The Gamebook Revolution

Interactive Fiction and Gamebooks are becoming increasingly popular every day. The artform peaked and declined in the 80s and 90s, but now more and more authors are emerging who use this as a preferred storytelling medium, rather than as a gimmick. I’d argue we’re at the cusp of a new golden age for branching path narratives.

One such emerging author is Greg Hickey, who recently reached out to me as part of an article he was writing with a central question: Why do interactive fiction writers do what we do? What makes juggling multiple storylines worth the extra effort? He interviewed several such authors, including some bestsellers, and I was happy to add my $0.02. Here’s what I had to say:

Click Your Poison books are, at their core, a form of collaborative storytelling. By letting the reader choose brazen action or reserved caution, for example, you get to create your own story world unlike any traditional novel. My books are meant to be re-read over and over again, with clues gained from earlier reads informing future decisions. This peel-back-the-layers approach of interactive storytelling allows for a unique experience only available to gamebooks. The immediacy of playing the role of protagonist changes the dynamic from shouting at a character, “Don’t go in the house!” to wondering, “Should I go in the house? Are the rewards worth the risk?”

-Author James Schannep

Greg has completed his article and compiled a list, which includes answers from the other authors he interviewed. I’m pleased to be able to share their wisdom with you here:

You can also read Greg’s article over on his site: 10 Contemporary Interactive Books for Adults.

Introducing, “Friends of CYP.”

Additionally, I’ve added a new section on my website. Think of this as an “other books you may like” section for the interactive fiction genre. Check out the Friends of CYP page now.

Are you an author or publisher interested in becoming a friend? Send me a message on my contact page.


What do YOU think?  As a reader (or writer) of branching path narratives, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below to join in the conversation.

Clarifications

First, a quick point of order. It has come to my attention that in the new 10th Anniversary illustrated hardcover edition of INFECTED, the first choice on page 2 should go to 176. The paperback and Kindle edition are unaffected. This was an error in the code from formatting the manuscript to the new hardcover page count, but I’m told by my formatting team that this was the only error. Here is the replacement page:


With that out of the way, it’s time to talk briefly about author intent. I’m not normally someone who responds to reviews of my work. I generally assume that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and not all readers will synch up with an author’s point of view. However, I recently heard some comments that implied I had an issue with different body types based on depictions in the zombie path, and I wanted to address that.

INFECTED has been criticized for being too macho/militaristic by some readers, but also for not rewarding hardened lone wolf survivalists enough by others. I believe readers often bring their own perspective into a book; which is especially true in collaborative fiction like a branching path book. If you want a calloused, uncaring character, you’ll find a path for that. If you want to work as a team and see the best in others, you’ll find something for that as well.

Reader critiques are valid, however I want to emphasize that I did intend some of these elements as satire. After looking deeply into the genre with my research, I played off a lot of tropes that zombie stories are known for. One thing I found consistently across zombie fiction was that the apocalypse can bring out the worst in us. Summed up as: “terrible people making terrible choices.” We are the true monsters in some of these stories. Yet it’s not all bad. We can also find unlikely heroes in our midst.

On the large, societal scale, zombie stories started as a metaphor for rampant consumerism, and I took that one step further by adding a critique of unregulated capitalism. The concept in INFECTED is that a beauty product starts the apocalypse (after corporate greed speaks louder than a scientist who wants to do more research). When “you” become a zombie in the story, you start to embody these societal woes, to include some of our hang-ups on beauty. But I don’t want to paint these sections as something they’re not. The gross-out factor was intentional. It’s not pretty to become a zombie.

I don’t think that needs to carry over into real life. I have no problem with “different” people. I’m different. You’re different. Our differences make the world worth surviving. Of course, authorial intent does not always carry over into reader interpretation and a lot has changed in the ten years since I’ve written this book, to include me growing as a person and improving as a writer.

Part of this came to the forefront when the book was featured as a playthrough on the Instadeath Survivor Support Group podcast. You can listen to that episode now (and I recommend checking out all of this excellent podcast).

After I listened to his playthrough, I asked if I could record an introduction. Here’s what I added for the podcast:

Hi, Survivors. Author James Schannep here. Brian let me listen to an early version of this episode, and we thought it might be best to record a disclaimer up front. What you’re about to listen to contains gore, violence, body horror and gross-out humor, sometimes at the expense of living people. The zombie genre has a long history as satire, and in INFECTED a beauty product starts the apocalypse. The hungering zombies are a dark reflection of our society, to include some of our hang-ups on body image. I don’t want to spoil the episode for you, so I’ve written a blog post with my full thoughts which you can find at jamesschannep.com/blog or take a look into the show notes where Brian has included a direct link to the post. My books don’t have a “one true path” and part of the fun in collaborative storytelling is that your character can be as noble or ignoble as you choose to make them. I hope you have as much fun listening to Andrew’s choices as he did making them. Enjoy the show.

What do YOU think? Have you read INFECTED? Did you listen to the episode? What did it mean to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

10 Years of Poisoned Paths

This blog was started some ten or so years ago when I embarked on my journey to be a professional writer. Now, I’m celebrating that milestone by releasing a special 10th Anniversary Illustrated Collector’s Edition Hardcover of INFECTED. Join me in celebrating this momentous occasion!

10th Anniversary Hardcover Edition

All new content, available for the first time, including:

  • An interactive author foreword.
  • New cover art, bound in hardcover. A book thick enough to bash in the brains of any zombie!
  • Fully illustrated interior; a mix between original line drawings and road hazard signs to help signpost and guide your path.
  • A sample from the original “Infected” screenplay that inspired the book.
  • A flowchart story map to help you navigate the apocalyptic wastelands.

Additionally, included are a book club discussion guide, and suggestions for how to play with friends.

3 Unique Storylines. Over 50 Possible Endings. Just one question… Will YOU Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

What are you waiting for? Get your special edition of INFECTED today!

HAUNTED begins

Authorial update!

I’ve officially spilled ink on the opening to HAUNTED, the next Click Your Poison book. That means I’ve organized notes, themes, and the major paths, or at least to the point where I can’t hold the words inside any longer.

This was later than I intended to start, but I’ve been distracted by a few things. A toddler and an infant, for starters, but also by a screenwriting project that will (hopefully!) lead to an interactive film written by you (the audience) and me (the me). I can’t say more on this now, but I’ve done all I can to help the producers sell the project to a studio, upon which I would be paid to write one of the more ambitious interactive fiction projects I’ve had the pleasure of dreaming up.

Contest time — 2 Weeks to go!

SPIED has been available for two weeks.

Have YOU started your new career as a secret agent?

As part of the fun, I have two contests running right now. In case you missed the original announcements — here is your reminder!

Contest #1 — Earn a Cameo in a future book!

Passphase: “Sharing is Caring.”

This contest is running over on social media and is all about spreading the word. Want to see your name in print in a future book? Well, if you’re someone who resides in the book of faces or chirps like a bird, head over to Facebook or Twitter and join in the fun!

Contest #2 — Get an exclusive enamel pin!

Code word: “Deep-cover”

I had these beautiful lapel pins made (or backpack pins or cushion pins or…) and I want to give them to you! This month is also my birthday, and I’m giving a gift to my loyal fans. The video below illustrates how you get one of your own (while also showing off Click Your Poison book covers throughout the years), but here’s the short version:

There are secret references to each Click Your Poison book lurking within the pages of SPIED. Your mission is to discover this intel: characters, places, events referenced. If you can find any of the references (to INFECTED, MURDERED, SUPERPOWERED, PATHOGENS, or MAROONED) during the month of February — I will send you a pin as your reward.

Well? What are you waiting for?

If you haven’t gotten SPIED yet, now’s the time!

You have two weeks to complete your mission.

Operation: Get SPIED!

Today’s the big day! SPIED is currently available to purchase in all formats.

3 Unique Storylines. Over 50 Possible Endings. Just one question… Can YOU Crack the Code as a Secret Agent? #GetSPIED now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MYDZ37B/

SPIED is a suspense thriller unlike any other — YOU are the main character. Recruited from the lower-levels of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to become a field agent (finally!), it’s up to you to break into secure facilities, solve cryptic puzzles, expose potential moles, and suavely talk your way out of any situation before shadowy forces [REDACTED] the world!

As a special launch event, the book trailer will premier live in one hour at 12pm PST/8pm GMT. Join in and comment in real time with the author and other fans on YouTube:

Do you think you can escape the traps I’ve devised for you, agent? Can you crack the cryptic codes or read-through my riddles? I’ll be here, twirling my moustache and/or stroking my cat (or dog) while you try! Muahahahaha

PS — There are soon to be other launch events, promos, and prizes. Make sure you join up on Facebook and/or Twitter so you don’t miss out.

Are you still here? What are you waiting for, a martini? Get SPIED today!

It’s almost time…to get SPIED!

That’s right, it’s almost time… one week from today, in fact. It is time, however, right at this very moment even, for another sporadic blog update!

The SPIED subpage now exists on my website. SPIED–Click Your Poison #6–releases next week! As always, this is a standalone interactive story. If you’re unfamiliar with Click Your Poison gamebooks, now is the perfect spot to dive right in.

The book exists, and will be available for sale on 2/2/2021 (the Kindle edition is currently on pre-order). The book trailer will launch as a live premier at 12pm PST/8pm GMT. Join in the fun at this YouTube link:

There will of course be other launch events, promos, and prizes. Make sure you join up on Facebook and/or Twitter as well.

Exciting times! Do YOU have what it takes to be a spy?

MAROONED Book Trailer

MAROONED launched quite some time ago, so why a trailer now? Well, because I’m making progress on SPIED and realized I never got around to making a book trailer for my interactive seafaring adventure!

What do you think? Public domain images, creative commons sounds, VO narration performed by a friend, and edited by yours truly. Considering it was all free, do you think this book trailer was worth the price I paid for it?

Have you had a chance to get MAROONED yet?  Click here to get your copy today.


Thanks for watching! What do YOU think?  Ready to dive into the book world yourself?

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Updates and Announcements

Up front: No big news, AKA, nothing newly published for you to flip or click through from me at the moment.

I’ve been long overdue checking in with my audience, so I thought I’d let you know what’s up with me. What’s up with you? Let me know in the comments.

My family has been very fortunate in the time of a pandemic. We’re all healthy. And my daughter is practically bouncing off the walls during social isolation, so writing has been difficult. My garage is full of books from author events that never happened, but they’ll be there waiting when we’re all ready to meet up again.

Author B&W
New author photo, Kristi Jackson Photography, taken Blenheim Palace

We’re also preparing to move (again). We left England last summer for Alabama so my wife could attend a professional school. This summer, her work is relocating us to California. It’s an exciting, albeit stressful time.

I’ve made some progress on SPIED, though I had hoped to be finished by now. I’ve also rewritten a coming-of-age novel that I’m hoping to reach a wider audience by getting it traditionally published. That manuscript is with an agent right now. Fingers crossed!

I’m also trying to find a future where narrator R.C. Bray brings my Click Your Poison books to you via some form of audio app.

I’ve also been lightly courted with the idea of an interactive movie.

Trying not to get too excited over here; these are all big maybes years down the line!

In addition to writing SPIED, I’m planning another two CYP books — one with an exciting crossover universe of traditional novels.

Once I get settled in California, I hope to get these fingers flashing across my keyboard more often.

Stay tuned!

PS – Since I don’t have anything for you to read, an author acquaintance of mine has volunteered a sale for you zombie-lovers:

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Planet Dead 3
Releases May 26!!
The time is finally upon us, everyone has been asking what happened to Catherine Briggs and on May 26th you will have you answer! Catherine is taking her undead battle to the streets of New Orleans as she searches for her family and hunts down a serial killer only known as The Devil of Bourdon Street. You thought your 2020 was bad, wait until you step into the Promise Land!
Planet Dead 1 & 2 are on sale for .99 cents for the rest of the month. Pick them up while you can and be sure to pre-order Planet Dead 3
Planet Dead 1:
https://books2read.com/u/4NZGk6
Planet Dead 2:
https://books2read.com/u/38EYyw
Planet Dead 3:
https://books2read.com/u/mdzy2y


What do YOU think?  Leave a comment below to join in the conversation.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!