YEM Author Interview: Victoria Ying chats about writing about eating disorders in Hungry Ghost

Victoria Ying is the author of Hungry Ghost. Hungry Ghost follows Valerie Chu who tries to find the strength to seek help. The novel explores eating disorders, family dynamics, and ultimately, a journey to self-love. YEM was able to speak with Victoria about what made her want to write about eating disorders in her book, why it is important for readers to know about eating disorders before reading Hungry Ghost, and what the writing process was like.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first know that you wanted to be an author?

Victoria Ying: My fifth grade teacher read a short story I wrote out loud to the class and told me that I could be a writer someday. I took that to heart and thought about her encouragement ever since. For a while, I lost my writing self but I rediscovered my love for reading and therefore, my love of writing in my mid twenties.

YEM: How does it feel to have Hungry Ghost coming out?

Victoria: It feels amazing! I wrote the book back in 2018 and worked on the art most of the pandemic. I’m so happy to finally show everyone what I’ve been working on for the past few years. I’m also very nervous because it is such a personal book. I’ve never had so much of myself out in the world.

YEM: What made you want to write about eating disorders in your book?

Victoria: I had an experience where I learned that someone very close to me had no idea what it was like to have an eating disorder. Even though I tried to explain to them how it felt, it was too difficult to do it in a conversation. I decided to write this book so that I could show people what it’s like to live so trapped in your own body and your own obsession with food.

YEM: What is important for readers to know about eating disorders before reading Hungry Ghost?

Victoria: This book can be triggering for people struggling with ED. A lot of the behaviors we consider normal dieting are actually very disordered and finding that line between what’s “just a diet” and what’s an Eating Disorder can be blurry. I hope that this book can shed some light on how much of your mind is occupied with food and body when you are struggling with ED.

YEM: Did you know you wanted to touch on family dynamics or was that something that just came up?

Victoria: I feel that a lot of the stories I read about ED always had shocked and appalled parents and that just wasn’t my experience. So much of how we perceive food and our bodies is passed down to us so I wanted to be honest about that and show how we are often given these disordered ideals by the people who are closest to us.

YEM: What was your writing process like?

Victoria: I’m an unusual graphic novelist in that I really like to do the whole book in words before I ever draw a picture. I write a draft of a script in a screenplay style format and then once I’m happy with all of the major story beats, I adapt the script to work as a graphic novel.

YEM: How long did it take to write your book?

Victoria: The writing process for this one was pretty fast! I would say I wrote the first draft of the script in about a month. I did a few rounds of revisions with my editors and then I went to the drawing side. The art always takes the longest, I would say the book took about 12 months to complete with the words and pictures.

YEM: What advice do you have for those who want to be an author?

Victoria: Write short stories. I find that you learn the most about your process when you can see the entire thing start to finish. Instead of trying to tackle an epic right off the bat, take it one step at a time and write a short story about character so that you can evaluate what you did and learn how to edit.

YEM: What do you hope your audience can take away from your book?

Victoria: I hope that they see EDs as more than just a waifish diminishing body and see it for the mental health disorder that it is. It’s not just a skinny person who thinks that they are fat, it’s a disorder where you’re obsessed with your body image and what you put in your mouth.

YEM: Is any part of your book inspired by your real life?

Victoria: Lots of parts of it are inspired by my real life. A lot of the events that I depicted really happened to me. I wrote it as fiction so that I could move the events around and use the power of fictional structure to say what I wanted to say.

YEM: What do you enjoy about writing for a young adult audience?

Victoria: I love writing for young people. The world that they are struggling with is something I really relate to and even though I’m an older person, I still sometimes feel like I’m trying to figure myself out.

YEM: Do you plan to write a sequel to Hungry Ghost?

Victoria: There’s no sequel in the works, but I do have a follow up which will also be a contemporary YA based on my life. It will be about being an artist online in the mid 2000s and navigating who you are while also figuring out what kinds of relationships are appropriate and which are not.

Follow YEM on Twitter to see Victoria Ying take over our account!