Zachary Weaver discovered his affinity for writing at a very early age and has nurtured his passion for it throughout his life. During his high school years, he published many poems and started the
outline for his first book. While a student at Penn State, he published his first novel, Sorrow, and is continuing the storyline as a trilogy.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Health Science, Zachary balances writing with graduate school and the end of his active duty military career. As he works toward his goal of becoming a physician, he spends his free time playing guitar, piano, and keep-away with his newest kitty.
Q&A with the Author
Zachary Weaver, author of the new book Sorrow, answers 15 questions every newly-published author should be asked.
Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
ZW: Both, in the most extreme form of either. When I get my hands on the keyboard and start to voice the thoughts in my head, it charges me up like nothing ever has. But at the same time, there's never a moment that I'm not thinking about a character, a scene, a conflict, the next book, it goes on and on. It gets draining at times, but as soon as I get to utilize those thoughts? It's invigorating.
Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?
ZW: The "old me" would say something like 'transitions' or 'dialogue', but as a writer, I've grown to appreciate every word that I put down. Everything is deliberate, and in its place for a reason. I would say my only roadblock is when I want to work on penning my thoughts, and can't because my computer isn't six inches in front of me.
Q: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
ZW: Elias Turner. And it's not because I don't want my name known, but I appreciate the art of writing over the attention so much more. Elias is my middle name, and Turner is my mother's maiden name. I thought it was a great marriage of both my lineage, and a creative twist on something that was already my own. I decided against it because I love feedback, and I want people to know who they can talk to in regards to making the story more than what it already is. I love feedback, and I can't grow without honesty and open communication.
Q: Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
ZW: A big ego? Hurts writers. Confidence? Couldn't move a muscle without it. If I second-guessed everything I thought of, I'd go nowhere, and yet if I was so brazen as to believe that I never made a mistake, I would never have made positive changes. All in all, the story wouldn't evolve organically, and that's the only things that makes any story worth reading.
Q: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
ZW: Nothing. If I changed any little bit of who I was, I may not have made some mistakes that helped me grow.
Q: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
ZW: To be honest, it was an odd experience, and it didn't really occur to me until I was old enough to understand it. I always loved writing, but the art of language and becoming deft in the art of its syntax was lost to me as a child. However, when I was far younger, my family always got compliments on how well-behaved their children were, based on simple things like 'excuse me' and 'thank you'. The coupling of two little words could change something from a rude act to a show of respect, and that was very powerful. Language can change the way that someone sees you, for good or for bad, and I chose to use that to my full advantage.
Q: What's your favorite under-appreciated novel?
ZW: A novel my father owns, Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward. It was my biggest inspiration for creating some of the backwards characters in my novel. It showed that good and evil are simply points of view, and much like the characters representing those ideas, they can be changed and manipulated to be seen differently.
Q: What does literary success look like to you?
ZW: Literary success? Appreciating your own work. If you pander to the lowest denominator of reader and throw together a bunch of exploding cars, mustached enemies, and one-liner good guys, it can look pretty cool on the surface. You can sell a million copies and get movie rights, or make a fortune selling it off to someone else. But you never end up appreciating your own work that way. You have to dive into how you, as the author, truly feel about situations, whether that means it's dark, it's evil, or just downright convoluted. Writing is about facing your own demons. Unless it's a cookbook, there's a dark reason for someone to write. A heartbreak, a death, a loss, even if it's just within a character of their creation. But whatever the reason, it has to be true. If you can take a step back from it and see it as a piece of yourself, then whatever you've written is true to your heart.
Q: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
ZW: Becoming a better writer is about making mistakes. You have to dislike something you've written to see how you can change it. There were over a million (yes, you read that right) words written for Sorrow. It ended with a little over a hundred and twenty thousand. Why? Because I've re-written and added and deleted countless times. It has to be perfect, and it never will be on the first try. So if I had to sacrifice one thing, and I would say I already have (being that it took my eight years to get this far with Sorrow), it would be time.
Q: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
ZW: Yes. Without any uncertainty, yes. As I've said before, writing quells the inner demons that rage within us. It's sort of a way to purify those thoughts, so to speak. If you let something haunt you and nag at you, it only gets worse. But if you recognize it and treat it as something external, then it becomes something external. And that makes things far easier to deal with, as well as turn them into a positive.
Q: Now on to this book specifically. What was your hardest scene to write and why?
ZW: Well, I spent three weeks on a scene where a group of the characters walks to a car. I would probably say that this is a terrible question for me, since I'm a backwards writer. The complex scenes that are overflowing with emotions, that are strewn with catchy, funny dialogue? They come naturally. And it never takes me as long to write, only because they're the core moments of the story. They're what really build things up. If you have to struggle with the emotions of a character, or of a scene, then it's not real enough. Nevertheless, the hardest scene for me (without giving out any spoilers) was the mid-point of the story. The moment that changed everything. It had to be just right, and it took me far too long to do so. That single moment has been in every version and ever re-write, just in a slightly different form, and every time it has terrified and intimidated me.
Q: What's the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
ZW: To be honest? It's not difficult at all. Being a male, we always seem to believe that we "understand" women, but as everyone knows, it's not true. It was easy for me, though, because most of the characters (male and female) are a small sliver of who I am. They all share a connection with my personality and my beliefs. Some of them just happened to take a female form, in order to convey that type of emotion or personality. For example, Val and Krystal are not the same gender, but they both share a very similar sense of sarcastic humor. The difference is how they utilize it. Val has a very brazen, machismo-type banter, yet Krystal has a sly, clever set of dialogue. To put it in simple terms, it just kind of happened that way.
Q: What did you edit out of this book?
ZW: Everything. (As I roll my eyes) There is very little that has stayed the same, but the characters always remained true to themselves. After a while, I noticed that they were telling the story, not myself, and a lot of things changed. There were, of course, a lot of small details that didn't make it into the final cut. Kara had this virtual intelligence assistant that she built with the help of another character, but there was really no significant place for it in the story. There was a break in the story of nearly twenty years that continued the events in a much different manner, with the addition of some new characters, but it didn't belong. Everything had to be written an exact way for a reason, so if I saw something that didn't fit, it was removed…or simply shifted to another part of the story…
Q: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
ZW: It humbled me. I never thought it would come this far. I honestly thought it would be a stack of cheap printer paper on my bookshelf for my entire life. Now? It renewed my passion for continuing the current saga, and encouraged me to be unmoving in my beliefs that I should continue.
Q: What is one thing you hope your readers take out of this book?
ZW: This came by accident, but I was talking to a friend that I hadn't spoken to in years. I was trying to explain to her how grounded the characters were. That each one of them went through some crazy stuff, but the whole time, were trying to be better people. Better friends, better allies. At the time, it was a hurried text because I was busy, but as I went back and re-read it, I saw how true it was. I told her that "The story never comes out the way you want it to. But it ages with you. It's never forgotten, or cast aside. If it's real enough, then whatever you have to tell, whoever your hero is, always stays with you. Somewhere. And as you grow, they grow. And as you love, and hate, and regret, they do too. When you want to give up, so do they. But all of it, every experience you suffer, gives your character strength, because it gives you strength. It grants upon them those fundamental qualities that make them who they are. And in the end, they're just like us. They're alive…and they have a story to tell."