May 26


Author Interview: Zachary Sergi, VERSUS: The Deathscapes

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Unlock the secrets of the galaxy in the epic conclusion to the VERSUS Trilogy! Take your place among the gods with the superpowers you’ve stolen from them. VERSUS: The Deathscapes
is a thrilling 200,000-word interactive novel by Zachary Sergi, author of our best-selling Heroes Rise series. I sat down with Zachary to talk about the final installment of Versus. VERSUS: The Deathscapes releases this Thursday, May 27th. 

This game is such a huge culmination. No spoilers, but tell me a little about that.

Well, when I finished the original Heroes Rise Trilogy in 2014, I knew I wanted to dive into the world(s) of Versus next (having developed the idea in my teen years with my action figures in my bedroom, much like Heroes Rise). I had the competition/setting concept for Versus fully developed in my head, but I didn’t yet know what the main character journey should be through this rich setting. Funnily enough, the first idea that came to me was this big, bold ending–then I quite literally reverse engineered everything in The Versus Trilogy and The Hero Project Duology from this grand ending idea. So this culmination feels very full circle to me, like the end actually meeting the beginning from so many years ago. And I promise, all the mysteries we’ve been exploring will be solved here! Now, which mysteries are solved on which read-through will be up to the readers, of course…

What surprised you most about writing The Deathscapes?

Without a doubt, the sheer scope of executing what I set out to do. This is my 8th novel for Choice of Games, so you’d think I’d have it down by now, but Versus: The Deathscapes has been by far the most difficult to write technically, emotionally, and interactively. Not to mention I originally conceived of Versus as being 4 books, so The Deathscapes has 2 books worth of ground to cover in one. This plot demand operated alongside managing a cast of 24 characters with intricate interactive histories (each of them coming from nearly as many planets with unique cultures/histories), and still experiencing our now-expected mind-bending MemoryTravel interludes–and all while driving to the ending I intended.

However, more surprising than these technical challenges was the emotional pressure I felt while writing. Not only to stick this landing that had been shining in my mind like a lighthouse the past 7 years, but also to deliver a satisfying conclusion to all our incredibly invested and loyal readers, who waited for this gamebook for years!

What do you hope your readers get out of it?

First and foremost, with any of my work, I hope the reader gets an escape and gets entertained–I want you all to have some fun. Beyond that, if a novel teaches the reader something about themselves or encourages them to think about something new, it’s such a bonus. Specifically for The Deathscapes, I just hope to provide some unexpected twists, lots of closure, and as the enormous Versus door swings closed, hopefully crack open a window for what comes next in the other far corners of the Sergiverse (a term one of you readers coined on Twitter that has mercifully stuck 🙂

Is it hard to say goodbye to the Versus story?

Versus feels like such a rich setting, I have a feeling it’ll be revisited someday, in some unexpected way. As for these specific characters in this iteration of Versus, it has absolutely been hard to say goodbye. That said, this one was really—REALLY—challenging to write, so I’m relieved it’s off my desk for the sheer relief of pressure! Though I have to say, without any spoilers, that every ending is a beginning (and vice versa). While The Versus Trilogy is absolutely ending, the series has been a portal creatively, personally and professionally. I just hope everyone enjoys warping through it as much as I have…and that we find each other in a new era, once one the other side.

I should also say, I designed the Trilogy quite purposefully to highlight different sets of characters in each gamebook (as readers experienced in the Ord camps of The Lost Ones and the castle revelry in The Elite Trials). There are plenty of familiar faces, but the focus in The Deathscapes is on some characters we haven’t gotten to know quite yet–and all the mysteries they in turn unlock.

If you had a favorite moment in the trilogy, what would that be?

That’s nearly impossible to answer, but if I had to choose, the world-creating MemoryTravel sequences in Versus: The Elite Trials springs to mind. I remember when I set out to write this two-part sequence, I was doing it purely for myself. It took nearly a month of full time work just to write those two sequences, and I was convinced it would annoy/bore every reader who experienced it. As it turns out, this has become a fan-favorite, much to my surprise–and the cornerstone of The Elite Trials in general, which felt like it cemented my own specific style of interactive fiction (plot twists meets world building meets personality profiles, oh my)!

There is a similar (but very different) set of sequences in The Deathscapes MemoryTravel experiences. My favorite has to do with a circular exploration of spiritual pillars–this one is deeply meaningful to me. In the future, I plan to keep this looped sequence loaded on my own app, to open and re-read when I need to re-center myself.

What else are you working on?

I suppose it’s worth noting that I have a debut print interactive hardcover novel publishing this September from Running Press Teens, MAJOR DETOURS, so I’m really excited to birth that into the world (and you can preorder it wherever books are sold now)! Beyond this, I am working on the interactive epic that comes next in the Sergiverse, for those more inclined to follow a more…Destructive path. But I can’t say any more about that right now!

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