Interview and Ice Cream - Zachry Wheeler
Today I am pleased to be interviewing Zachry Wheeler about his forthcoming book, The Mortal Vestige, the third book in the Immortal Wake trilogy. (The Mortal Vestige comes out on February 14, 2020, so if you are reading before then, you can pre-order the book. If you are reading this after the release, then you can buy it!)
Let's start with the basics. The final book of the series finds Jonas in shock after the dramatic events that played out at the end of Thursday Midnight. A terror sweeps across the world of the Eternals and Jonas has been a witness to mass genocide. He is adrift in a world that he had first tried to destroy, then embraced and worked to find common ground in between Eternals and humans. But now Jonas must comb through the ruins of civilization in search of hope.
Now, let's learn a bit more about Zachry and The Mortal Vestige.
The Mortal Vestige is the final book in the Immortal Wake trilogy. When you wrote the first book, Transient, did you expect to end up here?
Not in the least. For the longest time, I considered Transient a stand-alone novel. The ending did open it up to more books, but that wasn’t the initial plan. Even while fleshing out the second book, I still had no idea how the series was going to end. It was only after reaching the end of book two did the series finale start to take shape. I am also very happy that it manifested in this way because the last thing I wanted was a predictable ending.
After the dramatic events of Thursday Midnight (the second book in the trilogy) what did you want to accomplish with The Mortal Vestige?
The primary goal was to conclude the protagonist’s arch in a satisfying way, and given the nature of the material, it wasn’t going to be a “happily ever after.” I knew exactly how I wanted Thursday Midnight to end, and a common refrain from readers is “Where could the story possibly go from here?” And so, I wanted to answer that question in a gratifying way.
What is one thing that you hope readers will take away when they read the Immortal Wake trilogy?
I am never one to inject meaning or moral lessons into my stories. I prefer to let the readers draw their own conclusions. But if I had to pick a motif, I would hope that readers come away from the series with less rigidity in their sociopolitical beliefs.
Without giving us any spoilers, what is a scene from The Mortal Vestige that you like the most? Why does that scene resonate for you?
It’s a very short scene, but it’s my favorite in the book. It takes place at the Ashen Eye, the killing field from the first book. It resonates with me because it represents an uncoupling from the past, which is something I value in my own life.
What is something about The Mortal Vestige that you want readers to know that is not conveyed in the book’s blurb?
The book is largely written in the first-person, as it is Jonas’s personal recount of the aftermath of Thursday Midnight. It was a risky decision to tell the story this way, but I am thrilled with the result.
Fun fact: the very first draft of Transient was written in the first-person. I switched to a more traditional third-person in one of several rewrites, so I see The Mortal Vestige as a fitting tribute to the birth of the series.
Your main character throughout the series, Jonas, has gone through many changes as the series has progressed. What do you want readers to understand about Jonas, and the kind of character he is?
Jonas is a very flexible character. I never intended for him to be a moral center of any kind. He will often do the right thing, but that’s only in response to something reprehensible, regardless of his allegiance. One thing that readers have appreciated about the series is the vagueness of ethical stance. I could shift the perspective by a single degree and Jonas would be the antagonist.
In addition to the Immortal Wake trilogy, you also write another series, Max and the Multiverse. Both series are wonderful and fun to read, but they are very different in terms of tone, story, and emotion. Has it been difficult for you to switch between writing the two series? In addition, putting pressure on you here – do you have a favorite?
It’s extremely difficult to switch between them, so much so that I have to detach myself entirely from one series in order to concentrate on the other. When I’m writing the Immortal Wake, I cannot even think about Max and the Multiverse, and vice versa. They are just too divergent and require the exact opposite states of mind. So yeah, one always takes a backseat to the other.
My favorite has always been Max and the Multiverse, and that’s only because the books and shorts are so much fun to write. The Immortal Wake is a heavy series and writing them takes a lot out of me. I am super proud of the story, but I will always think back on the writing as a mental burden.
You did a lot of great world-building for the series, especially for the first book, Transient. However, as the series has progressed you have also systematically torn down that world. Is there a message in that process that you want to convey, or is it merely catharsis as an author to be able to both create and destroy?
Thanks! And as I noted before, I am never one to inject messages or lessons. But, a reader could easily conclude from the series that nothing in life is sacred or permanent. The intent wasn’t to destroy for spectacle, but to unravel power in a brutal and unexpected way. I tend to enjoy stories that take this approach, i.e. “exploit a weakness” rather than a “big final battle.” The infamous Red Wedding from Game of Thrones would be a great example.
Fun fact: I pulled a lot of inspiration from The Mule in Asimov’s Foundation series. (And anyone who has read Thursday Midnight just said “Aaaah.”)
What’s next for you? What projects are on the horizon?
Now that I made it through the mental torment of The Mortal Vestige, I have turned my attention to a spin-off comedy series that takes place on the Durangoni Space Station from Max and the Snoodlecock. I have already written the first half of the first book, and I must say that it’s nice to laugh again.
I know you have a passion for beer, and even blogged about beer for several years. In your opinion, what is the best beer to pair with reading The Mortal Vestige?
Oh yes, and I drank many-a-brew while writing this story (between sessions, not during). This story requires something strong and bitter, so I would go for an Imperial IPA.
Finally, what is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Ben and Jerry’s Salted Caramel Core. I love it so much that I cannot have it in the house.
Where can readers follow you and learn more about your books?
You can learn more at my author website and find/follow me on social media:
Thank you, Zachry, for sitting down with us and taking the time to answer our questions. You can pick up a copy of The Mortal Vestige here.