Each one of my novels has a short “About the Author” section. Like, really short. We’re talking two lean sentences and a website. I have never been one to vomit my backstory onto readers. They are there to read a story, not learn about my idiosyncratic weirdness.
Nevertheless, I do get asked about my writing history from time to time, which I am always happy to regale. It’s a strange and harrowing tale full of good beer and bad puns. And so, I thought it would be fun to document it for prosperity (read: keep my facts straight).
Without further ado, here is my official, expanded, detailed, sanctioned, author-approved backstory.
Zachry Wheeler, A Bio of Sorts
The first thing I can say about my writing backstory is that I never intended to be a writer. I went to college to become an accountant, and I wish there was a punchline to follow that statement. No offense to the ledger jockies, but I found the subject to be soul-crushingly boring. I made it through half the curriculum before switching my major to Computer Information Systems. Luckily, all of my accounting classes counted as elective credit, so it wasn’t a giant waste of time. I remember sitting in a Cost Accounting class thinking, “If this what my life will be like, I might as well end it now.” Thank goodness I had the keen insight to switch to a more exciting career path in, um … programming.
I graduated from App State in 1999 with a BSBA degree in CIS. Yup, I left college with a tech degree mere months before Y2K. At the time, big-tech companies were handing out coding jobs to anyone who could spell “computer.” I also had the extreme foresight (total batshit luck) to teach myself web development as it was gaining momentum. I oopsie-doodle back-flipped into a very lucrative career.
That’s when my writing career began, but I didn’t know it yet. Most people think that programming is just staring at code all day. And in a sense, it is. But, there are a lot of other tasks that go along with it, including a large bolus of technical writing. Think documentation, wikis, manuals, etc. At a baseline, most competent programmers are actually decent writers. They need a strong grasp of language in order to do their jobs. It takes a certain amount of editorial skill to translate blocks of machine code into meaningful user instruction. That’s why Technical Writing is its own career. The good ones are worth their weight in gold because they alleviate a lot of user confusion and training costs.
This is why I can say that I have been writing professionally for longer than I have been a writer. A strange statement to digest, so I’ll give you a minute (cue Jeopardy theme). It took me a while to realize that programming was writing. Plus, coding gave me the tools to develop my own writing platforms. I have owned and operated numerous online ventures, from product review sites to mock news outlets. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had crafted a bypass to the reputation grind. I had the next best thing: a killer web presence.
When I decided to write fiction, I already had the basic tools. I still needed to learn hooks, structure, provocation, etc. You know, the things that make books interesting as opposed to sleeping aids. The first draft of Transient read pretty well as a scientific thesis on vampire biology, but the story lacked good pacing and a decent plot. It sucked, in other words, which kind of defeated the purpose.
That’s when my writing career began to take shape. I started learning more and more about the craft. I read constantly and devoured every pro tip I could find. The most exciting moment came when I was reading a book and could actually critique it. “This writing sucks and this is why it sucks.” (I was reading my own book, but that’s beside the point.) I had gained the insight I needed to write decent fiction. I was by no means at a Douglas Adams level, but I finally had momentum and I’ve ridden it ever since.
That’s what writing is to me, a never-ending battle of brain-melting masochism. It’s a skill you never truly master, which I find endlessly appealing. I enjoy learning new things and writing offers a bottomless pit of improvement.
If you made it this far, then I thank you kindly for sticking with me. When readers respond to my works, it makes the entire effort worthwhile. I thoroughly enjoy the writing process and hope to continue creating these worlds for many years to come.