A Q&A with Jenny Zhang

1 May 2018

We sat down with Jenny Zhang in the lead up to our on-campus Sydney Writers' Festival event to ask her about her book, Sour Heart, what she loves about writing and what's next for Jenny.

SWF on-campus event Jenny Zhang 

Firstly, what inspired you to pursue writing?

I wanted to write because I wanted to speak, fluently, without shame and without interruption. As a child I lived in my imagination, that was where I felt safest and happiest. It gave me so much pleasure to escape into books and almost as soon as I became a reader, I began to want to write, to not only consume but to create.

As a writer, how has your relationship with writing changed as your career has developed? 

Like most writers, I just want to write. But I've also decided to try and make a living doing it, which is perhaps foolish because firstly, it's hard! And secondly, some aspects of making a living as a writer have nothing to do with writing. I don't relish those parts, but I know it's my job and I'm trying to do the best job I can.

How do you know when a story is finished? Are you ever 100% satisfied with your published work?

I think a story can have so many lives, but sometimes you just gotta set an expiration date and decide to stop. Looking at published work can be cringing, it's like looking at an old photo, all you see is the past. It wouldn't be embarrassing if you didn't change in the years since so I try to accept it.

How do you think your book Sour Heart resonates with the Australian audience?

I truly don't know! I hope I have written something that is specific enough to be universal, as that is the magic of any story that resonates across space and time.

What are you most looking forward to about visiting Sydney and being featured at the Sydney Writers' Festival?

It'll be an adventure and a whirlwind. I just want to soak up as much as I can and not be crushed by jetlag. I'm also looking forward to understanding a bit more about the Chinese community in Sydney. I'm very American in my ignorance of life outside of America and hope to change that.

What are you currently working on that excites you?

Writing fiction about adults instead of children. Writing fiction in the third person. Attempting a screenplay and finishing a book of poetry that I have squirreled away and kept hidden for a long time.