Lydia Kang 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. Her poetry and non-fiction have been published in JAMA, The Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Journal of General Internal Medicine, and Great Weather for Media. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and currently lives in Omaha with her husband, three children, and a terrarium full of stick bugs. Find her at lydiaykang.com.
In Control, the current-day states in the U.S. have combined to create larger territories with very distinct cultures. What was your inspiration for this new political system?
Honestly, the inspiration came from watching the political scene today in the U.S. Some people are so desperate to have their own ideas and beliefs thrust upon everyone else, that I took it a step further and thought—well, what if the like-minded people just ruled their own States, almost completely? And if you liked what they believed in, you moved there? And I grouped the states together so that economically, they might thrive better. So voila! Nebraska + Iowa = Neia, and Oklahoma and Kansas = Okks, etc. I used the state abbreviations to create most of the names.
In Control, some of the characters have modified genes that occasionally give them special skills. If Zelia and her sister Delia were free to choose their own “superpowers,” though, what would they pick?
You know what, I think Dylia would choose to have a superpower that could keep her sister safe from her breathing problem. People might think she wants automatic Insta-Perfect-Hair power, but she’s more thoughtful than that.
Zelia would pick something science related. Like, an ability to see chemical signatures, or something like that!
Awhile ago, an early cover design possibility was leaked for Control. Can you tell us a little about the design process and how the final version fits the tone of Control?
Ah yes. The red blood cell cover. You know, that cover hit our intended hopes, which was to be like no other cover on the YA shelves. The color was fantastic and it really stood out. But ultimately it wasn’t right. First of all, there is no DNA inside red blood cells, and second of all, not everyone knew they were actually red blood cells! So in the end, we went with the second cover that wove together the science, the mystery, and a slight femininity in the font that I loved. Also the cover image is a metaphor for love (chemistry!) so that was great!
What do you love about writing for young adults?
I love firsts. The first time a young woman really comes into her own strength. The first love, and the first kiss. The first time she might truly realize and deal with the heavy issues that come her way—life, death, loss, and being brave in the face of impossible odds. I adore firsts.
How do you balance writing with your work as a physician?
I split my time between writing and doctoring. And parenting! My schedule is a little crazy all the time, but I’ve gotten used to it.
Who is your favorite science fiction author? What other genres do you enjoy?
I don’t have a favorite SF author because I love so many. I’m a fan of Beth Revis, Paulo Bacigalupi, Suzanne Collins, Lowis Lowry, Jessica Khoury, James Dashner…so many! I also enjoy nonfiction, though I tend to read for research purposes. Poetry too—Ted Kooser is a a favorite. And of course, I can’t stop rereading my classic 19th century favorites, like Austen and all the Brontes.
Can you tell us anything about the second Control book, Catalyst?
The title is different! It’s probably going to be called CODE. Zelia is going to try to find Cy, and she’s forced to leave Carus House and enter a very hostile world to bring her family back together and ensure their safety. There’ll be new places, new people, new adventures and a lot of danger!
What important question have we forgotten to ask?
My favorite candy? Right now, it’s Skor bars. 🙂
CONTROL: When a crash kills their father and leaves them orphaned, Zel knows she needs to protect her sister, Dyl. But before Zel has a plan, Dyl is taken by strangers using bizarre sensory weapons, and Zel finds herself in a safe house for teens who aren’t like any she’s ever seen before—teens who shouldn’t even exist. Using broken-down technology, her new friends’ peculiar gifts, and her own grit, Zel must find a way to get her sister back from the kidnappers who think a powerful secret is encoded in Dyl’s DNA.
A spiraling, intense, romantic story set in 2150—in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms—this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes. Review.