A group of teens with unusual abilities are catapulted from zero to hero status in a YA trilogy that kicks off with Zeroes (Simon Pulse, Sept.), written by a trio: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti.

Zeroes is a new spin on the notion of crowdbased, explains Westerfeld, author of the Uglies series and Leviathan trilogy, who initially hashed out the premise with Biancotti. “Deb and I got talking about friends of ours who are TV writers and work as a group in a room together, yelling at each other all day,” Westerfeld recalls. “As prose writers and novelists, we mostly work on own, and we began talking about how different it must be to activate that social part of your brain while involved in an artistic process. So we co-opted Margo and got her involved, started meeting at a pub once a week or so drinking beer and talking about this book we wanted to write together.”

This literary crowd of three decided to write a novel about teens whose superpowers are crowdbased in some way. “We came up with a cast of characters whose powers become stronger in a crowd,” says Westerfeld. “One is blind when he’s alone, but can see through anyone else’s eyes, so becomes omniscient in a crowd. Another is visible in the presence of one other person, but begins to disappear if more people arrive on the scene, and becomes invisible in a crowd.”

Each of the three authors was responsible for fleshing out two of Zeroes’s six main protagonists, for whom they created detailed character studies. “We never actually sat down together to write, but we e-mailed a lot to one another,” Westerfeld says. “And after the character studies were finished and we’d begun writing the story, we realized we really needed an outline, and went off to spend some time in the Australian bush to create one.”

The trilogy’s premise is well tailored to its collaborative creation, says Westerfeld. “When you think about it, collaboration is the human superpower,” he muses. “We can’t actually fly, but when we have thousands of people building airports and designing airplanes and learning to be pilots, we can fly. With Zeroes, Barb and Margo and I are collaborating on a book that is essentially about the power of collaboration.”

Westerfeld, who signs ARCs of Zeroes at Table 1 this morning, 10:30–11:30 a.m., is pleased to welcome his “writer friends” to his Manhattan hometown. “Usually we are scattered all over the globe, and it’s great to have everyone in one place.” 

This article appeared in the May 29, 2015 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.