With Nexus, the final installment of the Zeroes trilogy now out in stores, we felt it was finally time to find out just who wrote each of the six main characters, so we
forced suggested Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti finally spill all their secrets from writing the series. Read on for all the juicy details, and your opportunity to win a $250 superpower experience of your own.
Okay, Welcome to the first (and last) ever ZEROES REVEAL!
To recap, our three authors have written the Zeroes series together. The series follows six super-powered teens, with the codenames Scam, Mob, Crash, Flicker, Anonymous, and Bellwether (AKA Glorious Leader), as they explore their strange powers and try to survive a world gone mad!
Each of the three authors wrote two characters, but who wrote whom has been a CLOSELY GUARDED SECRET until now. Read on to find out the truth!
First off, are you both EXCITED about revealing your characters?
I dunno. I’ve been enjoying holding these particular cards close to our chests. It’s fun to tease people.
I wanna know if anybody cares anymore?
Good point. If you keep a secret too long, no one cares. (This also happens in novels when a reveal comes too late. #protips)
Yeah, after everyone’s already guessed the reveal. ;p
Talking to readers and gatekeepers, they seem very intrigued and impatient still.
But definitely it is TIME, with NEXUS coming out.
Nexus comes out in Australia on 25 October! (And in the US/UK on February 22, 2018!)
So . . . I’d like to start by saying I thought everyone would JUST KNOW who wrote which character.
I mean, it’s so obvious to me. Especially now that I know ALL YOUR WRITING TICKS.
And we know yours, Mr. “her heart skidded sideways”.
But we seamlessly blended our storytelling so well that we made it impossible—i.e., you covered our ticks up with a thick layer of Scottness.
Also, my heart always beats sideways.
I’d get that looked at.
Also, the word “sputtering”. “Sputtering sputtering sputtering,” Scott sputtered.
Oh, yes, the sputtering.
Here’s a question: What do you think, right or wrong, was the most common guess about who wrote whom?
I saw someone guess Margo’s character right yesterday. But I’ve also had someone guess that same character was mine. Wrongly.
I found people’s guesses to be all over the place. All of the characters have been attributed to me at one time or another.
So, you think our readers were about as accurate as monkeys with typewriters?
Yep, monkeys with typewriters, definitely. With no resultant Shakespeare’s.
Duck off, autocorrected apostrophe.
I’ll take it out so you don’t look dumb.
He did not take it out.
Grr. So typical.
So this is going well!
Just like a Zeroes plan.
One story I liked is that Margo’s mum got her characters right.
That’s a nice story.
IS IT TRUE? Or just a rumor?
That’s true, Mum had no problems; neither did my sister.
Well, let me say that I’m kinda surprised that people didn’t immediately spot at least one of Margo’s characters . . .
Which one do you reckon was so obvious?
Because of the scintillating prose when HER power was deployed.
That Scott kindly left in, like the Glorious Leader he is . . .
PLOT TWIST. Deb has just revealed one of my characters, so we’re ONE DOWN. Yes, I wrote Glorious Leader (AKA Bellwether, AKA Nate, whose power is compelling crowds to follow him). But we’ll come back to that. What about your scintillating similes, Margo? When you wrote CRASH. (Two down.)
I know, right? All those antlers and glittery pathways and stuff. So pretty, all that tech talk.
The only pretty stuff you let me keep.
I totally loved writing Crash (AKA Chizara, whose power is control over networked machines). I mean, she was a bit earnest and po-faced sometimes, but writing her powers and her view of the world was awesome.
Yes. The Zeroes are best when their powers inform their point of view.
And whenever she got to run or drive fast was fun. And estimating how hard the world was coming at her was always interesting.
I like how you always described her power with weird extended metaphors. Like antlers and spinning plates.
Like a moose at the circus!
Trying to not overcook the metaphors, or repeat them too often, was a good challenge.
Yeah, In Glorious Leader’s POV, I always had people’s attention “lancing” and never changed it.
Soooooo many lances.
lance lance lance.
Consistency also counts.
I don’t know—I think one can over-lance things.
How did you enjoy THAT, Scott?
I like that Glorious Leader was a dick.
I enjoyed that about you. Him.
Me, too—it irritated me in what I feel is a productive way. Both Nate AND you, I mean.
He also got to go on a journey by the end of the series, though, which was good.
Yeah, you just have to make terrible things happen to characters who are annoying, and then people like them.
He had an excellent journey, especially in NEXUS—which we’re not going to elaborate on, right?
No spoilers, yeah.
That said, I think I like him best in the first third of NEXUS, or right at the end of SWARM, where his spirit is crushed.
Yes, it was good to crush his spirit.
He so badly needed some come-uppance.
Putting him in jail at the end of SWARM was a good idea. (I can’t remember whose it was.)
So, Deborah. I would like you to reveal whichever of your two characters you think is MOST LIKE YOU.
Oh, geez. That’s a mean question.
That IS a mean question.
I’m obviously NOT like one of them. So, I guess that means I’m most like the other one.
Maybe you’re not like either of them???
Maybe I’m a unique individuel.
Which one would you hate most to be like.
Both have a hard row to hoe . . .
Sorry, I’m still thinking. Did I warn you about mornings in my house? They’re not welcome.
Hey, I’m giving up my Friday night to do this.
Scott is in New York, the others in Sydney. Time zones are fun!
How ’bout parties, and bopping? You keen on that, Deb? 😀
THREE DOWN. Deborah wrote MOB (AKA Kelsie, whose power is guiding the mood of a crowd, especially when they’re bound by music or dance).
I dislike crowds enormously. I’m not a people person. And I do not believe in the fundamental good in everyone.
So that was fun to write.
So, given that you hate all things crowded and fun, what was it like writing Mob?
I basically just had to lie a lot to write her.
Also I know jack about music. Poor Mob! I always felt bad for her that she got me as an author.
But she was sweet and nice. I wanted the best for Mob.
I think you let her essential spirit show pretty well. Only we know about the resistance you felt.
I like her final Nexus outcome . . .
Deb is very on-message about teasing NEXUS, which is out now in Australia!
Aww, me too. Her and Crash were the ones I worried most about.
Yeah, anyone who’s really, really in love is also in jeopardy in these books.
OOOH. Why did you never point that out in our plot meetings???
Wasn’t it self-evident? It’s like we writers all hate & want to destroy ppl in love. LOL!!
Love un-persons you, makes you vulnerable. ;_;
Hang on, I’m looking up Kelsie’s NEXUS fate . . .
YOU DON’T REMEMBER??!
But she was so important to YOUR character!
We wrote it back in JULY.
Er, it’s a very important book.
Right! How was it for you two guys to write two characters who were in love with each other?
Can you say more about that, Deborah?
You don’t think that’s clear?
It was fun, because Deb made such a fuss. Good to watch her barf-o-meter go off.
I hated the whole “they can’t have sex because they’ll destroy an ocean liner” thing. Too Angel, if you know what I mean. Learn some self-control, Crash!
I thought it was hilarious! But I don’t really see how their sex life could be sustained for long.
Well, all the Zeroes are gradually getting their powers under control. And we never wanted to suggest that Crash and Mob were inherently not supposed to have sex.
No, they need to have sex. They’re teenagers.
My fave thing about that pairing was making our most and least uptight characters fall in love.
Yes to Scott, not to Deb’s gagging. Also, I have never seen Angel and don’t know what that means.
Okay, we have three out of six revealed!
Have we mentioned how the characters ended up with the authors?
Do we remember?
Scott allocated them. Okay, so that’s done.
We came up with the powers first. And then Scott assigned the powers . . . in early 2013.
Which power did you come up with first, Scott? You had one or two in mind at the beginning.
Scam. He’s been in my head since I was, like, 20 years old.
Scam’s power is that he has an inner voice that knows exactly what to say to get whatever he wants from someone.
But he can’t quite control what he wants. (Can I talk to the Narrator?)
*whispers* Yes, you can.
Was there any kind of logic to how I assigned the characters?
I never knew the logic behind it. I had no idea how you made those decisions.
You seemed to be allocating them based on what you knew of our writing/ticks at that point.
Was there a character you would rather have written than the ones you did?
I don’t think there was a character I preferred. I was too worried about doing justice to the ones I got!
I think I could have stood writing Flicker or Mob—but neither of the other ones. (Semi-reveal!)
There was an issue about the difference between Mob’s and Glorious Leader’s powers.
At first, there were lots of powers blurring into each other.
But the main difference was their personalities.
Yeah, one was a dick & one was sweet & nice. ;p
JUST LIKE US.
So it was obvious which author should get whom.
So, Margo, you just said there were some characters you didn’t want to write?
Cue drum roll in case of a reveal . . .
I didn’t want to write Nate, because I didn’t feel I had the plot-nous to work out how he would run things. Also, I just never liked his manner, in almost anything he did.
You mean, he was a dick.
But you could have written him differently!
I could have, but I suspect he would have just turned out earnest like my two characters did, which would have been a pain for everyone.
ANOTHER SEMI REVEAL.
And writing Scam would have been excruciating—though that seemed to be enjoyable to the-person-who-wrote-Scam.
Reveal time. So, Margo, how did you like writing ANONYMOUS? (AKA Thibault, whose power is a kind of invisibility based on being forgotten the moment you look away from him.)
Gasp! You went there!
Well, “earnest” kinda gave it away …
I don’t know if you two remember, but it took me a while to find my feet with Anon. 😀 😀 😀
Several flower arrangements had to be pruned.
OMG the flowers in the Hotel Magnifique (where Anon lives at the start of Zeroes). Margo wrote THOUSANDS OF WORDS about them.
Those flowers were fabulous. What are you talking about?
Good thing he didn’t have hay fever.
Hey, at least they didn’t sparkle or sputter.
Remember the twenty chapters of Anon and Scam in the hotel room playing video games?
Yeah, good times.
Oh God, fricking Red Spectre/Scepter.
Man, we really should’ve brought that back for Nexus.
They did not bring that back for Nexus.
One thing that made writing Anon hard for you, I think, was that his power is so weird.
He’s not invisible!
Even in our low-key conversations with each other, we were never allowed to use the word “invisible” to describe that he can’t be seen.
He’s not invisible, he’s forgettable!!!!!
Yeah, yeah, WE KNOW. I wrote a whole treatise on the difference between memory & attention—that nobody read. Thanks, Psych degree, for nothing.
It was SO LONG.
It was not.
I mean, we all KNEW Anonymous wasn’t invisible. It’s just short-hand, FFS.
Working out ways that Anon could get out of his own head was hard. His LIFE was so hard, and the way his relationships kept evaporating was tricky to manage.
Right. With his backstory, it’s amazing that he wound up an earnest Margo Lanagan character and not a dickish Scott Westerfeld character.
Yeah, that would’ve worked.
But as I had to endure Scott IRL, I gave myself a rest from dickishness in my characters.
Also, the Zen stuff was hard. I mean, I think it was perfect for Anon, but Scott kept wanting to make him all ooga-booga about it.
What does ooga-booga mean?
Kinda woo woo?
So, you wanted him to be more practical about it? And I pushed him to be more mystical with his Zen?
Huh. *scratches head*
Yes, I hated all that koan stuff.
YOU HATED THE KOANS?
They make my eyes roll. Like any kind of spiritual yattering in a yoga class.
I also hated the koans.
Any teenager who is both earnest and into Zen is going to be super woo-woo. Also, koans are cool.
It’s weird how we influenced each other’s characters. Once Scott said that Mob was ‘wiffy’, and I wrote more to that, for example.
Once I worked out what wiffy meant, of course.
I’ve been spelling it wrong the whole time!
What does wifty mean?
Wifty is kinda like hippy but modern. Sweet & mung bean-like.
It’s a synonym of “ditzy,” according to Merriam Webster.
Yeah, I wished we had made her more street-wise than wifty.
I think she was reasonably street-wise, but she was reacting to the gaps her dad left in her life. And SOMEONE needed to bring the sweetness.
I liked her roomful of girly tat from her dad.
“Tat” is Australian for “clutter.”
I think you can be nice and streetwise both. That’s my fave thing about Mob—she has a hard edge beneath her sweetness.
I love a lot of what she goes through in Nexus. I think she really comes into her own in the finale.
Yeah. I like it that everyone is afraid of Mob in Nexus, because of her near-Swarm experience in book 2.
Yes, that goes a long way towards neutralizing the sweetness.
So we have to reveal the last two characters at once! Because our readers are clever and can use the process of elimination.
So we’re looking at Flicker & Scam, right?
Yes. Did I write Scam and Deborah, Flicker? Or the other way around?
So, Scott . . .
I wanna ask a question.
After years of thinking about Scam, why did you let ME write him?
THAT IS AN EXCELLENT QUESTION. REVEAL! SIX DOWN! (Deb wrote Scam, AKA Ethan, whose power of saying the right thing in all situations has already been explained.)
Because he wanted to nab Nate and be the leader, and he wasn’t allowed to write two boys.
But the genders were assigned later.
It was partly because I WAS so close to Scam. But mostly it was because Scam’s POV starts the series off, and I didn’t want to be that kind of head writer.
You didn’t want to lead from the front?
Yeah, like, I didn’t want to write most of the first ten chapters.
Okay, interesting. Weird, but interesting.
It is interesting. And fair enough, too.
It would have been too much of my stuff up front. Too much sputtering!
Well, that’s a fair consideration!
I actually think Scam was the most collaborated-on character. We worked hard to give him a sense of humour we all agreed on, I think.
Right. And we had to plot around his power together. Because otherwise his power just fixes everything.
Ha, yes, we had to stop that happening. A lot. I love a certain stand-off he gets to have in Nexus.
As Deborah keeps reminding us, Nexus is very good and out soon!
Did you wish he was yours sometimes, Scott? (Mind you, Scott got to butt in and take over QUITE A LOT.)
Well, like I said, I’ve had very particular ideas about his power for a long time. And it’s like Anon’s power, in that it’s a bit weird and hard to explain. Sometimes you just have to show how it works. The fact that inside him is another entity that knows exactly what to say in any situation.
But how did YOU like writing Scam, Deborah?
Well, Scam was a gift. I couldn’t believe I’d gotten so lucky. I was careful not to point that out in case you took him back.
He was funny, quirky, and kinda sad, but he never let that overwhelm him. Now and then he’ll comment that he didn’t have a lot of friends, ppl don’t like him, or all his relationships end up with him apologising.
Yeah, he was a classic lovable loser.
It was adorable. But he was also hugely unliked by some readers. Which was kinda fun.
It’s weird to me that people dislike Scam. Like, he could have turned out MUCH worse, given his power.
Yeah, I’m not even sure why he didn’t turn out worse. I guess his sister was a good influence.
He always felt younger than the others.
Only in your chapters, Margo!
So not true, Deb!
Well, he started talking later, because the Voice did the talking for him when he was little. So he was developmentally younger, I think.
Yeah, he was playing catch-up with a much smarter internal voice.
Which also makes me sad for him.
It was like he was carrying around his own bully.
GOOD POINT. WHICH YOU NEVER SAID AT A PLOT MEETING. Why are all these gems only coming out now?
I mean, it was obvious. You should have just KNOWN.
We’ll just have to write another series together, Scott. And use all these gems!
They will not write another series together.
It’s true, Scam has the only power that could be construed as an actual enemy.
Right. The readers who hate him SHOULD be hating his power.
So, why did you choose Flicker for yourself, Scott? (AKA Riley, whose power is seeing through other people’s eyes, though she herself is blind.)
Because I wanted to write about a power that created a TRULY different point of view. Like, literally.
And I always loved Daredevil, so I wanted to write a blind character.
Yes! And Flicker is so awesomely gutsy & strong.
She’s got a real sense of independence. Which I love. And I love her leadership of the group.
Scott wanted the leader AND the deputy leader.
Yes, she’s a much better leader than that arrogant old Nate.
I liked Glorious Leader falling apart and her taking over, yeah.
And how she deals with his return. That was a great sub-plot.
But mostly it’s fun to be in her head, because her power has made her wise beyond her years. By borrowing other people’s eyes, she’s seen a lot of what really goes on in the world.
Very similar to Anon’s snooping!
And her only weakness is NOT seeing what a dick her old friend Nate (Glorious Leader) is. lol
I think she knows.
She’s too kind to hold it against him.
So, Margo, what was it like writing a character (Anon) who was in love with MY character Flicker?
It was amusing. 😀
They were so freaking adorable together. Barf.
But again, just the logistics were a challenge.
Quasi-invisible guy/blind but all-seeing girl?
Forgettable! Not invisible!
Just having her keep track of the existence of that relationship . . . head spins.
She’s got a clever way around that in Swarm.
But then . . . that ending!!
Hah. That ending came late. It was only in the final draft.
Keeping Anon from giving up hope took some work. I hate it when characters get self-pitying.
Yes. You hate a whinger.
We all hate whingers. We had a rule about whingers.
The rule was: No Whingers.
(Also, “Whingers” is Australian for “whiners.”)
Okay, let’s talk a little about plotting together.
Plotting together was the best fun ever.
Except I got a little tired of you two laughing at me, because I knew nothing about television and movies.
For everyone who doesn’t know: We went out into the Australian bush (AKA, countryside) for DAYS on end, at a luxury hotel!
Yes, it was luxury. We ate nice food.
And looked at green stuff. Margo made notes about all the flowers.
But we did tease Margo mercilessly because she wouldn’t wrap scenes without wittering.
Oh, yes, the wittering!
We were too mean and I regret it.
But Margo did come up with the title for book 3. Well, she had too many words, but Scott took the extra words out. And we had a title!
Did I? I thought Scott did.
I don’t know who did.
Margo said Homo Nexus, And Scott and I looked at each other. And Scott said, “There’s the title!”
I remember Scott wittering, and in the middle coming up with the word NEXUS and us all looking at each other and knowing.
I remember nothing.
While we were outlining out I the bush, we had lunch and dinner together, as well as working ten hours a day for days on end.
Yeah, that was crazy. I mean, great.
We weathered it well.
We weathered the wittering.
So that leads me to my FINAL QUESTION. What is it like writing now ALL ON YOUR LONESOMES?
Also I’m doing another collaboration already. 😉 Because they are fun.
I have a lot more doubt on my own, but I also get to do whatever the hell I want.
It’s hard and horrible and I hate it. It’s all directionless and shapeless and I can’t pull it together.
Also, I’m still in recovery from being laughed at so much. So I’ve taken over laughing at myself. Which is not good for the writing. 😀
I think that’ll be VERY good for the writing, Margo!
Wait. Is your collaboration a secret, Deb?
Well, it’s not a real book yet. But I’m writing VAMPIRES and I’m so happy!
I used to just power on through when I had writer’s block. But now the sound of your laughter in my ears pulls me up.
Ohhhhhhhhh! That’s bad.
Hmm. You mean our voices are still in your head? I hear you guys too.
I don’t. You guys are dead to me.
When I type the word “sputtering,” I hear you mocking me.
Well, don’t do that!!
Our work here is done.
The collaborative hangover.
But I will say this: my plotting is MUCH tighter than it was before writing Zeroes.
Really?? I thought you were the plotting king.
Like, adding twists and turns and just PUSHING stuff harder comes so much more naturally. And I have you guys to thank for that.
My plotting just feels terrible now. There never seems to be enough happening to keep me interested.
Do you feel like the Zeroes experience helped it at all, Margo?
No, I think the Zeroes experience is responsible for this lack of confidence in my plotting now. I want to sit around the table with you guys and escalate plot ideas some more.
The world of letters will hate us now, Deb.
Yeah, we destroyed Margo’s plot-less writing.
Whoa, is the world of letters reading this?
THEY’RE ALWAYS WATCHING, MARGO.
It’s all right, World of Letters, I am forging on regardless.
Okay, shall we all end with something positive? Or is that not a thing?
Something positive . . . I’m looking forward to seeing people live-tweet NEXUS as they read it!
Yeah, ditto. I think the ending is suitably HUGE.
I like how it ends.
We tried to escalate everyone’s powers, to escalate the setting (Mardi Gras crowds in New Orleans!), and mostly to escalate the thematic mayhem.
It was ALL about the escalation.
We multiplied powers. And set power against power. Which was fun.
And there’s a penguin suit in it.
Um. Deb. It’s in one of your chapters.
I thought that was a Teenage Mutant Ninja suit.
That’s in there too, but I’m talking about Sonia.
Spoiler! Sonia’s back!
On that note, I’m going to get dinner. Hope you guys have a lovely Saturday in Australia!
Fun working with you again!
Have a nice dinner, Scott. See yers later!
I would keep chatting but I’m starving. Bye!
Hope you find some plot, Margo.
Just steal one. That’s what I’m doing for my solo novel. Steal a fairy tale!
OK, then watch Face Off and steal THAT.
Hah. I’m still listening, and I’m keeping all this.
Thought you were hungry.
Hungry, but nosy.
Hungry for Margo Lanagan’s Face Off, I think you mean.
So, there you have it. Reveal complete.
Glorious Leader & Flicker are Scott’s characters. Crash & Anon belong to Margo. Mob & Scam are Team Deb.
But in the end, there’s a little bit of Scott, Margo & Deb in all of them. And there’s a little bit of Glorious Leader, Crash and Scam in all of us…
Let us know if you correctly picked any of these!
Finally, to celebrate the publication of Nexus, we’re giving away a $250 Red Balloon voucher so you can have a superpower experience of your own, all the details are available on our website: www.allenanduwnin.com/nexus