How Alex Zhang Wrote Two Novels as a Teenager

How Alex Zhang Wrote Two Novels as a Teenager
Left to right: Kai Zhang, Alex Zhang, Jennifer Zhang

“Yo Mom, I want to write a book.”

When Alex Zhang first shared his goal with his mother, Jennifer, she didn't take him seriously. Mrs. Zhang is an auditor, and her husband Kai is a geophysicist, so they thought their son would be a math or science type.

Alex had other ideas.

As a fourteen-year-old high school freshman, he released his own young adult sci-fi/fantasy novel, Spark, published by Houston-based LongTale Publishing. The humorous novel tells the story of Jackson Smythe, a high school kid who gets whisked on a dangerous journey by a stranger who climbs out of his TV.

This June, at age eighteen, Alex just released the sequel, Blaze.

At Liberty Fest in Sharpstown, he and his parents ran a booth stocked with bilingual Mandarin/English copies of Spark and English copies of Blaze. Rain pattered on the blue tent canopy above.

Alex had to fight to get here. He got serious about writing in 7th grade, encouraged by his English teacher. But sometimes, his mind felt “dry,” and he had to spend hours thinking before he knew what to write.

One of his most discouraging moments was when his editor told him that the second draft of his book had a confusing plot and he might need to write several new chapters from scratch.

But Alex pushed forward. He learned several lessons. One, perseverance. Two, “Nobody is a self-made person.” He credited his mentors, editor, and publisher for helping him get to the finish line. “Don’t be afraid to rely on others because of pride,” said Alex.

Somehow, he also made time to win the 2022 national Congressional Debate (Senate) tournament hosted by the National Speech & Debate Association, graduate from Stratford High in west Houston, attend his first semester at UMichigan, and learn that the Chinese food up north is “not great.”

Spark and Blaze, the first two books of the planned Ember trilogy, include comical chapter titles like “Jack Contemplates Strangling His TV Set,” “Subulo is Terrible at Disguises,” and “Several Immortal Degenerates Bicker in a Dining Room.”

Alex hopes the books will appeal to 14-20-year-olds who enjoy fantasy or sci-fi. (He cautioned that Blaze might be a bit violent for 14-15-year-olds, though.)

He recalls “staying up super late” reading books as a kid, and he hopes that Blaze and Spark will captivate his readers in the same way.

You can find his books at His Instagram handle (included at his request) is @alxjzhang.