A few months ago, back when we were very new to this whole book blogging thing, I was chatting away quite obliviously one night with one of our twitter followers, Cathy Zaragoza. BTW this was all done by twitter so I may be elaborating a bit.
“Cathy,” I said in a wheedling tone. “I desperately need entries into a Jillian Dodd Dream Wedding writing contest. Can you help me out so I don’t look like a tool with no entries?”
Cathy very coolly responded with, “Oh sure, sign me up. I write a bit, I dabble. I can come up with a sweet and poignant entry for you, no problem.”
“Wait, you write?” I asked, dumbfounded because in the like 4 months we’d known each other that had somehow NEVER come up. “Huh. That’s cool. What have you written?”
And then Cathy proceeded to wow me even more by whipping out a link to her self-published novel, The Complex and then letting drop the bomb that she’s like 21 or 22 and was already hard at work on the sequel to it with ideas for the third and fourth just fomenting up there in her brain.
It took a bit of needling, but girlfriend did end up very sweetly allowing me to read and review her debut novel, The Complex. I love love loved that book and thought it would be fun to pick Cathy’s brain cause she’s a really funny writer. Sadly, this is hard to come by!
So with an exclusive first ever interview, I Love YA Fiction presents a Q&A with Cathy E Zaragoza, author of The Complex:
J: Hey Cathy! Loved The Complex! Can you tell the readers in your own words why we should all read your book?
C: I really tried to avoid a lot of the YA clichés that people are starting to pick up on. I avoided the classic love triangle, nobody has dazzling and inhuman eye colors, people don’t develop physical prowess and skills that they never had before. Nobody talks about unconditional love and dying if you can’t be with that guy that you just met a week before who is dark and mysterious and won’t let anyone into his cold heart but you. I just wanted to take very, very regular people and put them into an irregular world/situation.
Also, if nothing else, the book is sarcastic through and through. The characters make fun of each other and themselves. I make fun of them. The book makes fun of itself, which is rare in a genre that takes itself pretty seriously.
J: So when did you first have the idea to write a book about a post-apocalyptic world overrun but pandemic survivors? What was the catalyst for that?
C: This sounds weird, but I love aliens. I was writing a paper about the Roswell conspiracy during my freshman year of college and did a lot of research about conspiracy theorists and people who think that the government can tell us whatever the hell they want. It got me wondering how far a governing body could carry a lie, and the novel was sort of born out of that idea. I chose a pandemic as my world catastrophe because I’ve read so many alien books that I could never write one that wasn’t rife with clichés. I also started watching Lost that year—around 2010 (yep, super late to that game…) and I got really intrigued by ideas of isolation.
J: Okay then, who is your favorite character from The Complex and why?
C: Isaac, hands down. He’s the easiest one to write and he says everything that people want to say but are too proper to actually say. I also think he’s the most complex of all the characters and a nice foil to Helena. And then I love Delly because she’s just such a bitch.
J: Isaac huh? So if you were stuck in a reorientation community, who would you most want to be your neighbor?
J: Let’s get away from your book for a moment to discuss you more cause frankly, we like you. Now what was your most embarrassing moment? Come on, you know you want to tell us…we promise not to post it! (wink, wink. We are such liars, BTW)
C: My whole life is one big embarrassing moment. Last summer, I was working at a famous art museum in Frankfurt, and let’s be real—my German is mediocre at best. During my first day they were telling me how to get water if I got thirsty. There were all these water bottle around the office and they all had labels with “Water!” and “Drink me!” and “Thirsty?” on them. I went upstairs with my supervisors and they filled this water bottle for me, and just as they were telling me not to actually drink out of the bottle and to pour it into a glass, my dumbass American self started drinking from the bottle. Super awkward. Then they took a Sharpie and wrote “CATHERINE” on it in huge letters. Every day, the entire office was sharing the other bottles, and I had my own. Every time I got thirsty I had to relive that moment.
J: name three things that inspire you the most. Conversely, what are three things that annoy the hell out of you?
C: Things that inspire me: mindless television shows, driving around with the radio on, and my Keurig coffee maker. Things that annoy the hell out of me: peanut butter, people on airplanes, and people who touch my hair.
J: Here’s the questions I always want to know the most: out of any literary character, who would be your fictional boyfriend? Which author would you love to have as your best friend? Which book would you most want to live inside (i.e. which fictional world would you most wish you could inhabit)?
C: I’ll go with Four from Divergent just because he doesn’t fawn over the girl—I hate that. If I could be bff with any author, I would pick Michael Grant, who writes the Gone Series. I just want to pick his brain. He’s so funny and I dig his writing style. He also is half responsible for Animorphs, which makes him an American treasure. Now that I’ve typed this out, I’m thinking he’s a weird choice because I don’t exactly want to get drinks with him and then gossip over mimosas the next morning…hm…I’ll get a better answer for this one day. But I say with all certainty that if I could live inside any book it would be the world in the Uglies by Scott Westerfield. Obviously, I missed the serious criticisms that he puts forth, but before the characters started rebelling, things were great. Everyone had an awesome time. They drank awesome shooters, listened to awesome music, and then just sat around and soaked up each other’s awesomeness (fingers crossed that this reference is still timely).
J: Last but not least, what are you reading right now?
C: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, which, oddly, has inspired me to make some changes to the sequel to the Complex. But no worries—there will be no animal cruelty in any of my books.
Truly, I love this author. She’s funny and snarky in a way that Ellen and I can only admire.
Check out her book, The Complex, if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed!