Zachry Wheeler is an award-winning author of two ongoing sci-fi series. His Max and the Multiverse books take a humorous look at a teenage gamer’s bizarre life shared with a band of quirky space jockeys. On the other side of the spectrum, the Immortal Wake series is a dark reimagining “of vampire lore through the lens of science fiction.” After Transient, book one of Immortal Wake, was published in 2016, Voltage Pictures optioned the novel and Zachry earned a screenwriting credit (along with Jim Burleson). Book two, Thursday Midnight (July 2019), is Zachry’s newest release. You’ll find the author on ZachryWheeler.com, as well as Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram. Visit his Amazon author page for all his current titles.
What would you like readers to know about Thursday Midnight?
Thursday Midnight is the sequel to my debut novel Transient. The story is more of a gritty thriller with pops of horror, which is a slight departure from the sci-fi noir feel of the first book. Transient was focused on world building and character motivations. Thursday Midnight throws a powder keg into the mix.
What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The single most challenging aspect of this book was the third act. There were so many ways it could go wrong and thus be wildly misinterpreted. It was the writing equivalent of a tightrope walk, which is why I tripled my beta readers this time around. I needed to make sure I wasn’t being too cruel. They all loved it, thank goodness, despite the unsettling material.
Did “what-if” questions help shape this story?
Yes, but revealing that question would be a massive spoiler. The first book was straightforward, i.e., “What if vampires were real?” As in, scientifically plausible. The events of the second book take place within that established answer.
What is it about your main character, Jonas, that makes him strong enough to carry a series? Did your characters surprise you as the story unfolded?
Jonas’s strength in the series comes from his reluctance. He is not one to swallow orders or sprint into danger. He tends to question everything and sees the world through a wary lens. As such, he becomes a relatable character because his decisions lean towards virtuous without firmly rooting there. This hesitancy is a major plot-driver in the second book.
The characters definitely surprised me as Thursday Midnight unfolded, so much so that I ended up scrapping the first drafts and outlines because their motives didn’t make sense. In letting the characters tell the story that they wanted, the sequel ended up being much darker than originally intended.
When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go, that it was finished and ready for publishing?
I was on pins and needles when it came time for beta reading. I knew ahead of time there would be one of two reactions. One, their utter horror would necessitate a total rewrite. Or two, the shock would make sense within the story and result in a satisfying, albeit emotionally draining conclusion. Luckily, it was the latter. I breathed a sigh of relief, made all the necessary tweaks, and handed it off to my editor for a final polish.
What was your favorite part of putting together Thursday Midnight?
Handing it off to my editor. This book really took it out of me. I am immensely proud of it, and I see it as my best work to date, but it imparted a mental toll that I needed to recover from. For any readers who have finished the book, just imagine living and breathing this story for months on end.
Of all the stories you’ve written, which one did you enjoy writing the most, and which was the most challenging?
The most challenging was Thursday Midnight, for reasons I previously noted. The one I enjoyed writing the most was “The Item of Monumental Importance,” a Max and the Multiverse short story. At a high level, it’s a sci-fi riff on fantasy tropes, which was super fun to write.
You spoke at the 5th Annual Dublin Writers’ Conference in June 2019. What did you take away from that experience?
This was a fantastic event to be a part of, and I have already expressed interest in returning next year. As an attendee, I was able to expand my knowledge of screenwriting and marketing. As a speaker, it ended up being a networking bonanza. I think the highlight of the trip was tossing back pints with Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.com. We both have IT backgrounds, so it was quite the nerd-out session.
You continue to expand your Immortal Wake series as well as the Max and the Multiverse books (Max and the Multiverse, Max and the Snoodlecock, and Max and the Banjo Ferret). What are the challenges of writing a series?
It really depends on the nature of the series. For the Immortal Wake books, the biggest challenge is maintaining the timeline and world-building details. Readers will remember the smallest visual cues, so writing this series is an exercise in callbacks. I ended up re-reading Transient several times in order to create a detailed glossary of terms and traits. I needed to make sure I wasn’t tweaking anything accidentally. On the flip side, the biggest challenge behind the Max and the Multiverse series is maintaining a quality baseline of humor. World details are secondary to the laughs, so I spend more time on the jokes than the surroundings. However, the surroundings are sometimes the focus of the jokes, so it’s a balancing act at times.
Do you have any writing rituals or something you absolutely need in order to write?
I don’t have any quirks or rituals when it comes to my writing. The only thing I really need is silence. I find things like music and television to be distracting, so I will slap on a pair of noise-canceling headphones and get to work.
What are you most happy with, and what do you struggle with most, in your writing?
At this point, I think one of my biggest strengths is dialogue. I feel pretty happy with how most of it turns out, especially when it comes to comedy or tension. Early on, it took a lot of editing to remove my own voice from the characters. Nowadays, it flows much more naturally. My biggest struggle remains love scenes. I have tried to write them in the past, but they always end up disappointing. Not because they are bad, but rather because sexuality is so diverse. One person’s scandalous is another person’s “meh.” I’m not writing romance, so the love scenes are never the focus of the story. And so, I just write the foreplay and cut to the next scene, leaving the reader to imagine the tryst however they like.
Is there something you’d like to develop from material you haven’t been able to use?
Funny enough, I figured out a way to utilize some of the most hilarious (but impractical) ideas I have for the Max and the Multiverse series. Max shifts between parallel universes whenever he falls asleep, and thinking up those crazy new worlds is some of the most fun I have as an author. However, any given shift needs to advance the main plot, so ideas will often get relegated to the “funny but can’t use” pile. I eventually realized that I could revive the best ones as one-off short stories. The first was recently published, entitled “The Item of Monumental Importance,” which is available on Kindle. These stories also serve as separate intros to the series, which is an added bonus. I am currently working on the second and third shorts.
Anything new on the movie production of Transient?
Nothing, unfortunately. The movie is still stuck in development (sigh), but check out the LookBook for basics such as Casting and Cinematics.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I have several WIPs at the moment. In no particular order: two short stories and a spinoff novel for Max and the Multiverse, and book three of Immortal Wake. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to which will be published next.