life, and if you’re not doing that, we’ve got a problem!

Being a university student certainly provides a lot of material in the form of interesting, varied characters (funny, how they like to be called “people” when you’re talking to them ;P), strange new experiences, and, of course, classes.

Now, I’m not saying I walk into lecture with a story notebook and jot down plot ideas, or that I have my class notes on hand when I sit down to write. But I’ve taken such interesting classes over the last three years, and if life bleeds into fiction, then why not classes, as well?

What’s Left of Me and the rest of the Hybrid Chronicles are wonderful stories to write, because they let me explore so many different things and pull on so many threads of information. The series is not really dystopian, not really sci-fi, but a little of both. During sophomore year, I took a Neurobiology class, and during junior year, a Political Science class. Little bits of both made their way into the first book. I’m signed up for a Science Fiction class this semester (go ahead, be jealous!), and I’m sure that’s going to worm its way into some story or another.

In my Science Fiction class, my professor mentioned a quote that was something like, “Literature must please before it can instruct.” I googled like crazy to try and find whoever said this quote, and couldn’t find anything, but appealing to the late-night crowd on Twitter got me some great similar quotes! (Thanks, twitter!) Apparently, Horace once said something along the lines of, “literature should please even while it instructs and instruct even as it entertains.”

“Instruct” is a heavy word for me, though. I don’t really like to feel like I’m being “instructed” by a novel, and I don’t write my books to instruct, either. But I do write my stories to explore and wonder and question, which really isn’t very different from what I love doing as a student.

And if any part of my books inspire a reader to explore and wonder and question on top of enjoying the plot, I’ll be a very happy writer :)

Kat Zhang’s WHAT’S LEFT OF ME, THE HYBRID CHRONICLES, BOOK ONE doesn’t come out until September 18 of this year. It was chosen for the very exclusive buzz panel at this year’s BEA, and readers are eager to get their hands on this poetic YA dystopian that has echoes of NEVER LET ME GO and WITHER. Visit her at


Natalie Aguirre said...

Awesome post Kat. So great how your college experiences filter into your writing.

I was lucky enough to get an ARC (thank you, thank you) and totally loved your book from page 1. So excited for your debut.

Kat Zhang said...

Thanks, Natalie! So happy to hear you enjoyed WLoM :) :)