In UCSB alumna Jacquelyn Wheeler’s first science fiction novel, the main character uses superpowers to balance the forces of good and evil — all while attending UCSB.
Aimed at a teen audience, Rising Shadow chronicles the life of Ashlyn Woods, a student who just transferred to UCSB after she discovers that she is a Soterian — an individual who gains superhuman powers. Desperate for virtue to prevail, Woods faces off against a formidable enemy as she finds love, makes new friends and discovers herself in Isla Vista.
Wheeler, who graduated from UCSB in 1991, said I.V. served as a central part of her own personal growth and inspired the novel.
“The I.V. scene, to me, is just as central to the UCSB experience as being on campus,” Wheeler said. “I didn’t see it as overrun with debauchery or sin at all; I saw it as a whole town practically overwhelmed with students. It was such an amazing place to go to college and reinvent yourself.”
According to Wheeler, even the drama sequences found within the plot mimic her UCSB experience. The main characters Ashlyn and Ty’s blossoming relationship parallels her own — Wheeler met her husband at a party on Del Playa Drive.
As a former geography major and trained software documentation writer, Wheeler said, the task of penning teen literature was a completely foreign one.
“I do not have an MFA, have no aspirations to write the “Great American Novel” and will never hold a candle to my idols Rowling, Salinger, Twain, Tolkein and Faulkner,” Wheeler said in a blog post. “I am trained as a technical writer, whose approach to writing is to have no voice at all, to get the information into your brain as quickly as possible without you even being aware that you’re reading.”
In addition to its availability in traditional paperback form, the novel is posted on her website www.soterians.com, where it can be read for free. Her choice to offer the full text online aligns with her mission of service to others, Wheeler said.
Wheeler said she is already editing the sequel with hopes of releasing it in the next couple months. She added that she has plans of publishing a total of five books in the Soterian series, and considering the recent success of collections like Twilight and Harry Potter, possibly adapting them into feature films.
“One of the themes in my book, and that will be throughout the five, is the importance of finding your personal powers through gifts to others and volunteerism,” Wheeler said. “It occurred to me as I was writing the book that this was something I could give to other people. That’s when the whole experience really transformed for me.”
As for the funds received from the printed version, Wheeler said she donates 20 percent of all her royalties to the charity organizations showcased on her site.