Zenith: the highest point


Photo by Harper Lee

Authors Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg lead a book talk and Q&A about their new book, Zenith.

On Jan. 22, author and alumna Lindsay Cummings and co-author Sasha Alsberg visited the school to present their bestselling book, Zenith. Alsberg and Cummings held a book talk Q&A, and signed and sold copies of their book.

Alsberg is a popular Booktuber (a YouTuber who reviews books) with a following of over 325,000 followers and over 10 million views. Cummings is a Hebron alumna an author of six other books, and the daughter of Karen Cummings, a teacher in the Special Education program.

“I graduated from Hebron High School in 2009,” Cummings said. “One class that really helped me was Jeffrey Willard’s English I class in 2005. It taught me a lot about writing. I was also in choir, and placed on the boy’s ice hockey team.”

Cummings developed chronic fatigue after she graduated high school, and was not able to attend college as she had planned. Cummings turned to writing as a way to cope.

“Writing became my escape,”Cummings said. “It was really fun for me to do, and I became really passionate about it.”

After Cummings got her first book deal, she met Sasha Alsberg on Instagram. Bonding over shared fandoms, Cummings asked Alsberg to review her book, since Alsberg had already gained a crowd of viewers as a Booktuber.

“I was terrified that she would say, ‘no, I don’t want to read your book,’ but she said yes, and I was so excited,” Cummings said. “When Sasha and I met, it was kind of like finding your fandom friend because we just connected so well and so we stayed in touch. We were always joking about writing a book together some day, but we never seriously thought it would happen.”

Alsberg reviewed Cummings’ story, and the two kept in contact.

“I was so excited,” Alsberg said. “I was super pumped, I reviewed it, and we just became online friends from there.”

It was not until a year later when Cummings came up to Chicago on her book tour where Alsberg finally met her in person.

“One day I’m sitting in my college dorm room, it was my freshman year at university, and I get a text message from Lindsay saying hey, do you want to write a book together?,” Alsberg said. “I immediately said yes.”

Cummings and Alsberg went on Twitter and set up a poll, asking what readers would prefer: science fiction or fantasy.

“At the end of the poll, fantasy had 70 percent and science-fiction had 30 percent,” Alsberg said. ”So of course we went with what they didn’t want and we wrote a science fiction novel.”

Instead of publishing Zenith traditionally as a full book, Cummings and Alsberg decided to release it in small novellas, the first being a 62-page eBook that was self-published and sold online for $1.99.

“When you get a book deal, it’s very intense,” Cummings said. “You are with this whole team in New York, and it’s a long two-year process to get a book in stores. From the start, Zenith has always been a from the heart project; we did it because we wanted to, and we just wanted to have fun doing it.”

A short while after the novella was published, it hit No.1 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

“I was actually at Universal Studios in line, waiting to go on a studio tour. My agent called me, and she told me that Zenith hit the New York Times list, but not just the New York’s Times list, it hit No.1 on it,” Alsberg said. “I broke down in tears, and everyone looked at me like I was crazy. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life, to find out that our book actually became something.”

After that, they decided to release Zenith as a full novel. Zenith was written in a month and a half, while usually an author gets about six months. After much discussion, Cummings and Alsberg chose Harlequin Teen as their publishers.

“For me, it was important to let the book write itself,” Alsberg said. ‘We let the story carry us where it wanted to go, and it turned out great.”