And so with no further ado, I bring you an interview with Jeffrey Zweig II.
Gwen: Hi, Jeffrey, I’m excited to have you here. First, let’s start by having you tell the readers a little about your book.
Jeffrey: Thank you for taking the time to learn a little more about me and my work, Gwen.
The End Begins: The Nine is a science fiction, fantasy story about Cassarah Telmar, a sorceress who finds out the students of her Academy, The Nine, are being used in experiments to pilot a war for a group known as The Coalition. She escapes their program and sets off to bring them down. However, her actions could devastate the people she’s trying to save.
Gwen: One of the things that I found particularly interesting was how this novel mixes real-world events and history as part of a broader alternate universe beginning with World War II. How did you decide at what point to alter history, so to speak?
Jeffrey: One reason I think I chose World War II (WWII) is because people know about it. So many movies, video games, TV shows are based on it – it’s familiar, and since I had so many strange elements going, I wanted that familiar base to draw from. I did some research on “what if” scenarios during the war – as in what if a battle went this way or that, and in turn a much different outcome could have happened. So I toyed with who was involved, how long it went, and tried incorporating some relevant issues one could see today. WWII always has a lot of potential to work with, and making those changes opens up many more things I can work with to make it my own.
Gwen: During The End Begins: The Nine, the reader is taken on a journey that shifts focus to a number of different characters. Changing perspective from one character to the next really gives us, as the readers, a much broader sense of the world that you’ve created. Of your main characters, who was the most challenging for you to write and why? How did you get into their head?
Jeffrey: The hardest to write for was James. First, he’s like Cass where he’s foreign to the world he’s journeying through because he’s dealing with a form of amnesia. But at the same time, he’s coming from a world that is similar to our modern day. So I had to resist the urge to constantly compare one to the next as a running commentary.
Second, because he initially starts as a mini-macguffin and has so little to do with the start of the story, he was a risk to have. I had to make him relevant but not be obtrusive. That was also hard to do. Whereas most of the characters had a clear objective at the start of the novel, James did not. He was kind of a wild card, and that can be dangerous for an author if the reader doesn’t want to go along with it.
Gwen: I know that in my own writing, minor characters often end up being some of the characters that I like the best. Was there any character that you’d like to focus on more in future stories?
Jeffrey: Kevin Barone – the group’s mechanic, tech guy, and the outsider of the independent nation of Arcovia. I think because he is so rooted in the world being a kind of drifter, that through him I could explore the world in more detail. Having known people like that, I have fun writing someone who is a little more relaxed/reckless than Cass. But in my story he evolves from that drifter, to becoming heavily relevant to many people, and I would be interested to see how his actions affect those around him trying to keep that independence.
Gwen: Another big part of your story is culture. One of my favorite scenes was when Cass ended up going into the world and had to learn how to interact among people and ideas with which she wasn’t familiar. How do you prepare to write a scene like that?
Jeffrey: First I had to decide while building the world for my novel how different things were on that personable level. Once I had that, I had to think of Cass, more or less, as a foreigner as if she visited another country entirely (Which you could argue is the case here). How would I (or Cass) react when dealing with food, social norms, or science. I did my best to make things different, but not too different in that respect. I’m reminded of an exercise you would do in a creative writing course, if you were an alien exploring another world – that’s basically what I had to do.
Gwen: Tell us about something that you think makes the Nine particularly unique.
Jeffrey: This is a hard one, truth be told. Because I could say a lot of things that appear to make it unique, but you can insert that answer for many other books, games, movies, etc. which are great.
“Her actions could devastate the people she’s trying to save.”
So instead I’ll get down to the core of the human element for Cass, our main protagonist – it’s a story with a very straightforward question – what is your choice? Cass’s choice – to live a slave or die with freedom is a choice many people are faced with in one way or another. Maybe its being tied to a job, an abusive relationship, or maybe its on your death bed living on life support. Very different situations, but that choice is a choice people may live with every day. Some stories are caught up in the grand scheme of the major plot. Really, in the end, the book is about Cass’s choice in her own self worth when she learns everything she has too. That is one of the things I think make this book unique – the boldness of that one choice amidst a epic sci-fi plot.
Gwen: Where else do you see yourself going with future novels? Will you be continuing in this universe or do you have other stories ahead? Tell us a little bit about your future projects.
Jeffrey: I will be continuing this universe in a sequel but it will follow a different character this time around. I hope to have it ready by the end of the year, maybe 2013. Right now, it’s still in the outline, rough draft stages so I don’t want to get into that right now, other than its coming.
My future projects are two Novelettes called Lost in a Dream-scape (tentative title) which is a high epic fantasy about a man who discovers their dreams may not have been dreams at all. And I also have The Tales of Captain Force, which follows a journalist as he discovers the secret of the heroic urban legend of his city.
Other than that, working on short stories I hope to have done before the summer rolls around.Gwen: Last but certainly not least, what’s the best way for readers to find out more about you and the book?
Jeffrey: My blog, Stories of the Sleepless Mind, is updated most frequently with information about what I have going on which has not only has bi-weekly updates with prototype material of new stuff I’m working on, but interviews and nuggets of advice to my readers. There’s a link to a Wiki I’ve established giving more in depth information about ongoing projects and stuff I’ve published in the past. You can also find me on facebook and twitter, which is the best way outside my own e-mail to chat me up. I’m always interested with connecting with authors and readers!
The End Begins: The Nine is currently available at Amazon.com in both Kindle and print editions.