You won’t believe which ZPA character fans like the best

In our weekly newsletter we run a lot of surveys. Last week we asked you which ZPA characters you liked the best. We thought we would share the results with you but also some of our thoughts on these characters from our perspective. Enjoy!

What our readers said about the ZPA characters… poor Sami


Damian: Elliot is where ZPA started for me. I really had no idea what I’d write until I saw the blank first page. And Elliot ending on top of the tower at Magdalen college was the first thing that came to my mind. I like Elliot because his prime moral motivation is justice, he just doesn’t start out with the wisdom to be able to be fair.

Andrew: Elliot is like a ton of TNT with a lit fuse, except that the TNT is a teenager with a sword. Elliot is searching for his place in the world and trying to come to terms with his past. He’s looking for a family, for something to hold on to. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) he runs into Arthur. Damian writes all the first drafts of Elliot, but I enjoy adding to him during the writing process.


Damian: I liked Arthur from the start. He is such a real person, living it a screwed up situation. The first scene that really drew me into him was where he drunkenly phoned his ex-wife to try and sort things out.

Andrew: Arthur is the first character I wrote for ZPA. He is what immediately came into my mind. He’s a hero. A true hero. He served in the armed forces and nearly died and he’s been through a lot. More than anyone should have to go through. For me the key to him is that he does not give up, even if he wants to. He just keeps on going because it is the right thing to do.


Damian: Gunther is an odd one. When Andrew told me about how he’d enter the story it sounded like a great idea. He also said he’d be dead by the end of the first book, but we both liked him so much that didn’t happen. Will he survive the series? You’ll have to wait and see.

Andrew: I dreamed up Gunther initially as a foil for Arthur in Splice. My plan was for him to betray Arthur (yet another time Arthur was handed a bad lot). Gunther would die by the end of book 1. That’s what I said. Yeah, I was wrong. He’s still around and more awesome than ever. Learning about his past has been an excavation worthy of an entire archaeological expedition, but it has been a fun ride so far. I foresee more in Gunther’s future. Let’s see what happens!


Damian: Haha, now we’re talking. Millicent took shape in the novelette, Siege. She found herself in a seriously messed up situation and after getting a serious head injury, somehow the alien force of the sphere healed her brain but put it in a hyper-defensive mode as a self defense mechanism. To pretty much everyone she’s a psychopath, and a smart and effective spy/assassin. I love how aggressive she is and her willingness to transgress the normal bounds of decency to get the job done.

Andrew: I first encountered Millicent the way I expect most of our readers did, in the novella Siege. Millicent is a teenager who has a lot thrown at her very quickly and due to some particularly nasty circumstances she ends up… well, cracking. What I love about her is her loyalty to Gunther and the juxtaposition of that against her willingness to do whatever it takes to get a mission done. She will kill without compunction, but she has a soft spot in her heart for the man who brought her up.


Damian: I love it when I get the chance to write Stanley. From the start I’ve seen him more as a psychologically caged in human than anything else, although one with extreme intelligence and a questioning mind. One that has no obligation to flatter or pamper anyone with even a half-truth. To me, Stanley represents the Emersonian ideals.

Andrew: Stanley is my favorite character to write. He comes from a short story I originally wrote years ago, an uplifted orangutan dealing with questions of his humanity and his intelligence and with themes of the expectations of society and humanity. When it came to ZPA, he was perfect and he’s quickly found a place in the team, bashing down doors (ripping up light posts) and generally having a great time munching on mangoes. But it is the deeper question of what makes a person human and what that means that haunts him and it has been great fun writing that.


Damian: Who doesn’t like Nel? She’s a great comedic foil for almost every other character, so it’s great to have her jumping around from time to time so she can threaten everyone with a kick in the face. 

Andrew: Nel is a bit of a one-trick pony but it’s a hell of a trick and it cracks me up every time (and no, we’re not going to stop with the Nel gag. We enjoy it too much.) Nel is interesting to me because she has a background very much like Elliot. She’s a total psycho in many ways, brought up to be an assassin and trained by a curmudgeonly old woman she calls Nana. But unlike Elliot, there’s more humanity to Nel. She’s more comfortable in her skin than he is and that contrast against Elliot is infinitely fascinating to me. All of that is a long-winded way of saying that Nel is going to be kicking a lot more people in the face before this is over.


Damian: Kat has really been Elliot’s defender through most of the novels and has sat somewhat in the background as another smart resource for the team, and a romantic foil for Arthur and Millicent. But she will come into her own in the later books and second season.

Andrew: Kat is a mother (in a way) or a sister to Elliot. But can she be more? We think the answer is a resounding, Yes! So watch this space to see how Kat grows into her own in the team.


Damian: Elliot’s target for boyfriend. I think he’s been a wonderful person for Elliot to bounce of off as he’s wise and trustworthy. And also a voice outside of the team, something Elliot needs more and more as the story develops.

Andrew: I originally thought Arlo was creepy. Yes, I said it. He seemed too old to be hanging around someone as mentally undeveloped as Elliot, but he’s really grown into a friend for Elliot when he had no one else and I think that kind of mentorship is important in the world (something we as a society are lacking these days). Arlo is kind-hearted and he wants what is best for Elliot and I think it shows in how he comes across (at least I hope it does). 

Final thoughts

Damian: The thing about these characters is that they all grew in the telling. As the world developed and came into focus for us, the characters really took shape. Each of them has a unique take on the world and an inner struggle which plays throughout the series. That’s something we didn’t want to shy away from as we wrote these novels. We wanted people to relate in some way to every character, even the orangutan. 

Andrew: ^^

(Okay, that’s a cop out. Here are some final thoughts: We are still writing these books so these characters will continue to develop. We are also writing other pieces about their backstories and history. If there are characters you would like to learn more about, drop us a line and let us know. You never know, we might just write a story about them just for you.)

Newsletter: Direct from outer space

Check out the full newsletter here:

Book 6 Draft is… Complete!
Welcome to another week!
As you read this we will have completed the first draft of book (Beachhead). Yes! You heard it here first. Book 5 (Counterpunch) is currently winging its way out to our First Readers team (the intrepid group of awesome people who have volunteered to beta read for us). You know who you are and we cannot thank you enough!

In addition, we are most of the way through a rewrite of the story that originally introduced us to Stanley (for those of you who have not read the ZPA series yet, Stanley is a hairy character who appears in book 3). There is also another story which will shed some light on a period of Arthur’s life coming (not fully baked yet, but it won’t be long). We are thinking about putting these stories into a compilation. More on that when we get there. 

We were really pleased with the response we received to the idea of us trying our hand at a space opera. We do have a draft of something that we are working on, but there is a lot more to go on that yet before it will be ready for the light of day. So let’s just say that this is a work in progress and leave it at that (yeah, we have a lot of those…).

In non-writing news, when we are not writing (or working a day job) we are spending more time on our discord server for writers (The INKubator). If you are a writer or a poet, or would like to be, feel free to drop by and say hi. It’s a group of great people and you will be most welcome.

Other than that, we are full steam ahead on the writing and now the editing of book 6. There is a lot to do yet to get it ready, so watch this space for updates.

That’s it for the opening. We have a lot going on in this week’s newsletter, including what we found on the internet this week (seriously weird stuff), a contest, a review of the winners from last week’s contest and our survey for the week. We love all your responses so please keep them coming!

We had more than either of us had time to respond to last week (sorry!) but we read every single one (with a lot of giggles).We also have some great stories to introduce to you from other authors as well as a promo you won’t want to miss.Please keep reading everyone and we will keep writing!

– Damian and Andrew,
 ZZ Adams

Not receiving our weekly newsletter (including regular updates on what we’ve been up to, new release information and plenty of quality freebies and discounted books to tide you over? Then make sure you subscribe here:

It’s here! Mayday has arrived…in August

Someone recently tweeted that you better write a book you love because you’ll need to read it a lot. This is very true. But even though we have read Mayday over and over again (and again, and again and… well, you get the picture), there is something magical about holding the dead tree version in your hand. We received a copy of Mayday today from Amazon and could not be happier. To everyone who helped us with it, thank you! We could not have done it without you. Novels are very much a collaborative effort regardless of what some people might tell you. It takes a village to get them done. To our kind beta readers, thanks for doing your best for us. We did not give you a lot of time, but we really appreciate your support. Any mistakes are ours (if you find any, please let us know!)

This is the series page on Amazon:

Check it out if you have not already.

Win an eReader Contest!

If you want another out-of-this-world adventure to add to your TBR pile, you can enter to win my book, SPLICE, on @BookSweeps today —plus 50 exciting Sci-Fi novels from a great collection of authors… AND a brand new eReader 😀 Here’s the link ? #books #amreading

The Pace of Myke Cole, the style of Maurice Broaddus, the grit of Abercrombie, the darkness of Brent Weeks? Having fun with Booxby: a flattering excursion with machine learning.

The novel of ours that has been most widely read is Wunderkind by a large margin. So it was with some curiosity and great interest that I put the novel through Booxby’s new machine learning tool to see what would happen. Booxby is trialing this as a tool for writers to help us figure out which readers our work will most resonate with. The idea being that highest on every reader’s wish list is that they find books that complement the writing style of their favorite author or authors. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but this is the fundamental principle behind Booxby as far as I can understand it. It should not be a surprise that a writer like me finds this idea difficult; we have not had such tools before. We have not needed them until very recently. The art of selling books has always been the role of the book seller. Writers write. Sellers sell. Somewhere along the line, particularly in the brave new world of Indie publishing, everything changed. Or perhaps this was always a falsehood and writers whose work sells were always on top of their genre, their readers, the zeitgeist, knowing what will appeal and which will not. Understanding the market. Booxby uses machine learning to find links between writers based on writing style and therefore (assuming their methodolgy is sound) helping readers and writers connect to each other based on style.

I first put Wunderkind through the machine. Wunderkind was written most recently and as with all writers, our craft improved, our art grew more focused and the end result is, I believe, a better product all around than the works that came before it. We wrote Splice first. It is nearest and dearest to my heart, but not as polished as Wunderkind. So how would the AI fare looking at these two books?

Much like Splice, when we wrote Wunderkind we were aiming for something fast-paced and fun. A story that was full of action but also explored the deeper relationships between the characters, as well as showing their inner story arcs of personal development. We wanted it to be fun and fast and quirky but also meaty enough to be realistic from a character perspective.

Splice started similarly. The two main characters (Elliot Goshawk and Arthur Fortune) would be very different from each other, both possessing that which the other needed but both not fully connected with themselves emotionally in a way that would allow them to see that.

Booxby looked at Wunderkind and then gave us some genre options to look at. These are, according to Booxby, the top books that most closely reflect the style of Wunderkind.

When we look at the Moods that Booxby identifies we get the following:

For Wunderkind, I am pretty happy with that. It is lively and compelling but also dark. Here are the books most similar according to Booxby:

So we get the complexity of Iain Banks with the darkness of Brent Weeks, the action of Goldsmith and the page-turning compulsion of Anita Shreve. Interesting. How does that compare against Splice?

Flattering for sure. And clearly I need to read some Kenneth Bulmer and maybe if you are reading this blog post, you do too! (Which I think is the entire point.)

What about mood?

All of this was exactly what we were going for with Splice. The humor of Hiaasen, the grit of Abercrombie and the darkness of Weeks. Did we achieve that? That is really up to you to judge. It is also interesting to see how the comp novels changed between Splice and Wunderkind given that there were several novels written between them.

For now, this has been a fun excursion down the Booxby rabbit hole. Not to mention a flattering one. We will definitely be looking to see how we can use these insights to make our books easier for readers to find and enjoy.