Welcome to another acronym-ific writer-centric interview series, the SNOB (Second Novel Omnipresent Blues). Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?
Today’s guest for the SNOB is Lydia Kang, author of CONTROL and CATALYST. Lydia is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and currently lives in Omaha with her husband and three children.
Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?
For me, my second novel (Catalyst) was the sequel and end to the series. So in some ways, I didn’t leave the first novel (Control) behind at all, because it was a continuum. But one of the hardest things was trying to focus on creating the new novel under the constraints of the world building I’d established in the first book. There were times when I’d tied my own hands regarding plot issues, and that was a pain. The other hard thing was trying to amp up the oomph as far as character development and world building. There are a lot of things that are resolved at the end of Control; the challenge was how to reopen a character arc that was different and not redundant, and create a story that touched on some of the best elements in Control but make them fresh and different in Catalyst.
At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?
I started writing Catalyst as soon as the book deal for Control happened. I had a one book deal, so there was zero guarantee that Catalyst would be acquired, and that was a huge amount of uncertain stress on me. I wrote the majority of the book when I realized I had made a huge plot mistake (one of the main characters never showed up and that was a big no-no). So then I had to rewrite it.
There was a two year gap between the acquisition of Control and its publication date. In that first year, I wrote Catalyst and it was acquired. During that year leading up to Control’s release date, I was promoting a lot. Then, three weeks before Control debuted, I had to revise Catalyst with a 7 week turnaround, because my editor and I simultaneously decided that Catalyst should be the end of the series, instead of book two of a trilogy. So I had to massively revise it again and smoosh book three into Catalyst to complete the duology. It was incredibly stressful to revise on that tight of a turnaround and promote at the same time! I don’t know how I survived.
Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?
For my fans, my editor, and for me. I put an enormous amount of pressure to make Catalyst work in the story arc with Control, feel new and fresh, but still be familiar. It was a learning process and there was no surprise that I had to revise it so many times to make it happen. I made a lot of mistakes.
Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?
Definitely. But if anything, I’ve learned to slow down a bit and enjoy my life more. I’ve traveled a lot promoting both books. And though I was thrilled to go to events I’d only dreamed of, like Comic Con in San Diego, teen book festivals around the country, school visits, TLA, ALA, and RT, I also learned that I’m far more of an introvert than I realized. So my down time is really important to me now.
What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?
I focused on keeping a gauge on my energy levels and lean on my family and author friends when I’ve been stressed out. This can be a lonely, isolating profession at times and my family and friends have been tremendous in supporting me. Also, instead of my experiences blitzing by in the shininess of new experiences, I was able to take a larger look at things, slow down a bit, and enjoy them more. 🙂