By Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti
Simon Pulse, $19.99
YA fiction, superheroes, anti-hero, adventure, sci-fi, contemporary realistic with a touch of supernatural
Shout-out to Beth Parks, Audrey Gibbons, Whitney Scott, Schuler Books, and the fabulous Simon & Schuster publicists who made this meeting possible.
I've been a Scott Westerfeld fan since I first read and reviewed Uglies in the Oct/Nov 2002 issue of Girls' Life -- before it hit legendary status, I might add. Perhaps it all started with that Girls' Life review...
Seriously though, Scott writes YA lit that makes you think. He creates sci-fi, steampunk, dystopian, fantastical worlds that readers fall into and don't want to leave. His Uglies and Leviathan series are included in my All-Time Favorites.
So when I saw he and his Zeroes coauthors would be touring through Schulers Books and Music in Lansing, I called and bought another copy of Zeroes to reserve my seat. I told everyone in my family, "Put it on your calendar: we're going to see Scott Westerfeld" -- because we're all fans! My kids immediately knew who I was talking about, except for my youngest (age 11) who hasn't read his work before but is now starting on Uglies.
In fact, when Zeroes first appeared at my house, both my sons and husband (ages 16, 19, and 48) fought over who got to read it first. My husband won. My second copy was snagged by my oldest.
Why? Because Scott's books span genres, and we know whatever Scott writes is worth checking out.
The day before the event, at 4:30 p.m. exactly, I wondered ... If I called the publicist, could I possibly get an interview? At 4:36 I made the call and actually spoke in person to Audrey Gibbons, who passed my info along to Beth Parks, and from there I was able to have a personal interview with these three amazing writers. And I was able to bring along young members of the ChildressInk.com team, aka Leah, Laura, and Paul -- the rest of the family couldn't make it (high school football). It was last-minute arrangements on a school night, and I was excited to share the moment with whatever young writer could come along -- to absorb the excitement of the bookstore and the energy of these three excellent writers, and to see a small portion of all the possibilities that exist in the publishing world for writers today.
Summary from publisher: Told from separate viewpoints, teens Scam, Crash, Flicker, Anonymous, Bellwether, and Kelsie, all born in the year 2000 and living in Cambria, California, have superhuman abilities that give them interesting but not heroic lives until they must work as a community to respond to a high-stakes crisis.
Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti knew each other before the writing of Zeroes, and their collaboration on this project grew out of their friendship -- after lots of talks and working out the kinks. But it's clear these three had a great time writing together, each author writing two of the six unique characters' POVs. One question they love to pose to readers during their book tour is "Which author wrote which character?"
I was particularly interested in their cowriting process, because I've been researching coauthors in the marketplace. I've seen a trend of more and more writers pairing their talents together, and in talking to different editors (and editing myself), coauthoring is beneficial to publishers in that it raises author credibility, and when done well, the difference in writing level is significant. With a coauthor, you have a peer already editing your work, you edit each other's work back and forth, and the manuscript comes in that much tighter, cleaner, and easier to edit. Plus, writing with peers is just a blast! "It turns the lonely writerness into a social routine," said Westerfeld. "But be careful who you use for cowriters."
Good advice, because bad coauthor relationships make for a bad book-making process. But over time, Westerfeld said, by going to conferences and joining writer's groups, you get to know other writing peers. Lanagan and Biancotti agreed that it was intimidating at first, sharing their work with each other, though they had all been friends for years. And they had a few quirks to work out, but their efforts succeeded in Zeroes, the first of a trilogy about six kids who have supernatural abilities that they use to their advantage. They are anti-heroes, flawed characters in their own way, but they are forced to work together and use their abilities to save the world -- well, sort of.
Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, & Deborah Biancotti
Schulers Books and Music, Lansing, Michigan, October 8, 2015.