INTERVIEWED BY SOPHIA LIU
Lucy Zhang writes, codes, and watches anime. Her work has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, Interzone, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbooks HOLLOWED (Thirty West Publishing, 2022) and ABSORPTION (Harbor Review, 2022). Find her at https://kowaretasekai.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.
The first piece of yours I came across was "Money Baby," where the writing, reading, coding, and sound effects come together so ingeniously. How did "Money Baby" develop and how did you realize writing and coding could form such a perfect union?
“Money Baby” was actually part of a series of different pieces (many of them interactive) I did inspired by children or babies in non-human forms, so I guess I was already on a roll. The editors of Superstition Review told me I could do something creative with the recording, so it was their prompting that sparked the idea with the coin rattling audio. Ultimately though, I just wanted to explore money as a means of defining worth, livelihood, family, and nurturing.
In terms of writing and coding, I had always been interested in generative art and would often code interactive visuals—visualizing music, playing with ARKit, etc. I decided “why does it just have to be art? Can’t it be writing too?”—probably because I was tired of whatever story I was working on that day and wanted a break. Fun things come from procrastination.
That’s amazing! I wish such fun ideas came from my procrastination. Your interactive/digital work is simply so brilliant. I especially love “Heat death didn’t stop us from being shut-ins,” “Saplings,” and “Backspace.” How did these ideas originate, especially since they’re all so distinct and individual?
How do you maintain a writing schedule while also working as a software engineer? Does your day job influence your writing?
I’m not sure I can call it a schedule. If I don’t write frequently enough, I begin to feel this growing sense of dread that doesn’t go away unless I pound out two to three thousand words (or so). This happens about once a week. Work has gotten rather busy lately which means less time for writing, so I’ve been feeling that dread more frequently. Can I call this Dread-Driven Writing? DDW? Maybe if you ask me six months from now, I’d have a different answer, but right now, work life is on fire which means writing life is also on fire (metaphorically). The influences from my day job are pretty straightforward: I like to write about technical things, engineers, robots. Sometimes these influences manifest in different ways, but ultimately it all comes down to expressing the geek inside.
Thank you for that honesty, Lucy. I feel the same dread. I love your project I CAN SEE YOU WRITE. Can you take me through the process of collaborating with another writer?
The process is actually quite simple! Sometimes the writer will already have an idea for something interactive, but they aren't certain what's quite possible, or maybe they have no idea beyond an inkling of potential for a certain piece. They'll send me the piece in text form, and I'll run off with my creative liberties. I'll do a lot of experimentation and have anywhere from a 50% complete to a 99% complete project. Then I'll send over an implementation of what I have with any open questions. From there, we'll iterate.
Congrats on Hollowed and Absorption! Two chapbooks in a year! How does it feel?
I’m honored that Thirty West Publishing and Harbor Review had faith in my works and published them. It’s also a very nice feeling to see my friends who don’t care much at all about literature holding copies of my chapbook. Also, prior to the chapbooks, I never put much time into collecting all of my individual pieces, so with these publications, I have a new-ish interest in actually doing something with once write-and-forget-about stories 😆
I’m curious if Hollowed and Absorption were created with each other in mind. You use the word “hollow” or “hollowed” in the pieces “Jiaozi,” “The Carriage Became A Pie,” and “Teach Me All There Is to Know” in Absorption.
They weren’t! I don’t think that far ahead in life, hah. I think that’s more a result of me gravitating toward similar themes and emotions.
:) Absorption contains a lot of scientific word choice. Can you speak about this decision to employ detailed scientific language to discuss themes of life and death?
I often find it relieving to look at abstract concepts in extremely clinical terms. When I approach heavy topics from a more scientific lens, I start fixating on the engineering bits of how something works. It's easier for me to visualize and get excited about something that I know will have an answer if I look deeply enough as opposed to something as nebulous as death.
I've been working with some folks on new projects but those have been taking their sweet time because the salary-earning job has begun to leave me with negative energy levels at the end of the day. That being said, I have ideas and really want to work on more long running projects connected by a theme of some sort. Maybe I'll get hacking away again during Thanksgiving break :)